Your To Do List for Skyrocketing Income in the Coming Years

Your To-Do List for Skyrocketing Income in the Coming Years

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We’ve been focusing for the past couple of weeks on the research that shows us how important bequest revenue from donors can be – two to four times as much as ordinary donation revenue.

But it doesn’t just happen. There are some things you need to do to claim that revenue. Here are some things you should start doing…

Invest in bequest fundraising NOW

This is the most important thing you can do. If you don’t talk regularly to your donors about legacy giving and have ways to help them, your bequest income will be limited and sporadic.

Have a person who is your designated legacy or planned giving leader. They should be good at talking to donors about their values and aspirations and also know enough about wills they can answer detailed questions and give good guidance.

At many organizations, this person is part of the major donor team, mainly because there’s a significant skillset overlap between major donor fundraising and bequest fundraising. But it could be someone from anywhere.

Depending on the size and budget of your organization, this could be a part-time assignment for someone who has other (hopefully related) duties, or a full job. It could even be a team of people. The important thing is that bequest fundraising should be someone’s responsibility – someone who can give it time, energy, and leadership.

Find out the age (birthdate) of every donor possible

By far, the people most aware of their own mortality are older people. That’s why they are the most likely to think about their legacy, have a will, and include a nonprofit in it.

You need to know who your older donors are! Here are some ways to do that:

  • Ask them their birthdate. Ask new donors early in the relationship. Most are happy to share, though do make it clear this is optional for those who prefer not to tell you. This will tell you which donors to prioritize for bequest communications.
  • Append birthdates from other sources of data.
  • Listen: If you call donors to thank them (or for any reason), have callers note in donor records those who “sound older” or say things that indicate age (like, “I’m retired.”).

Bonus: Having birthdates means you can send birthday greetings to donors, which is a great way to connect!

Other donor characteristics to prioritize:

  • Those who have donated by mail.
  • Those who have made multiple gifts.
  • Monthly donors.
  • Recent donors (within the last 12 months).
  • Those who make above-average gifts from the beginning of the relationship.
  • Statistical models that predict charitable bequests can help you find strong leads.

Surveys, surveys, surveys

I’m not talking any old survey. I’m talking about what we at Moceanic call the Supporter Connection Survey. This is a survey that is designed to open a conversation with donors. It typically includes a question about gifts in wills that makes it the best-known tool for generating bequest leads. See below for some links to posts and information about this powerful tool.

Here are some of the ways to deploy the Supporter Connection Survey:

  • Send a full survey every year. Maybe more often!
  • Include the survey in their new-donor welcome journey.
  • Look for other times to send partial surveys that include the bequest question, such as in donor newsletters.

Bequest “drip marketing”

For no extra cost and little effort, you can keep the topic of including you in their will in front of donors year-round:

  • Include articles about it in your newsletter. Typically, feature a donor (often a couple) who has taken this step. Let them share why they did so and why they’re happy they did. (It’s best to feature living donors, not those who have recently passed.)
  • Include a printed insert (perhaps exactly the same content as a newsletter article) in your donation acknowledgement mailings.
  • Have a checkbox on your reply devices (probably on the back) where they can request information about including you in their will, or just start a conversation with someone on your staff about doing so.
  • Post information about it on your website.

These things don’t typically generate a large number of leads on their own, but they can be a good reminder for the many donors who are on the fence.

Invest in “old” media for donor acquisition

Donors to traditional media – especially direct mail, phone, print ads – are typically the best prospects for bequest giving. Probably because those are the channels preferred by older donors.

For this reason alone, the “squeeze” we have been experiencing with direct mail (rising cost and falling response) has not made DM unsustainable for many organizations.

This does not mean to ignore new media and younger donors. There are some powerful tools for bequest online, and they can entice younger donors to think about bequests before they reach the more typical age. And every year, more older people are comfortable with digital media.

Love your donors

Donor love is your best tool for encouraging bequests. When donors have a good and long-term connection with you, the chance they’ll think about you in their will is much higher than if it’s merely a transactional connection without an emotional component.

Here are some high-impact donor love best practices:

  • Be good at thanking donors when they give: prompt, emotional, and repeated. By mail, phone, and email.
  • Regularly report back to donors on the impact of their giving through newsletters, donor care letters, webinars, events, and more.
  • Give them many ways to communicate back with you: surveys, providing contact information so they can connect with living humans at your organization, and more.
  • Give them choices about their giving.
  • Always frame their giving as action they are taking. Not money funding action you will take.

Just do it!

This list may be daunting. It may even seem impossible.

That’s okay.

Just do as many of these things as you can. Then find ways to do more over time. Progress is better than perfection!

Get the inside look at this incredible opportunity and how you can make the most of it. Register now for Sean Triner’s blockbuster online workshop, A New Hope for Successful Donor Acquisition. Discover the clear path that leads from new donors to breakthrough legacy gifts. Workshops happening this week! Sign up now and get (FREE!) Your Ready-Made Donor Communications Calendar sent straight to your inbox, too!

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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