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Make-A-Will Month: Here's Why You Should Prioritize Planned Giving In August

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Did you know that August is National Make-A-Will Month?

It’s a significant opportunity to increase your nonprofit’s planned gifts by making your donors aware of this. Charity Navigator has documented that 10% of overall giving comes from bequests made by Wills.

The easiest planned gift for your supporters to make is to leave a portion of their estate to your nonprofit as a bequest in their Will. Even if that gift is only 1% of a donor’s total estate, it can have a huge impact.

According to Giving USA, the average planned gift in the US is more than $78,000 per donor’s estateYet, only about 30% of Americans say they have a Will, which means that most of your supporters probably need to make one. 

Even if you don’t have a planned giving campaign devoted to Make-A-Will Month, you should at least promote it several times via email, social media, and other communications. Mailing a letter as well is best practice. There are many free samples of a “include us in your Will” donor letter online if you search that subject.

You should also include this resource in your donor communications to help your donor’s plan their future giving. This free, online resource guides the donor through the process of creating a legally valid Will in 20 minutes or less.

The fact is that many of your donors mistakenly think that Wills are only important if you have a lot of money or property. That is simply not true. You must debunk this myth in your donor communications, and this list of the ten reasons a Will is important will help you do that.

When you ask your donors to include your nonprofit in their Will, also ask them to let you know when they do. Here’s an example from the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund of a website announcement and related form that you can model your nonprofit’s message after.

Thoughts on planned giving from 860 donors

If I have not convinced you yet, this data will. Using data from a survey with 860 donors, we learned the following:

  • The average age donors wrote their first Will was 44 years old and almost all (91.6%) used a legal advisor to write their Wills.
  • Over half (53%) of donors established their first planned gift at the time of writing their first Will.
  • 7% of study participants felt their estate planning process was “very easy” or “somewhat easy” with another 22.9% reporting feeling neutral about the process.
  • The average age at which donors made their first planned gift was 52.8 years old. Among gay and lesbian donors, the average age of first gift was slightly younger, at 50 years old.
  • Respondents were most likely to make a charitable bequest (68.1%), followed by a charitable beneficiary of a retirement plan (29.7%), insurance policy beneficiary (18.5%), and charitable trust (18.5%). Interestingly, donor-advised funds (DAFs) surpassed charitable gift annuities in the donor sample.
  • The top three motivations donors cited for making a planned gift were: the importance of the cause; the belief that the nonprofit makes a significant impact; and the donor’s ability to make a larger gift through their estate than during the donor’s lifetime. 

To learn more about planned giving overall, chapter 13 of my book, The NonProfit Fundraising Solution is a must-read.

How do you plan to take advantage of Make-A-Will month? 

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