January, 2011Herein, the nuts and guts of a successful bequest-sales strategy.
Be Aware #2: Bequest marketing is easy, cheap, and doable, no matter how busy you are.
Good bequest marketing is dirt simple. At bottom, it requires you to talk once a year to your very best, most loyal, and least demanding donors.
You send a letter. A brief, personable letter of a dozen lines or less. Not to everyone, mind: only to your most "committed" donors and volunteers.
You thank them for their years of support. "You've been fantastic." You let them know that there's another way they can make a difference: "...with a gift in your will." You remind them that a legacy gift costs nothing now. You describe what past legacies have achieved. If you're writing to volunteers, you ask them to spread the good word about bequests; they like doing that (and, in the process, convince themselves).
Successful bequest marketing, in truth, takes about as much energy and cost as buying a cup of coffee. Is there any excuse for not bothering?
Be Aware #3: Bequest marketing taps the middle class. It's not an elite thing at all.
In Europe, the typical bequest donor commands, at death, an estate worth 400,000 euros (about half a million US$), including the house and savings.
Is this unusual? Meet an average American named Bert, writing in December 2010: "I've worked all my life, am a veteran, went through college on the GI Bill, always made far less than President Obama's upper limit for middle class income ($97K per year), and my estate will be between $1 million and $2 million depending on the value of my home. I think of myself as lower middle-class."
The hottest prospects for charitable bequests, says Richard Radcliffe, are middle-class females who have donated for 10 or more years to your cause. Lapsed donors who once gave to you regularly are also surprisingly good candidates. Why? Because they loved you but had to stop giving as they aged and went onto fixed incomes. But making a bequest costs them nothing.
Getting started: the Radcliffe Way.
Here are three things you can do to launch your bequest marketing.
1. Send your draft bequest letter to 50 loyal donors, asking, "Do you think this would work? Is this any good? Please help guide us."
2. Send a bequest-promoting letter on the anniversary of the donor's first gift. "Imagine: it was 10 years ago that you made your first gift. You've done so much good since."
3. Create a bookmark. Send it to your loyal donors. Older people read a lot. On the bookmark include a message: "Every gift in every will makes a difference." On the back print a little story that demonstrates the impact of bequests.
Just do it?
PS: Dear CEO, ED, and chair...
Stop short-changing your organization's future. Only hire fundraising chiefs who know how to properly market charitable bequests. The "fingers crossed" and "we'll make it up as we go along" approaches don't work. Richard Radcliffe's approach does work.