Let’s Talk Legacy Gifts

by Rick Dunham, Founder+CEO

I recently presented an in-depth study on today’s planned giving donors, and I’d love to highlight for you a few of the lessons we learned.

Lesson #1: Tell Your Story!

Why do donors decide to make legacy gifts? What are their motivations for planned giving? According to this study, the top two reasons are as follows: The cause they are supporting is personally important to them, and there is solid belief in the nonprofit’s impact.

Those two important findings indicate that a planned giving donor is going to give a planned gift or a bequest to an organization because of their personal belief in the cause and the impact of that cause.

So what’s the implication? You need to tell your story.

It’s so important to demonstrate the impact of your cause and the worthiness of your cause for support. Your donors need to see that because they support the cause you represent, lives are being changed.

That’s what they want to support long-term.

Lesson #2: Donor retention is everything!

It’s vital you stay focused on your donor relationships and how you can retain those relationships over time.

According to our study, 50 percent of donors gave their largest planned gift to the organization they had supported for 20 years or more. Think about that… 20 years or more.

I do believe donor retention is the single most important factor when it comes to fundraising.

Studies clearly show that the longer a donor will stay with you, the more they will give you. This is illustrated in that the largest gift a donor gives is in their bequest, and they make their bequest to organizations they’ve supported for 20 years or more.

Next, the study shows that 30 percent of donors make their largest contribution to the organization they’ve supported between 10 and 20 years.

So… literally 80 percent of planned giving donors make their largest gift to the organizations they’ve supported for 10 or more years.

No doubt, donor retention is everything!

Lesson #3: Don’t assume that all legacy donors are “uber-wealthy”

As we look at the profile of a planned giving donor, it’s incredibly fascinating to me that 35 percent of respondents had a net worth of less than a million dollars, including their home.

Secondly, 30 percent of respondents had a household income of under $100,000. So, one in three planned giving donors are actually not what you would consider extremely wealthy people.

Finally, 50 percent of respondents had organizational lifetime giving of under $25,000. Consider someone who supported an organization for 20 years. What this number is saying is that they probably gave a little over $1,000 on average, which is $88 a month.

The point is, when you think about a planned giving donor, don’t just think about the high net worth individual who is worth millions of dollars. You need to also think of that donor who is of modest means, who through their planned gift can leave a legacy that will live far beyond their time on earth.

Would you like more helpful insights from this study? Don’t miss out on Rick’s Dunham Institute course Leaving a Legacy: A New Look at Today’s Planned Giving Donors.


More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Get to Know Today’s Planned Giving Donors”

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.