I want to share a conversation I have with planned giving fundraisers all the time…

We’re talking about the ways in which the charity in question can effectively market bequests to its donors. We get excited as we start to realize how much revenue we could generate – and how little it would cost to get there.

Then, just as we’re getting giddy with the amazing potential in front of us, the planned giving officer’s face goes a little pale and becomes expressionless. I wait for her words, wondering what’s come over her.

Finally, she speaks…

You know Fraser, this is all great – it’s exciting in fact. But I’m not so sure about this. How in the world would we steward a bunch of new expectancies? We don’t have planned giving donor welcome kits. We haven’t created a legacy society for them to belong to. And we don’t have any staff allotment for legacy stewardship and relationship-building. I just don’t see how we can ramp up our legacy marketing if we can’t afford to steward them right.”

 The impasse has been reached…

The planned giving fundraiser thinks that legacy donors need all sorts of donor recognition and specialized stewardship. Somewhere along the line, someone taught my friend that legacy stewardship was a complicated and expensive business.

Sigh…if she only knew.

The Secret to Legacy Stewardship

I’ve been involved with all sorts of focus groups that ask donors about making bequests to charity. One important area of discussion that I always like to include is the question of what kind of treatment the donor would expect, need or want AFTER the bequest had been made.

And you know what? She doesn’t want much more than she did when she was an ‘average’ annual donor!

First of all, she doesn’t need recognition – and she doesn’t need to belong to a legacy society. Let me share with you some advice I’ve been giving planned giving fundraisers for years now: If you don’t have a legacy society yet, don’t start one! Many legacy donors see this as muss and fuss that they don’t need – and they certainly don’t want to feel that you’re spending money on them. I advise fundraisers to simply invite legacy donors to any functions or events that you’re already doing – like a president’s breakfast for major donors for example.

Keep It Simple

As for stewardship, your legacy donor has one, simple want…

She wants to continue to believe that your organization spends donated dollars wisely – and that those expenditures further your mission and advance your cause.

So, don’t send her a pin or a piece of parchment. Send her a newsletter or a donor impact report. Tell her stories about how donor dollars have helped people (or animals, or the environment). Have those people who have been helped tell their own stories about how their lives are better now.

And keep in mind the simple stewardship idea that the donor is the hero of the stewardship story – and that the charity is just the funnel that connects the donor’s generosity with the recipient’s need.

So, keep your stewardship basic. Tell great stories. And don’t every slow down your legacy marketing efforts because you don’t think you can afford to steward your new legacy donors.

You’ll do just fine!!