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A Practical Lesson from Star Wars: How to Raise 2 to 5 Times as Much from Real-Life Donors

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It may be the smartest “bad move” in the history of movies.

Back in 1976, while he was negotiating his deal for making a new movie about heroes and villains zooming around in space, George Lucas said he’d take much less of the usual pay directors get. In exchange for rights to movie related merchandise.

I like to imagine that George’s Hollywood buddies were snickering behind their cigars as they sat by their swimming pools: “What’s up with George and the weird deal he made? He wants a share of merchandise? Toys? Instead of a share in a blockbuster film?”

Fast-forward 40 years to 2016. By that time, Star Wars movies and TV shows had made a total of about $16 billion. That’s a 16 with nine zeroes after it.

Not bad.

But the merchandise? It brought in $52 billion. More than three times what the movies earned.

Lucas clearly knew what he was talking about when he negotiated a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I’m telling you about this because you, as a fundraising professional, have a George Lucas decision in front of you right now. You can do fundraising the old way – and that’s not bad at all – or you can be like George and set your fundraising sights at a much bigger pie.

And you already have all the tools you need to do that. You don’t have to wait for some amazing new social media phenomenon or for the blockchain to come up with something for philanthropy, or some kind of AI breakthrough.

You can start your George Lucas leap to the future right now. You may have already started without even knowing it!

Here’s what’s going on:

It’s a massive demographic shift. The huge Baby Boom generation is getting old. Over the next 20-30 years, these boomers will inevitably pass away, and leave their money to younger generations.

Trillions upon trillions of dollars.

And some of that unprecedented transfer of wealth will go to charity.

Here’s how this is like Star Wars: George Lucas understood that merchandise was a much bigger deal than movie tickets. He also knew that you can’t just skip the movies and go straight to merch. You have to have the movies in the first place to create the demand for the merchandise.

For us, the equivalent of the movies is the ordinary, everyday fundraising we’re already doing. Do it well, and we can raise a lot of money for our causes.

But if that’s all we do, we’re missing the “merchandise sales” – that is, the intergenerational transfer of wealth that’s already underway and will continue for many years to come.

Just as Hollywood needs movies to create merchandise sales, we need ordinary fundraising to get access to all those charitable bequests.

Ya can’t have one without the other!

But if you stay on top of it, studies suggest that about 80% of the lifetime donation value of your donors will almost certainly be from gifts in wills.

20% from fundraising.

80% from bequests.

Next week, I’ll share with you a ground-breaking long-term study of donors that has opened the eyes of many people to the size of the opportunity before us. You’ll see the possibilities for your fundraising program right away. Then I’ll tell you more about what you can start doing – or doing more of – right now.

Want to get in on the secret that can turn any fundraising program into a future-proof long-term revenue powerhouse? 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 to your inbox too!

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