Invest in Your Legacy Donors

by Rick Dunham, Founder+CEO 

When exploring the findings of our recent study, Leaving a Legacy: A New Look at Today’s Planned Giving Donors, we learned that the organizational relationship often impacts the donor’s decision to give a planned gift.

Here are a few takeaways you may find helpful:

1. Legacy givers still support the annual fund.

One of the big concerns around planned giving is that if a donor takes out a planned gift, somehow they will decrease their annual fund support.

This study found that’s not true.

Annual fund support doesn’t decrease from legacy donors. On the contrary, after establishing a legacy, 45 percent of respondents actually increased their annual fund giving.

Think about it this way: If I’m going to leave a legacy gift to an organization, then obviously I want to continue to see that organization thrive. The average planned gift is made at 53 years old, at the peak earning years, so it makes sense that they are capable of giving even more.

Next, 40 percent of respondents actually kept their annual giving the same. And only eight percent decreased in giving toward the annual fund.

Which means 92 percent of planned giving donors either kept their annual fund support the same or increased it.

2. Donors want to know that their legacy gift is appreciated by the organization.

By properly thanking your donor for their planned gift, you’ve earned the right to continue to solicit for the annual fund. Be sure to acknowledge a donor’s planned gift and avoid assuming they don’t want to be recognized (because most of the time, they do).

3. Donors won’t necessarily inform you of legacy gifts.

This study showed that although these donors might not inform you of the planned gift, they still might be offended if you don’t acknowledge it! Therein lies the challenge.

Just 52 percent of donors reported that they always tell the organizations about their planned gifts, and 39 percent said sometimes they tell the organization. Finally, 86.6 percent of donors informed the organization they would receive their largest planned gift.

4. Donor recognition needs to align with the donor’s preference.

Our study showed that donors and organizations are not aligned on recognition. Where donors said they didn’t want any recognition, very few organizations honored that request.

The takeaway? There’s not a clear alignment between a planned giving donor’s desire and what the organizations are actually doing.

5. It’s important to consistently communicate the opportunity for legacy giving.

How are you doing when it comes to marketing planned giving?

Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had actually learned about planned giving from a nonprofit organization. Other means listed included a financial planner or advisor, family or friends, or another donor.

So there’s a huge gap between the percentage of donors who are actually making a planned gift and those learning about it from a nonprofit. We must be intentional about informing donors about the opportunity for a legacy gift and their potential to make a lasting impact.

If your organization would like further help moving forward in planned giving, check out Rick’s Dunham Institute course Leaving a Legacy: A New Look at Today’s Planned Giving Donors.


More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Let’s Talk Legacy Gifts”

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.