BEQUESTS | The Final—Final—Final Gift

publication date: Mar 28, 2024
author/source: David Love

Readers of this article are no doubt preparing for the legacy tsunami which is coming to Canadian charities over the next 30 years as the boomers leave us (some would say thankfully!).

To learn more about this unique moment, look at the recent report from the inspiring folks at Goodworks about legacy giving in Canada in 2023.

In this article, I suggest that when your donor leaves a gift in their Will to your charity, they are actually leaving three final gifts.

Final Gift #1 – A generous unrestricted donation

When one of your precious donors leaves your charity a gift in his, her or their Will, you may think of it as their final gift. And what a marvellous gift it is! It is often the largest gift they will make and, perhaps as important, it is usually unrestricted. This means you can use it where it matters the most, including investing some of it in receiving more legacy gifts as the tsunami proceeds. (Do it!)

In the end, legacy gifts are not about the money. They are about your loyal donors and their lives well-lived. They are about you giving your donors a chance to express meaning in their lives. They are a poignant expression of the values these people hold dear, values they share with your charity.

But my friends, this is not their final gift. Instead, it sparks two more gifts that are as important as the unrestricted revenue.

Final Gift #2 – Who was this person?

It is likely that your legacy donor has been with you a long time. What do you know about him, her, or them? What can you find out about this donor?

Spending time learning more about the folks who leave a gift in their Will has immense benefits. It suggests answers to some crucial questions. The most obvious are:

  • Where can I find more people like this?
  • Are there more candidates in our donor list?
  • Where else might I find people like this?

You can learn other important things about your donors and the group of people who leave a gift in their Will. For instance,

  • What other charities did they remember?
  • Can you use this information creatively? For example, a joint appeal with one nor more of them?

For a more detailed look at what you can learn from your departed legacy donors, have a look at pages 82– 85 in my book, “Green Green.”

Final Gift #3 – Let’s celebrate

A legacy gift provides a splendid opportunity for your charity to reaffirm your crucial charitable purpose.

When your donor puts your charity in their Will, they are telling you that accomplishing your mission is the most important thing in the world. These donors believe so deeply in the values you represent that they remember you – and your work – in their last moments. Their permanent stamp on the world is their deep respect for the values you hold dear. Values they share.

The receipt of their gift is a moment to celebrate. To celebrate the donor. To celebrate your mission. To celebrate your hard-working staff. To reaffirm your commitment to the vital work you do.

I think especially of my brothers and sisters in the environmental movement. The work they do is hugely important, but victories are few and sometimes the battle seems hopeless. But, when a donor leaves a gift in their Will to their charity, their hard work is reaffirmed in the most tangible way imaginable.

Legacy donor recognition

All this is just talk. How can you make the receipt of a legacy gift a special moment?

I suggest that once a month, in the most appropriate forum (possibly an all-staff meeting), you take a minute to learn a bit about the people who remembered your life-saving work with a gift in their Will.

Everyone will leave that meeting with a bounce in their step and a renewed commitment to achieving your mission (which is why they are on your staff in the first place).

The coming legacy tsunami will result in billions more dollars invested in making our world a better place. Let’s take a moment to creatively thank the precious people who make legacy gifts. They reaffirm our commitment to values which will change the world. It may make this the greatest of the three final gifts.

David Love raised his first dollar for the environment in 1969. He raised his most recent one today. He now occasionally works on legacies with his daughter’s direct response company, Agents of Good, where he is affectionately known as “The Godfather of Good.

Enter SN20 at checkout for a 20% discount off of his book, Green, Green - Reflections on 51 Years of Raising Money for Nature.

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