“Legacies are all about death! I don’t want to hear about them.”
“I have to take care of my family. I can’t leave anything to charity!”
“What’s the point of leaving a couple of thousand dollars? Legacies have to be big to make any difference!”
These are perceived to be the top objections to the idea of making a charitable bequest. Sometimes, they’re also the top internal objections when a charity considers its first legacy campaign. And they’re all wrong, asserts UK legacy fundraising wizard Richard Radcliffe.
“Every time I meet someone who’s put a charitable legacy in their will, they smile,” he told delegates to a recent Global Philanthropic seminar in Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa.
Advantages of legacies
Radcliffe has the experience to back his claims. In 20 years of legacy fundraising, he’s helped write over 650 legacy strategies, and run focus groups where he met with more than 17,500 donors, volunteers and charity service users.
Legacies cost the donor nothing right now, he points out, making them an ideal gift for a donor who’s still perhaps paying for children’s higher education. And as life expectancy continues to rise, and older citizens spend more and more money on health care, their legacies to charities are reduced. The only way to keep a healthy legacy stream running, he explains, is to attract and steward more legacy donors.
When wills change
Radcliffe identifies three key life changes that move people to make wills. Most make their first will around the age of 38. They own a home, have young children, and think for the first time about the impact of their own deaths and the needs of their offspring. Retirement often moves people to make a new will, generally at the age of 68. Finally, the death of a spouse stimulates the making of the last will, usually around the age of 80.
It’s ideal to reach people just before one of these key points, of course. But Radcliffe’s noticed that not all charities emphasize the ease of making a codicil. It’s just as binding as the original will, and less complex to create. Along with your samples of standard language for wills, he advises, make sure you explain how people can use a codicil to create a bequest without having to re-do their entire will.
While other campaigns have cases for immediate needs, Radcliffe emphasizes that it’s important to emphasize the vision behind your need for future legacies. Make your vision fundable, unique, credible, inspirational and tangible, he says, because donors need to grab hold of something that helps them understand what their legacy might achieve. Then highlight that vision on every communication about legacies: a brochure if you have one, your direct mail pieces, the legacy section of your website, and every public talk you give.
This article is excerpted from a longer story in the April, 2013 issue of Gift Planning in Canada. Subscribe to Gift Planning in Canada NOW or download a sample copy