Welcome to the latest instalment of our “Star Wars” themed 101 series!
To date, we have had a look at Direct Mail 101, Thank you letters 101, Newsletters 101 and today Rory Green will take us through Legacies 101. We both want to send our massive hugs and appreciation to two incredible Canadian fundraisers, Fraser Green and David Love. These are two guys who know how to tell amazing stories that move your donors to do incredible things and both are personal inspirations and guides in our work. Thanks for your help in the development of this piece David and Fraser.
So let’s get to it – take it away Rory:
Legacy giving is one of my favorite forms of philanthropy. I think it is incredibly beautiful when your last act on earth will be one of giving to others. It makes me think of one of my all time favorite quotes:
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” (Nelson Henderson).
That is exactly what planned gift donors are doing.
For smart charities, legacy gifts are BIG money. Donors who could never afford a “major gift” in their lifetime can often leave transformative gifts in their Will. But don’t take my word for it – even Tom Ahern agrees: “If your charity does well with direct mail, you can do very well indeed with charitable bequests, perhaps even doubling your income.” Who doesn’t want double income?
But like all great fundraising, this is not about the money. It’s about your donors’ values. It’s about giving them a chance to plant the tree.
So let’s get into it. This is a letter targeted at loyal supporters – not big donors. Look for sustained giving over multiple years, I would chose loyalty over capacity any day of the week. To learn a bit more about the people in your database who make the best legacy donors check out prospecting for bequest donors by Leah Eustace and the team at Good Works.
The purpose of this letter is to invite and inspire donors to leave a gift in their Will, and to share with us that they have done so. It’s not an ask – this is an invitation!
It is important to remember that, like direct mail, donors, the best prospect may be at a very different life stage than you. As my father, Fraser Green says, “The difference between knowledge and wisdom is: knowledge is knowing a lot of things. Wisdom is knowing which things matter. Your best legacy prospects are at a wisdom stage of life”. This isn’t about YOU, or your CHARITY – it is about your donor.
Key points of the letter:
• A brief history of the organization, where we are today and where we are going in the future
• Get the donor thinking about the future and your shared vision of a better future: a legacy gift will help people tomorrow
• The letter puts the reader in a special and elite group of supporters who are receiving this communication – flattery is a powerful tool
• A gift in a Will can have a profound impact on the cause – this isn’t a letter about the need to have a Will, or how to save estate taxes
• A legacy gift is an enduring expression of the beliefs and values of the donor – talk about your organizations’ beliefs
• You do not have to be rich to make a legacy gift
Key points for design consideration:
• The pack should look very different from the “usual”
• Consider using a nicer stock for the outer envelope, the letter and the reply device.
• Make the direct mail package invitation size, use hand addressing and a first class stamp
• It seems obvious, but use nothing smaller than 14 point type and make sure the letter is hand signed
• Paper clip a business card for the individual who would be responsible for planned gifts that includes a direct line and photograph
For more examples of legacy giving materials, check out For more information, check out : SOFII’s Last chance to change the world: legacies (bequests) showcase.
Let’s have a look at the creative:
So what’s next in the series? We have some ideas – but if you have suggestions, we would love to hear them! Also, continued thanks to Disney for not suing us… Thanks for reading. -jl-