Ken Burnett’s Relationship Fundraising is a broad overview of the fundraising profession and how practitioners can incorporate relationship building in everything they do. One area in particular that Burnett stresses is the value of promoting bequests. Too often nonprofit executives assume a hands-off approach to planned giving because it appears to involve technical knowledge beyond their comfort level. In reality, Burnett claims that we as fundraisers can easily incorporate the bequest language into all of our marketing strategies to get current and potential donors thinking about our organizations when they make their long-term plans. Burnett goes on to encourage nonprofits to borrow language they like from peer organizations who are successfully cultivating planned gifts.
Some facts about bequests from Relationship Fundraising:
Nonprofits depend on bequest income. It accounts for about one-third of all voluntary income and is bigger than both government grants and donations from grand-making foundations.
Only one in eight wills (12%) mention a nonprofit. That’s just six percent of the population who will support their favorite causes in this most substantial and least painful of ways.
The average age of someone who leaves a bequest to a nonprofit is eighty-one years.
The average age of a final will that includes a bequest to a nonprofit is less than five years (25% are less than one year old). Therefore, bequest marketing is not nearly as long term as fundraisers might suppose.
Bequest income can be influenced and even predicted.
Bequests account for by far the largest part of planned giving, they are the most important target of relationship fundraising. Some bequest marketing strategies include:
Constantly reinforce your bequest message to existing supporters. Then characterize this segment and begin to look for similar targets outside of your existing supporters.
Promote benefits to leaving a bequest and integrate bequest messages into fundraising and publicity.
Research the bequest area and analyze your own records.
Prepare an integrated set of materials that are relevant and help others prepare or change a will.
Prepare a strategy, brief the staff and appoint one senior staff member to build relationships with bequest prospects.
Communicate regularly with people who assist potential donors (lawyers, financial advisors, etc.).
Stage a major media launch of a campaign using materials and video to promote the importance of bequests to the organization. Start a One Percent Club where donors can leave one percent of the residue of their estate.
Reinvest a percentage of current bequest income in future promotions.
Spotlight bequest donors in your materials, newsletters and annual reports. Consider a suitable “celebrity” or high-profile bequest donor to introduce your campaign.
Keep great records and establish a bequest database.