Is NOW the Right Time for Legacies?

Over the last several months, many in the nonprofit sector that don’t have a legacy program have wondered

Over the last several months, many in the nonprofit sector that don’t have a legacy program have wondered if it’s a good time to launch their program. And those who do have a program are wondering if they should continue promoting it. 

Concerns over perception in relations of the global pandemic are front of mind. For a deeper exploration of this topic, I highly recommend you download the Ethics of Legacy Fundraising During Emergencies paper developed by a team of fundraisers and researchers at ROGARE, the Fundraising Think Tank. It covers a scope of ethical questions about the issue.

But the million dollar question still remains: is now the right time to launch a program or to talk about legacies with donors? Let me offer a few suggestions as to what you should have and reasons why you should start a program or why you should engage in legacy conversations with your donors:

  • Ageing donors in your database

The importance of identifying donors that fall in the 55 years old + category cannot be understated. This is your chance to geek out on data and segment your database. I go into greater details in this blog post from February 2019. You are not capturing your donors’ age? No worries. Look for donors that insist on using Mrs. or Ms., search for popular names given to babies in the 1940s and 1950s, or those donors who have been supporting your organization for a very long time. Granted this may not be 100% foolproof but it’s a step in the right direction that will help you discern the legacy potential in your organization. 

  • Programs that deliver the mission

You have great programs that are successful and consistently deliver impact towards your mission. BOOM, you’re golden! Do you need to have a specific project or program to ‘sell’ to your donors? Absolutely not! This is not a capital campaign. Launching or having legacy conversations with donors is NOTHING like major gifts fundraising or capital campaigns. You are not selling a project, you are sharing with your donors a passion towards the future of the mission and those who will benefit from the gift. 

  • Long-term vision

Closely related to the previous point is the importance of having a long-term vision of what the organization wishes to accomplish in 10 – 15 – 20 years from now. This will become important when you are talking with donors about what will be realized with their gift. You don’t know what that future looks like? That’s fine, start having those conversations internally right away so you are not caught by surprise when donors ask the question.

  • Inspiring storytelling

You have in your arsenal countless donor and beneficiary stories that will warm any heart, then go ahead and leverage that. Ruthlessly tell those stories because people connect to other’s stories – it’s what binds us together in our collective lived experiences. It’s also what makes for a-ma-zing fundraising. Your CEO or Board chair don’t like it? Who gives a rat’s *ss? Are they the fundraising rock star that slays every fundraising campaign? No they’re not, YOU ARE. You know that storytelling is important to all fundraising, especially legacies, so use it to your advantage.

**sorry, got a little carried away there….feeling very passionate about this**

  • People are dying – naturally

I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable but death and dying is part of this conversation. If you know your donors are dying – not only due to the current pandemic – I mean, as they normally would, then it makes sense to launch a legacy program or to engage in legacy conversations with donors. At the beginning of the pandemic there was a huge and quick rush to write or update wills. The numbers of digital wills written in March and April are astounding.

While we are still in this predicament, life has since adjusted to a new normal and people have calmed down a little. What this means is that regardless of the pandemic, people are still passing away so should you be avoiding this reality? Of course not. Donors never stopped caring about your organization and its mission just because they were confined. In fact, many organizations recorded exceptional fundraising results in the past few months!

One of the many takeaways from the ethics paper mentioned above is the importance of having a fundraising ethics values statement. You can see a wonderful example from Marie Curie in the UK. So get out there and ‘physically-distance’ talk with your most loyal, older donors about a gift in their will. They’ve always been there for your organization and the pandemic never changed their resolve.

Want to learn more about how to start or reboot a legacy program in your organization? Join the September cohort of my Online Legacy Bootcamp (dates to be confirmed shortly). You can sign up to be added to the waiting list by visiting this page and look for the banner at the top of the page. You will be the first to hear about the details so you can complete your registration.

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