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Million-dollar minute

publication date: Oct 3, 2011
author/source: Fraser Green
What I'm about to tell you - which should take about a minute to read - could make you a million extra dollars. And better yet, this stuff is so simple!Fraser Green photo

Let's start with a few factoids:
  • The average charitable bequest in Canada is about $20,000. (You can double that amount if you're a hospital foundation, a university or a major arts institution.)
  • When you receive fifty bequests worth $20,000 each, you've just made your extra million.
  • It's a very safe bet that at least half of the prospects who are considering making a bequest to your organization will visit your website before making their final decision.
Why your legacy pages aren't working

So, when they come to visit you online, what do they find?

Frankly, they find a lot of jargon, technicalities and confusion.

Last weekend, I visited about a dozen charity websites at random, as if I were a legacy gift prospect. It was a depressing experience.

I can tell you this: if my dad had visited those sites, he would have given up the ghost long before deciding he wanted to leave a bequest to any of them.

Folks, this is a seriously missed opportunity. It's costing you money - and lots of it. And it's not all that hard (or expensive) to fix.

I understand that we're all busy. I also suspect that no-one in the executive office is pressuring you to fix your planned giving page(s) by the end of the month. You've got other priorities and deadlines.

I get all that. But, the fact remains that our planned giving pages are sloppy and ineffective. For example, one of Canada's legendary pioneers of planned giving hides its legacy gift information under the tab labelled "Tax Smart Giving." Oops!

So friends, it's makeover time. I've got more than a dozen faults and fixes in my head right now - but let's start with a simple three. Find these faults on your site - and fix them. I promise you that the time and effort you put into these fixes will pay for themselves many, many times over.

Fault #1

The sites I visited talked way too much about the gift itself. This isn't about the gift. It's about the donor making the gift!


Talk about the donor! Talk about legacy giving being the appropriate ultimate gift for the loyal few - those who have supported your charity for many years. Talk about your shared commitment to the mission of the organization - and the beliefs and values behind that mission. Talk about the meaning of life - and the donor's ability to leave a meaningful footprint on the world after she's gone from it.

Fault #2

The first thing I encountered when I visited most sites was a menu of giving options. And surprisingly, wills and bequests often weren't even the first item on the menu. What in the world are we thinking? We know where the money comes from - yet we insist on taking up valuable web real estate on non-productive messaging.


This is simple stuff. Ninety to ninety-five percent of all planned giving revenue comes from bequests. So use your page content to talk about wills and bequests! This isn't rocket science - and it's an easy fix to make.

Fault #3

The sites I visited talked a lot about financial management and taxes. Yet donors I've listened to in focus groups rarely speak of taxes. And they only go there when we ask them to. It isn't about the tax breaks folks. The donor decided to leave the bequest because she wants you to keep doing your good work to fulfill your mission long into the future.


Take out the tax stuff. Take out 90% of anything that's there now that has anything to do with money. Replace it with inspiring content about your cause and mission. Talk about your history of getting great results. Show the future - and your role in it. Speak from your heart - and leave your calculator in your pocket!

Bonus Fault/Fix

I promised you three tips, but here's a freebie:

Simply take out the words "planned giving." Your donors (most of them anyway) have no idea what those words mean. Say "gifts in wills" or "bequests" or "legacy gifts" instead. Use language that your donors understand instead of jargon that confuses them and sends them on to somebody else's site.

Fraser Green is principal and chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that works with Canadian charities to engage donors at a truly human level and build donor loyalty and commitment. Fraser welcomes your ideas, comments and criticisms about this tip. Please email with your reactions and thoughts.

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