In a nutshell, what are Bequests?

No one wants to think about the end of his or her days. Regardless, things happen and it’s always good to be prepared. On the bright side there is a way for donors to leave behind a legacy with their preferred organization and it is called a bequest.

Bequests are donations made to a nonprofit organization through a supporter’s last will or trust. There are many different types of bequests such as a: general bequest, special bequest, percentage bequest and residual bequest. Nonprofits are incorporating bequests into their giving programs because it’s a good way to keep donors part of their mission.

Who is doing this extremely well?

It’s easy to implement a giving program into your nonprofit organization but doing it in a way that successfully speaks to your mission, takes some work. When your nonprofit deals with bequests it has to be done appropriately. Many organizations that take the time to really customize their giving program have already proven to be successful. For example, National Kidney Foundation has a successful bequest program that allows donors to incorporate the nonprofit in their personal will.

One thing NKF does to set their program apart is The Heritage Club. This was created to recognize and thank all donors who use bequests in order to provide future donations for the organization. Being part of a The Heritage Club makes donors feel appreciated for all of the support they give. Another thing that stands out are the organization’s direct quotes on their program brochure. Ron DeGolier, the Development Officer of NKF says, “I view planned gifts a bit like organ donation–leaving some part of you that can improve or even save the lives of others after you’re gone.” Heartfelt and practical statements from the organization, like this, are impactful because they are personal to the donors and directly relate to NKF’s overall mission.

Why does it matter?

Many nonprofit organizations take bequests into serious consideration and create planned giving programs because both donors and organizations can benefit from this. Bequests provide a successful path for nonprofits to ensure their survival in the future. Planned giving programs allow supports of a nonprofit to carry on their donations and their legacy for many years to come.

Where should I start on execution?

First, do your research. Take a look at similar organizations and see how they are integrating bequests into their overall fundraising strategy. Determine if this type of fundraising is even appropriate for your organization. If it is, be tactful in the way that this program will be tied to your overall mission.

You’ll likely need approval from the board to actually start one and then once it has been approved the next step is to build a Bequest Advisory Committee. Once your organization has done that then you have to tell donors about it. To market your bequest program successfully you should start by creating a brochure that introduces the program to prospects and helps develop your case for support. Make sure that you’re marketing this program in a respectful and relevant way and not just blasting it to your entire mailing list.

How can I learn more? 

To learn more about bequests and giving programs, stay tuned, we’ll have a more in-depth look at bequests posted next week.

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