In this previous post, Major and Planned Gift Fundraising? One Thing That Financial Advisers Have That You Might Not (and which you need), I spoke about what financial advisers know about donors and prospective donors that we as fundraisers often don’t. However, those advisers aren’t the only ones who know something about planned giving donors and prospective donors.
Thanks to Gregory Warner at MarketSmart I was introduced to Dr. Russell James at Texas Tech. Dr. James is an expert instructor who also researches planned giving. Yesterday during a Webinar that he delivered for the Leading Age Philanthropy Network Dr. James spoke about the age at which individuals make planned gifts, when in their lives they do so, and why people change a will.
Reminder: changing a will may mean adding or subtracting your nonprofit. Dr. James shared 10 reasons why a donor might change her will, I will share:
1 Reason Why a Donor Might Change Her Will
A Change in Life Circumstances
I have summarized the 10 reasons into one based on my seven years of experience as a Director of a Development for a retirement community. Based on that experience I would also concur with another point that Dr. James shared:
people make changes to their wills at much later ages than we might think,
even into their 80s and 90s.
If a person’s heir, whether spouse or child, dies there is typically both a desire and need for a person to change their will. Why does this matter so much to you as a fundraiser? Every time a donor changes her will it provides an opportunity to exclude, or include, a nonprofit.
As Dr. James indicated, changes to wills might come after a donor has stopped giving to a nonprofit, even after years of being a consistent donor.
Does a lack of giving necessarily equal a lack of caring?
In fact as people age they tend to focus on those people and things that they care about most. While some people might shift their giving to a hospice program that cared for a loved one, or might make a memorial gift to another nonprofit in that loved one’s memory, it does not necessarily mean that the person cares less about your cause or nonprofit.
What’s a fundraiser to do? To the degree possible, keep in touch with those whom you know having already included you in their estate plans. Unless they have asked to be removed from your mailing list send the newsletter, better yet ask if can deliver the newsletter in person so that you can share the story behind a story.
Finally, be sure to plant seeds about planned giving by including two lines at the bottom of your annual appeal reply card:
___ I have included XYZ Charity in my will
___ Please send me information about how to include XYZ Charity in my will
I volunteer with a nonprofit that took this step for several years. We nearly removed these lines at the suggestion of a volunteer who said, “But only one person has ever checked the box.” After some specific story sharing about giving the next year 7 couples/individuals checked one of these boxes. When it comes to planned giving it pays to be persistent and to practice patience.
Sophie W. Penney is the President of i5 Fundraising and the Senior Program Coordinator and Lecturer for Penn State’s online Certificate Program in Fundraising Leadership.