Taking bequest fundraising out of the "too hard basket" and placing it firmly at the heart of what you do
Eleanor Cater, Include A Charity Campaign Manager
"Perhaps more than any other human document a Will reflects the character of the writer and reveals his relationship with family, friends, and the world at large. His nature, his prejudice, his interests, his eccentricities, and the full range of man's virtues and vices can be found on the pages of Wills." ~ Menchin (1963)
At FINZ we hear from many charities who put bequest fundraising firmly in he 'too hard' basket. Time and again we hear fundraisers say "oh yes, that's something we are planning to get to" or "it's in my job description but I don't know where to start!"
We also get reports of Boards not fully grasping that investing in a bequest fundraising strategy takes significant time and investment or resources.
Successful bequest fundraising is in fact pretty simple; put in the work now an you will reap rewards in the future. And the time to start is now (5 years down the track you will wish that you had!) however, yes, it does take a leap of faith on the part of your Board, senior management and fundraising team.
While the idea behind bequest fundraising is simple (connecting with supporters, nurturing relationships, and making that crucial ask in the right way and at the right moment in time) it does take significant expertise to be succesfful. We hear of charities doing it extremely well but we also hear many stories of charities making the wrong approaches and alienating their supporters, sometimes losing them forever.
Dwyllis Brown, CFRE, FFINZ, is one of New Zealand's most experienced ad successful bequest fundraisers, with a career which has spanned 25 years including fundraising for some of New Zealand's trusted health charities. Dwyllis believes that bequest fundraising gives the best return for a charity's time and effort "provided the charity's Board and CEO are patient enough to see it through!" This last point is obviously important as seasoned fundraisers will know that bequest income is unlikely to come in in the short term; the work put in now will bear fruit 5, 10, or even 20 years down the track.
Bequests are the ultimate in major gifts. Typically they are by far the biggest charity gifts and it's helpful to keep some statistics in mind when you are undertaking your bequest fundraising. For example, 7.5 percent of New Zealanders currently leave a bequest in their Will, but research shows that many more would do so if they knew it was an option or if they were asked! 64 percent of those making a bequest are women. On average those leaving a bequest make a gift to three charities. Wills are often changed in the last three years of life, so it's important to continue nurturing relationships well into the twilight years.
When undertaking bequest fundraising Dwyllis Brown advises being clear on WHY people give to your organisation. A clear fundraising statement for support is important, as are real emotive stories about those who have left or are going to leave you a bequest. Emotion and passion for leaving a lasting legacy often drive bequest giving. The language and the stories you use are paramount.
Creating a bequest culture within your organisation is also crucial to success. For example, at your events mention bequests and what a diffrence they make. Share a link on your website to a video story about a bequest. Always talk about how your organisation is funded "through donations and bequests". Be specific.
Many New Zealand charities shy away from active bequest fundraising as many people feel instinctively uncomfortable about benefitting from death. Succcessful bequest fundraisers however know that it's not about death; it's about enabling people's lifetime passions to live on and giving them the opportunity to do so.
But before undertaking any bequest fundraising it's important to first do your homework. Develop your resources with care and train your staff. Only then you will be ready to actively go out into the marketplace and loudly and proudly seek bequests. Put the work in now with your supporters and you will be making the best invest,ent in your future income, enabling your work to live on for generations to come.
Eleanor Cater is Campaign Manager at FINZ for Include A Charity, a collective of charities promoting gifts in Wills. She works with charities on a national campaign encouraging bequests and in furthering fundraisers' expertise in growing bequest income. Contact Eleanor on 04 499 6223, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.includeacharity.org.nz
You can contact Dwyllis Brown, CFRE, FFINZ, on 04 471 1444 or visit www.fundraisingtraining.co.nz