How To Get Bequestors To Leave You A Bequest

How to Get Bequestors To Leave You a Bequest

Wondering how to broach the tricky subject of asking for bequests? Here’s how to help your charity tap into this valuable income source.

Why worry about bequests?

Some charities shy away from asking donors to leave a gift in their will because the subject feels sensitive and awkward.

But most major charities are more than happy to ask for bequests – and do everything they can to make leaving a legacy easy for donors.

When you consider that the average bequest in Australia is a staggering $60k (compared with the average donation of $764.08), it’s obvious why! Planned giving can have a massive impact on your financial position – giving you the funds you need to do much more great work.

Who should you ask to leave you a bequest?

When it comes to raising funds, you simply can’t afford to be passive. You have to get out there and ask. Bequests are no different. The best way to encourage people to leave you a gift in their will is to ask them to do it.

But resources are precious, and you can expect the best response rate if you target your communications. So, the first step is to figure out who to ask.

There’s plenty of data you can use as a starting place:

  • 21% of people without children leave a gift in their will to a charity, compared to just 1.3% of people with children.[1]
  • The average bequest by people with children is $7,000, compared to $221,000 by childless donors.1
  • People aged over 55 are more likely to have made a will and included a bequest. (Although there is a growing trend of younger Australians leaving charitable gifts in their wills).
  • More women than men leave a charitable bequest in their will.[2]
  • Committed supporters who have been donating for more than seven years are strong prospects. So are volunteers, regular givers, and people who often attend your events.

You can use this sort of information to segment your database and send a targeted mailing. But there’s an even better way to find bequest leads: a survey.

Using a survey to find bequest leads

Surveys tend to get great response rates because they give supporters a chance to have their say. As well as collecting valuable demographic information, you can ask people whether they’d consider leaving you a bequest – or have already done so.

Your planned giving team can then follow up in person with anyone who says ‘yes’.

What’s the best way to ask for a bequest?

If you have strong leads from a survey, and the resources to do it, then the personal touch is best. Direct contact from your planned giving officer is the most powerful way to start a relationship.

Talk to potential bequestors about what matters to them, why they are thinking of leaving you a legacy, and how you can help them.

If you don’t have that information or the time to contact people in person, direct mailing packs can also be very successful.

As with any mailing, it’s vital that you show the need with a strong case study and show the donor just how much difference their bequest can make.

What to ask for?

Donors don’t respond well to the word ‘bequest’, so it’s better to ask them for a ‘gift in your will’ instead.

There are two types of financial bequest – specific amounts, or residuals. Residuals are usually a percentage of the remaining estate once all the instructions have been followed. They tend to be much more valuable than specific amounts – often more than $100k.

A residual gift is easy for a donor to include in their will – you can simply ask for ‘what’s left over after all their loved ones have been taken care of’.

Ask people to let you know when they’ve included you in their will so that you can plan ahead. That way you’ll be able to keep in touch, too. After all, your bequestors are some of your most valuable supporters. It’s important that you show them how much you appreciate their generosity.

Note: If a supporter doesn’t respond when you ask for a bequest, that doesn’t mean you should 
never ask again! Most people are prompted to create a will by a major life event like getting 
married, having a baby, or a death in the family. Since you never know when these events will 
happen, it’s important to keep asking. You want to be top of mind when the time comes.   

Make planned giving easy for everyone

While it’s important to be proactive about asking for bequests, you never know who else may be thinking about leaving you gift in their will. In fact, 60% – 90% of bequests come right out of the blue.2

So make sure you include information about how to leave you a bequest on your website – and in any information you produce about your charity.

[1] Data collected by Donor Republic

[2] Data collected by Include a Charity