Rather than a TIP, this month I thought I’d offer you a TOOL that you can use whenever you’re creating legacy communications material.

This tool is dead simple. It’s just 8 little words. Eight words that I think you should use whenever you’re creating content (be it paper-based, digital or conversational). Here’s how to use it:

  1. Look the list over a few times. Memorize some of the words if you can.
  2. Then write your web content or donor letter – or have your conversation with a donor.
  3. Once you’ve done that, go back and check to see how many of the 8 words you’ve used. You can even give yourself a grade: ‘A’ for 7 or 8 of the words, ‘B’ for 5 or 6, ‘C’ for 3 or 4, ‘D’ for 1 or 2 – and ‘F’ for none at all!
  4. Finally, if you can (it’s hard to have a do-over with a face to face conversation), go back over your material and try to incorporate the words you missed.

Here goes – my personal favourite 8 words to use when I’m writing legacy-based materials:

  1. LIFE: A legacy gift comes from the autobiographical part of the brain. That’s where we construct the stories of our lives and answer the existential questions ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What good have I done? Note: These questions don’t usually mean all that much to us when we’re in our 30s and 40s – but they sure do after our 60th
  2. FUTURE: Legacy gifts – when you get down to it – amount to casting our love and generosity into the future. In fact, the ultimate act of generosity is to extend your love to a time when you’ll no longer be here. That time is the future.
  3. PURPOSE: Human beings are happiest when we have two things – lots of loving relationships and a sense of purpose. Purpose is what gets us out of bed in the morning, and its what gives us a sense of accomplishment when we put our heads on our pillows at night. Purpose is essential to the human experience.
  4. GENEROSITY: This is one of the noblest of positive character traits. When people make little speeches about me at my hundredth birthday party, one of the things I most want to hear is “Fraser’s a really generous guy.”
  5. LOVE: They say that love makes the world go round, and you know what? It does! Legacy gifts are gifts of love much moreso than money. Talk about legacy giving for what it really is – an ultimate act of love.
  6. FOOTPRINT: I use the visual of a footprint in my legacy writing all the time. Referring to a legacy gift as a footprint the donor will leave behind when she’s gone is a lovely metaphor to me.
  7. MEANING: Knowledge is all the stuff you know – while wisdom is knowing which small part of that knowledge really matters. Meaning is kind of like that. We play all sorts of roles in our lives, and we do many things. But those that truly matter are the ones that add meaning to our lives. You might have to trust me on this one – but older people ponder meaning a lot.
  8. LEGACY: Your legacy is what’s left of you when you’re gone. I’ve thought about my legacy. First and foremost comes my daughter (who is my life’s masterpiece). Next come family and all the people I’ve really loved. Last comes the outcomes of my actions – and gifts in wills fit perfectly here. Legacies are beautiful and noble things – and legacy is a beautiful word. So use it a lot!

Try using this list of 8 power words next time you’re creating some legacy giving materials. I think you’ll like the result – and I KNOW that your donors will!

And while I’ve got you, here’s my list of 8 words I think you should avoid:

  3. MONEY
  4. TAX
  8. LAW

If you stop and think about it, the 8 words I like are really about people – and about life. The 8 words I’d avoid are about money.

Because legacy gifts are about life – not about money.

Have fun with this – and good luck in your legacy marketing work!