Your website is the single most important piece of marketing collateral for your organization. And, it’s likely also one of the most neglected or in need of a tune up.

According to What Canadian Donors Want, a study released in by Ipsos Reid and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 7 in 10 Canadians do some research on a charity before they donate. Around 41% of people accomplish this by looking at your website, and another 31% report doing an online (Google) search. The internet is a significantly more popular source of information than friends, family, and colleagues, print publications, or any other piece of marketing collateral your charity produces.

Other statistics report that 65% of donors and 90% of major gift donors visit your website before they make a gift to your charity.

Unquestionably, your website plays a key role in marketing your cause and connecting with donors. But it’s highly probable that your website is not top of mind when you think about the typical legacy donor that you’re cultivating.

When Your Website Meets Your Legacy Donor

Your typical legacy donor has been giving to you for years, has been actively engaged in your organization, or their life has been in some way touched by your work. Given their affinity, and their advanced age, your website will likely only to be used to support the gift decision they’re already made. It’s the one place where they’ll – or someone else who is engaged in this process such as a family member or professional advisor – will look for specific information to support the planned gift.

But what if I were to tell you that while 8% of Civics have left a gift to charity in their will, 5% of Baby Boomers and 4% of Gen X had done so as well? I bet that insight made you sit up in your chair!

Gen Y
Gen X
(1945 and earlier)
Include in Will* 0% 4% 5% 8%

*Next Generation of Canadian Giving (PDF), September 2013.

Not a lot of us have begun courting the next generation of legacy donors. But they’re there, they’re making wills, and your website (and social media) is one of the places that these folks have investigated what you do and use it to connect with your charity’s work.

At the annual Canadian Association of Gift Planners Conference held in Vancouver, BC in April, I developed a 1 hour workshop entitled Your Legacy Website: How to Help Your Planned Giving Program Respond to 21st Century Donors.

We spent some time exploring website construction and development generally, and then we honed in on best-practices specifically for your legacy section.

The best legacy sections break some of the typical web conventions. And this is a good thing because it’s what you need to do to communicate with older donors and professional advisors. Here are 8 tips to help you along the way.

Now, here’s the crux.

We haven’t even begun to study the role that your website plays in the decision making factors of that 9% of Gen X and Boomer donors who have reportedly made a charitable bequest. That’s the next stage of research.  But since these folks are the ones who increasingly give online (especially Gen Xers), and do use your website to inform other giving decisions, it’s likely that they’ve visited your legacy section along the way.

We’re at a point where the roles of planned giving fundraisers and digital fundraisers will increasingly overlap. How will your website transform your charity’s relationship with its donors when it may be the only way that they’ve ever interacted with you? How will the digital realm change our strategies and tactics for planned giving?

A full version of this article appeared in the April 2014 special conference edition of Gift Planning in Canada.