Legacy Learning from AFP Toronto Congress, 2016 – Report filed by the Godfather of Good, Agent David Love.
I’ve been going to AFP’s Congress in Toronto since 1995. Indeed, I spoke at that first-ever Congress. Every time I go, I come away a better fundraiser. And now that I am spending my time inspiring legacy donors, Congress is a goldmine.
This year was no exception. I gleefully attended four sessions about legacies and, as you can see even from glancing at the titles, there was much to learn and talk about.
This article summarizes some of my learning from each session. It barely scratches the surface of these marvellous presentations. But if you contact the presenters directly with questions, they will happily oblige. Webpage and Email contact for each are at the end of this article.
Mark Phillips: Come and Meet Death. The Joy of End of Life Giving. Legacies, Tributes, Vampires, Zombies and Larry David
Mark wins the coveted “Most Intriguing Title at Congress” Award. And his energetic session didn’t disappoint.
It was filled with great ideas but the one I came away with was a new appreciation for In Tribute and In Memoriam Giving. Mark shared information from research in the UK which showed this type of giving will skyrocket over the next decades.
One such piece of research was that in 1927, about 6% of death notices included the phrase “in lieu of flowers, a gift to … would be appreciated.” In 2010, this was in 87% of notices.
Mark made a powerful case for taking a closer look at our In Tribute and In Memoriam programs which are often run off the side of a desk with little investment or strategic input.
For instance, because with In Tribute and In Memoriam gifts, we know a good deal about the donor, we have fertile grounds for further cultivation.
We are all painfully aware of the increasing challenges in finding new donors. And let’s not forget how important your acquisition program is to your legacy program. New donors mean new legacies. They are our future. Mark suggested that healthy In Tribute and In Memoriam programs can be strong tools to acquire new, immediately qualified donors.
In fact, research in the UK shows that these donors are among top prospects for a gift in their Will. Mark suggested that In Memoriam donors are twice as likely to leave a gift in their Will!
Gary MacDonald: Turning Legacy Giving Upside Down
Gary was a first-time presenter at Congress. It was great to hear a new, passionate voice.
The title form Gary’s presentation comes from Fraser Green’s excellent book “Iceberg Philanthropy” where Fraser argues that most legacy gifts will come from the loyal, less wealthy donors on your file. Certainly not what we thought 15 years ago.
Gary’s session was packed full of tangible, common sense tips for those of us who invite our marvellous donors to make a legacy gift.
He talked about what we need to do to effectively solicit these gifts and what stuck with me was the old adage “Know Yourself.”
Specifically, Gary challenged us to get in touch with our own most personal enduring values. It is these values that drive legacy gifts. It is good counsel to take the time to figure out what they are for each of us. Our legacy prospects may ask us if we have made a legacy gift ourselves. If they do, they may also ask what made us do it.
These are questions I do not want to answer “on the fly.” I now have my response down pat for the next time I’m asked.
If you ask for legacy gifts gentle reader, I suggest you do the same!
Harvey and Lynne run the highly successful fundraising company Harvey McKinnon Associates out of Vancouver.
I took away a couple of gems from their spirited session. The first was an update on the old adage that those who leave a Will live longer than those who don’t. More important, those who put a charity in their Will, live even longer! I think we can use this fact to advantage in our life-affirming work.
Harvey and Lynne shared other useful information. They reminded us that main predictors of the probability of making a legacy gifts are the donor’s age (the older the better) and their method of giving (direct mail). Other positive factors are gender (female), education (the more the better) and whether they are past volunteers or – to mirror Marks’ findings – repeat tribute donors.
An added treat was using a person’s name to determine how old they are. Gertrude is 100. Mildred is 79. Deborah is 55. Brittany is 25 and Madison is 12!
A final stat for the finance department – a strategic legacy program will pay back in 4 years.
Stephen Pidgeon: How to Love your Donors to Death
My final legacy session – on Congress’ last day – was with the irrepressible Stephen Pidgeon. A master presenter full of energy, enthusiasm and blinding insights.
Like all these summaries, I can only touch the surface of this session. The good news is that Stephen has just written a book which you can see and purchase on his website.
For now, four quick points.
Legacy gifts come from your long-time, loyal donors (bless them!) We need to treat these donors well – we need to love them – from their first gift to their 20th and beyond.
Making a legacy gift is highly influenced by social norms. Knowing that other people would consider a legacy gift triples the possibility of a positive response!
Stephen spent a lot of time looking at what he rightly calls the “twaddle” some charities send their donors. He emphasized over and over that a gift to a charity is not a transaction. It is a connection. And there is a world of difference.
As a direct response expert, Stephen knows that emotion leads to action. Just one of his challenges to us was that we should never, ever use statistics when talking to our best donors.
But I’ve saved the best for last and I want every person who reads the next sentence to make a pledge to DO IT!
Rewrite all your thank you letters. Rewrite them with passion, with integrity and with your donor in mind. Read them out loud and if they don’t make you smile, rewrite them again.
Stephen sent us back to work with the words: “Asking your best donors for a legacy gift is a privilege. It is a joy.” Amen to that!
Congress is a blessing. Some of the best minds in the fundraising business come together for 2.5 days and freely share what works and what doesn’t. And all so we can go home on Wednesday afternoon and do our magical job better – help our delightful donors make the world a better place.
Webpages and Emails:
Mark Phillips, www.bluefroglondon.com, email@example.com
Gary MacDonald, www.clearviewcc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harvey McKinnon, www.harveymckinnon.com, email@example.com
Lynne Boardman, www.harveymckinnon.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Pidgeon, www.stephenpidgeon.com, email@example.com