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An Argument Against Asking Donors to Provide Proof That They Left Your Organization in Their Estate Plan

Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

IdeaSo you did some great marketing and you met with a bunch of folks. You did your job well and 5 (…or 50… or 500) people said that they left your organization in their estate plan.
Next step: Confirm it?
I’m not so sure. Why not spend more time doing the following and less time trying to “confirm” the gift?

  • Meet with the donor
  • Bleed, from the bottom of your heart, with appreciation for their very thoughtful gift intention
  • Learn about the donor’s story so you can understand why they planned a gift (people like to be heard)
  • Write personal, heartfelt letters to the donor from time to time
  • Continually prove to the donor that he or she made the right choice because the organization and its leadership has a solid plan for the future
  • Reemphasize that the donor made a wise investment decision because the money will be managed well to help others in the future
  • Remind the donor that their gift will help them continue to live on even after they are gone
  • Provide the donor with opportunities to get deeply engaged with the organization
  • Make sure the rest of the donor’s family understands the decision so they won’t contest it later

And most of all, see if you can increase the size of the gift!
I guess I’m saying that gift intentions are nice. But that’s the beginning of the process, not the end. And, it really doesn’t matter if you get a confirmation in writing because many gifts can and will be changed during the turbulent, unstable late stages of the donor’s life.
The key is not to get the confirmation but to steward the relationship properly. Only if you do so will your organization actually get the gift after all.
 

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23 responses to “An Argument Against Asking Donors to Provide Proof That They Left Your Organization in Their Estate Plan”

  1. Agree, agree, agree. However in the machine of fund-raising and the pressure to meet goals, we miss the stewardship mark by insisting (and quite frankly) insulting to get the paperwork so we can get a gold star for that move……

  2. Greg Warner says:

    Right on! You get a gold star for a wise comment!! 🙂

  3. Doug Puffer says:

    By taking all of the steps I can almost guarantee that you will have the opportunity to develop terms of reference for the donor so that the purposes for the legacy gift will be pre-approved; you will be offered a copy of the will or trust that created the gift; the gift will grow and your organization will very likely be a valued ally during the “turbulent, unstable late stages of the donor’s life.” Goals of planned giving professionals should be to secure (i.e.get, keep,grow) expectancies not documents. They will arrive in good time.

  4. Doug Puffer says:

    By taking all of the steps I can almost guarantee that you will have the opportunity to develop terms of reference for the donor so that the purposes for the legacy gift will be pre-approved; you will be offered a copy of the will or trust that created the gift; the gift will grow and your organization will very likely be a valued ally during the “turbulent, unstable late stages of the donor’s life.” Goals of planned giving professionals should be to secure (i.e.get, keep,grow) expectancies not documents. They will arrive in good time.

  5. Greg Warner says:

    “Secure expectancies, not documents.”
    That’s brilliant Doug!

  6. When l am advised of a bequest, l follow it up with a thank you letter and bequest confirmation form which is optional to complete. The form has various tick boxes of the type of bequest included. Form also ask how the donor would like to be recongiezd, receive recognition gifts, provide a testimonial, name on honour board etc.
    It is also important to remember that a person is not likely to lie about not including a gift just to get the reward and recognition.

  7. When l am advised of a bequest, l follow it up with a thank you letter and bequest confirmation form which is optional to complete. The form has various tick boxes of the type of bequest included. Form also ask how the donor would like to be recongiezd, receive recognition gifts, provide a testimonial, name on honour board etc.
    It is also important to remember that a person is not likely to lie about not including a gift just to get the reward and recognition.

  8. The devil is always in the details. The more you can document, the less problems you will have going forward.
    There is an organization I was working with who received a major bequest, earmarked for pool renovation,
    The family had a mulitgenerational particiation on the swim teams and in the bequestor’s later years he and his wife had regulary participated in aquatics for seniors. When their grown children, whose names were still mounted on the wall of the pool area for the records they had acheived as members of the various swim teams, learned of this bequest, they were livid, and threatened suit for undue influence. They felt the organization had “stolen THEIR MONEY”. They boycotted the dedication of the new pool and even held a competing cocktail party the night of the dedication. Had the Bequest intention been documented while the bequestor was still alive. I am sure that the family and the organization would have been spared considerable angst.

  9. The devil is always in the details. The more you can document, the less problems you will have going forward.
    There is an organization I was working with who received a major bequest, earmarked for pool renovation,
    The family had a mulitgenerational particiation on the swim teams and in the bequestor’s later years he and his wife had regulary participated in aquatics for seniors. When their grown children, whose names were still mounted on the wall of the pool area for the records they had acheived as members of the various swim teams, learned of this bequest, they were livid, and threatened suit for undue influence. They felt the organization had “stolen THEIR MONEY”. They boycotted the dedication of the new pool and even held a competing cocktail party the night of the dedication. Had the Bequest intention been documented while the bequestor was still alive. I am sure that the family and the organization would have been spared considerable angst.

  10. Jamie Nelson says:

    I tell donors that if they want to be sure that there wishes are carried out as stated in their bequest, it is a good idea to provide a copy of the wording beforehand. Bequests can come in and get put in the wrong “purpose” of your organization. It should not be mandatory, but they should be encouraged to be clear with the organization about their intentions so that we may carry out their wishes. Every time I have put it that way, they have willingly shared the page with the beneficiary designation.

  11. Jamie Nelson says:

    I tell donors that if they want to be sure that there wishes are carried out as stated in their bequest, it is a good idea to provide a copy of the wording beforehand. Bequests can come in and get put in the wrong “purpose” of your organization. It should not be mandatory, but they should be encouraged to be clear with the organization about their intentions so that we may carry out their wishes. Every time I have put it that way, they have willingly shared the page with the beneficiary designation.

  12. Art says:

    Sooooo agree! Where I find another awkward part of the conversation: value of bequest. Unless the donor volunteers that value, we create a “place holder” value of $50,000. While I focus on the number of individuals who make bequest gifts, everyone else is looking at dollar value. Anyone have suggestions on how to handle this?
    Thanks!!
    (If there is another spot to post my question, please let me know.)

  13. Art says:

    Sooooo agree! Where I find another awkward part of the conversation: value of bequest. Unless the donor volunteers that value, we create a “place holder” value of $50,000. While I focus on the number of individuals who make bequest gifts, everyone else is looking at dollar value. Anyone have suggestions on how to handle this?
    Thanks!!
    (If there is another spot to post my question, please let me know.)

  14. Greg Warner says:

    Art, you should post that question in our Group on LinkedIn (Smart Planned Giving Marketers). I know you are a member. Here’s the link: https://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostRecent=&gid=4447816&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp

  15. Greg Warner says:

    Art, you should post that question in our Group on LinkedIn (Smart Planned Giving Marketers). I know you are a member. Here’s the link: https://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostRecent=&gid=4447816&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp

  16. Doug Bradford says:

    These are terrific comments for getting the bequest after the fact and what to do to ensure all you “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” dotted. But how do you find these potential donors in the first place. Is there a blog I can review which can point me in the right direction?

    • Greg Warner says:

      Hi Doug-
      That IS what we do here at MarketSmart. I’ll have one of my Solutionists reach out to you.
      Considering your background with the USO, you might really like what they show you. We work with several military-related organization such as the Association of the U.S. Army, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Armed Services YMCA, etc.

  17. Doug Bradford says:

    These are terrific comments for getting the bequest after the fact and what to do to ensure all you “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” dotted. But how do you find these potential donors in the first place. Is there a blog I can review which can point me in the right direction?

    • Greg Warner says:

      Hi Doug-
      That IS what we do here at MarketSmart. I’ll have one of my Solutionists reach out to you.
      Considering your background with the USO, you might really like what they show you. We work with several military-related organization such as the Association of the U.S. Army, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Armed Services YMCA, etc.

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