LEGACY RESEARCH: 7 Months, 10 New Ideas

publication date: Jan 6, 2022
 | 
author/source: David Love

In my book, "Green Green" published on Earth Day 2021, I included 18 examples of legacy research that changed the way I thought about encouraging legacy gifts. Since writing the book, I have identified 10 more examples which I am delighted to share with you. Of course, the trick is to actually do something about them.

1 - A strategic approach to "In Memory" gifts will pay off BIG TIME

Brand-new research for Legacy Voice’s In-Memory Insight Program has revealed some real gems. Here are five quick findings:

i) It’s the person, not the cause.
    - cue loved one’s connection

ii) Great stewardship matters.
  - be grateful
  - show empathy
  - let your personality show through
  - be compassionate

iii) In Memoriam donors are your best legacy prospects.
  - 4x better than the best for pledgers
  - 2x better for prospects
  - 2/3 higher value

iv) Social media is changing how we talk about death and remembrance.
  - death notices on Facebook
  - aids the grieving process
  - help supporters feel close to loved one

v) COVID changed everything.
  - local is crucial
  - personal touches matter


2 - Elements of a great "Legacy Vision"

From our friend Richard Radcliffe’s summary of what 30,000 legacy donors/prospects say, here are the elements of a great Legacy Vision.

  • Fundable
  • Urgent
  • Credible
  • Inspirational
  • Tangible

The one that sticks out for me is Urgent. I did not think this applied to a legacy vision. But it does. Here is a quick example:
Which of these is most effective:

“2 out of 3 guide dogs are thanks to gifts in wills.”
OR
“Without gifts in wills, 2 out of 3 guide dogs would not exist.”

The answer is resoundingly number 2! Get some urgency in your legacy vision!

3 - Will-Making and COVID 19

Although it is a small sample, our friends at Goodworks found out two interesting things when they polled some Canadian lawyers and financial professionals. I've also included some interesting COVID numbers from the UK, US and Australia.
More and more people are making or asking about making a Will. Nearly 70% of estate planners saw somewhat more, or a lot more, estate business.

  • More people are thinking about writing or updating a Will. The current benchmark for both those making a Will and those updating their Will is 5%. The number during COVID was closer to 15%.
  • In the UK, there was a 40% increase in Will-making.
  • In the US, there was a 50% increase in Will-making.
  • In Australia, there was a 265% increase in the sale of “Make your own Will” packs.


4 - Elephants and Meerkats

Here is another gem from Richard Radcliffe. There are now two different types of people thinking about leaving a legacy gift. He calls them elephants and meerkats.

Elephants are our traditional legacy folks. They move slowly and consider things very carefully.
Meerkats are the new kids on the block. They want to - and do - move FAST.

5 - Drivers for making a charitable gift in a Will

From our friends at Legacy Foresight, Lucy Lowthian’s PhD thesis uncovered six things that drive the charitable gift in a Will decision:

  • Connectedness – Identifies strongly with the cause
  • Self-efficacy – Understands the impact of their gift in a Will
  • Purpose in life – Understand life’s purpose
  • Identity importance – Long-time supporter or volunteer
  • “Other” focused – Put others needs first
  • Social norm – Many others do this

6 - Focus
After a successful pilot in 2020, the CAGP’s Will Power Campaign was over-subscribed in 2021. The goal of the campaign is to increase the number of Canadians who put a gift in their Will from 5% to 8.5% by 2030 resulting in $40 billion more dollars for charities.

7 - Understanding the minds of legacy donors

Legacy hero, Malcolm Burrows, suggests reasons that 9 out of 10 donors don’t tell charities that they have included a gift in their Will. Here, in Malcolm’s own words:

Fear of fundraising. Donors associate charities with fundraising calls and letters, which can at times seem intrusive. They fear that informing a charity about a bequest will generate additional fundraising requests.

Flexibility. Donors want to be able to change their mind about beneficiaries without a sense of obligation or guilt.

Liability. Some donors are even concerned that informing charities could lead to a legal obligation to make a gift. This is an unfounded fear but reflects the belief that a bequest confirmation is a pledge that may be irrevocable.

Privacy. Donors worry about how their personal information will be managed within a charity. Where will information be stored and who will have access?

Personal philanthropy. Bequest donors typically give out of a deep sense of connection with the cause or the charity. Their gifts are shaped by values and the decisions are made in private. Most give without being asked. Personal donors give for intrinsic reasons and don’t generally look for external validation.

8 - Numbers matter

In face-to-face meetings with legacy intenders and prospects Richard Radcliffe discovered that if you tell donors that just 1% of their estate makes a big difference, many more are likely to consider a gift in their Will.

9 - There is always more to learn

Russell James has somehow found time to write four compelling e-books about fundraising. Every book has tips about how to be a better legacy fundraiser. Check them out:

The Socratic Fundraiser: Using Questions to Advance the Donor’s Story

The Epic Fundraiser: Myth, Psychology, and the Universal Hero Story

The Primal Fundraiser: Game Theory and the Natural Origins of Effective Fundraising

The Storytelling Fundraiser: The Brain, Behavioral Economics, and Fundraising Story


10 - The long-tail of fundraising

Richard gets the final word (He'll love this!). In his conversations and research, Richard found that it takes over three years to finalize estate plans. During this time, great prospects investigate their charities by going online. Specifically, they need to understand three things:

  1. The financial impact and performance of their donation
  2. The charity’s sources of income and the danger of restricted funds
  3. How easy it is to remember a charity in their Wi

These ten examples of expanding legacy research have been added in just seven months! Commit NOW to keeping up with new findings in 2022!


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. David’s book "Green Green" summarizing lessons learned in 51 years of fundraising is now available. Enter SN20 at checkout for a 20% discount. david@agentsofgood.org



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