Encourage Planned Gifts By Telling a Bequest Story


For the first time ever, I have a guest post today!


PG Marketing Expert Claire Meyerhoff

I’d like to introduce you to Claire Meyerhoff, who is my favorite Planned Giving marketing expert.

As owner of the PG Agency and Editorial Director at Planned Giving Marketing.com, Claire knows great ways to reach and engage prospective planned giving donors.

Here’s a terrific post from Claire, just for you.

And if you want more help with your messaging and content around planned giving topics, join her webinar with us on Wednesday August 28. Find out more here.

A Bequest Story

Tell a story to encourage loyal donors to put your organization in their will.

Don’t Have all the Planned Giving Bells and Whistles? Don’t Worry!

Hey, busy development gal/guy, I have a few questions for you:

Do you have a planned giving committee, a robust planned giving program, a five year planned giving marketing plan or a huge budget for an outsourced year-long direct mail campaign?

If the answer is no, that’s cool.  You’re in excellent company.  Most charities are kind of “sliding” when it comes to planned giving.

They love when the phone rings and an estate attorney says, “Anne Anonymous has made a bequest to your organization…”But they don’t love the idea of dedicating a lot of time or budget to going after planned gifts.

If you’re not marketing planned gifts (bequests in a will or using other assets to make a gift), here’s an easy way to start…

Start By Telling a Bequest Story.

Here’s a story (of a version of), that could appear in a church bulletin, website, Facebook page, twitter feed, direct mail piece and FUNDRAISING newsletter. A great photo is a must.

Why is Rose Smiling?

Rose Marshall is the happiest she’s been in years.  Every Sunday, her son Jack picks her up at her Rush Avenue home, drives her to St. Mary’s, opens the car door for her, gets her “handy-dandy rolling walker” from the trunk and sets it in front of his mother.

Then Rose walks into church with no help from anyone.

“This new ramp has made me a new woman,” said Rose, who was baptized at St. Mary’s in 1924 and has been a member ever since. 

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Rose said the old ramp was “iffy,” she didn’t “feel confident” and always had her son “give me a little push.”

The new ramp was installed by Heritage Access (donating labor and providing most  materials at cost) in January, thanks to a gift from Bill Wallace, who remembered St. Mary’s in his will.

“A few years back, Bill told me he named St. Mary’s in his will. He didn’t want to make a big fuss, but said he’d like the money to be used for improvements at the church,” said Pastor Susan. 

“I can’t think of a better improvement than seeing Rose’s smile as she walks up that new ramp.”


Try Sharing a Real Bequest Story

If you share a story like this in your newsletter and other “outlets”, you’re PROMOTING PLANNED GIVING without sending a istock_000011890291xsmall-1single letter or spending a dime.

Here are some of the great things this story does:

1. Shows your donors the impact of “everyday philanthropy.”

Rose’s story is obviously for a small audience in a tight community.

BUT you can let your readers know the planned giving donor (the person who put the charity in their will) was an “everyday person.” Do this by including details like “Bill, a retired elementary school teacher…”

2. Gives you, the fundraiser, an opportunity to talk to someone about their own will.

You can chat with another loyal donor (in this case, Rose) about putting the charity in his or her own will (or learning that it already is!!).

3. Helps you emphasize confidentiality and discretion.

The story shows that Bill, the donor had a CONFIDENTIAL conversation with the Pastor, assuring donors that their intentional will also be handled with discretion.

(Many people who have put a charity in their will DON’T TELL THE CHARITY because they don’t want to “be bothered.”

In your letters and marketing materials, it’s important to include language like, “Your gift may remain anonymous” which is shorthand for “discretion.”

4.  Shows you keep your word and use bequests as intended.istock_000018186576medium-1

5. It’s friendly and upbeat.

The story treats the bequest in a friendly way.

It’s about the transformative power of a gift , and doesn’t mention death or “your legacy.”

6. Tells a story about OTHER PEOPLE, not your charity.

It thanks the company that installed the ramp.

Good nonprofit stories are NOT ABOUT YOUR CHARITY but about OTHER PEOPLE.

Never have one of those self-serving quotes from the board chair.  The quote from the pastor provides context and an important message: “we listen to you.”

7. The story has multiple uses in different media and formats.

The story could be repurposed on Facebook and twitter or even pitched to a local newspaper, with a new headline, “Why is this woman smiling?” and the photo of Rose.

8. You can retell the story with a “call to action:”

While this is the general newsletter version of the story, without a “call to action,” it was later used WITH a call to action in a FUNDRAISING NEWSLETTER.

“Is St. Mary’s already in your will, trust or other estate plans?  Thank you!   Please let us know about your plans because it helps St. Mary’s plan for the future.  Call or email Ruthie Lund in the Development office and she will add your name to the Legacy Society.  Your gift may remain anonymous, if you like. 

Don’t have a will? You’re not alone! Now is a great time to start planning, and please consider including a bequest to St. Mary’s in your estate plans.  Contact Ruthie for suggested “bequest language” and the St. Mary’s tax ID for you to share with your attorney.

Want to hear more great ideas about how you can do A LOT of planned giving marketing with VERY LITTLE?

Join our Master Class with Claire next week for:

5 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Bring More Planned Gifts Tomorrow

Whether you have an existing planned giving program (great!) or you’re “thinking about it” mode, you’ll learn fresh, creative ways to engage your loyal donors right away and without a lot of time-consuming fuss.

Our class will be on Wednesday September 28 at 2pm ET.

Register and find out more here. 

If you are an INSIDERS subscriber, then this class is already included in your membership. Want to subscribe to all my classes? Join the INSIDERS here!