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Charitable Bequest Prospecting

According to the Federal Government, if your non profit isn’t aggressively promoting bequest giving, then your non profit is a loser. The September 25, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that Harvard relies heavily on endowment earnings for more than 1/3rd of their operating budget. Where do endowments come from? Charitable bequests.

So why do presidents and executive director types not encourage and, in fact, disallow bequest marketing? They say, “Show me the data!” They say, “Let’s not spend time on dead donors right now.”

Why did you ask for permission? Tell your “higher ups” that it is your considered opinion that you need to go after bequests. You’re the one who is supposed to be an expert. For your part, if you’re using ignorance as an excuse, shame on you. “I don’t have time to read!” Please.

Here’s what I’ve seen time and time again. Those fundraisers, people just like you, who succeed do so because they have control over words, images, and offers. Are you allowing untrained people to have a part in the approval process of your fundraising letters? It’s like letting the lunatics run the asylum. And I see it all the time. I really do.

Just the other day, an executive director had to get her board’s approval for her letter. I had already told her I thought it was right on point. But no, she felt the need to be inclusive and build consensus. There are times to be inclusive and a consensus builder and times not to be. When it comes to what you’re going to be judged on, that’s not the time.

The bottom line is if you’re not doing charitable bequest marketing to your best prospects, your most faithful donors, then you are missing out big time. And you need to get it fixed.

What will it cost you to effectively market charitable bequests? A letter a year to your best prospects. I can’t see any other downsides.

Think about what Harvard does for a minute. To repeat: they rely on endowment earnings (from charitable bequests) for 1/3rd of their operating budget. This really means that your organization would only have to raise 66% of its annual operating budget, not 100%. What a relief!! A third is already guaranteed from bequest gifts.

Wouldn’t this allow you to think straighter than you currently do? Wouldn’t it allow you to think strategically about growth instead of endlessly wondering if you’re going to meet your goal?

I speak to fundraisers 5 days a week. I ask them, When the occasion presents itself, I ask,”Do you expect to be in business 50 years from now? Silence. If they had a bequest marketing program, I’d bet they will be.

Agree? Disagree? Have you experienced push back to starting a charitable bequest program? Why? What have you done about it? Please let us know.

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