In this webinar, Tom Ahern will teach you a proven way to elicit bequests from your current donors. He will tell you the right words, style, and tone to use.
Steven:All right, Tom. Okay if I go ahead and kick things off officially?
Steven:All right. Well, good afternoon everyone if you are on the East Coast and good morning, I should say, if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks so much for being here today for today’s Bloomerang webinar “Marketing Bequests: The Delicate Art, I should say, of Asking for That Final Gift.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation, so if you have to maybe leave early for work reasons or maybe there’s something on TV that you want to watch here in the next few minutes, I definitely understand that. Have no fear, I will get you the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon, and you can review all the content, share with a friend, share with the boss. You might still need to do that after work. That’s okay. Just be on the lookout for an email from me later this afternoon. I’ll get it in your hands. I promise.
And most importantly, if you are listening today, please, please do send in your questions and comments along the way. We love to answer questions. We love the interactivity. We are going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A just as much time as we can before the 2:00 Eastern or there about, maybe a few minutes below or above that. But send us your questions. I’ll see those. Tom will see those. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well. If you want to tweet us, that will be great as well. Your questions will be seen there I promise.
And one last bit of housekeeping. If you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better than computer speakers because it doesn’t rely on, you know, your Wi-Fi connection or software or anything like that. So if you have a phone nearby, if you can, call in, if that’s comfortable for, if that won’t bother anyone, try that before you totally give up on us. Just check your email for that email from ReadyTalk. It’s got a phone number in there that you can dial into.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. If this is your first webinar with us, welcome. We love doing these webinars. We do them just about every single Thursday. Literally, we only miss of Thursdays out of the year. One of my favorite things we do at Bloomerang for sure, but what we are most known for is our donor management software.
So if you are interested in learning more about that, maybe seeing what we have to offer, checkout our website. Don’t do that now. Do that in 60 minutes, because you are in for a great presentation from a personal hero of mine. I feel silly and ridiculous to be introducing Tom Ahern because I look up to him. He is to me the leading authority on donor communications, fundraising, copywriting, case statements, direct mail. And it’s just an honor to have you here, Tom. Hello. How are you? Thank you so much. I’m bowing down if though we are on the phone. Thanks for being here.
Tom:Steven. Stop it. Actually, you don’t look up to me. I look up to you. You are taller. And the father of two young, wonderful children. Okay. So do you want me to take over here?
Steven:You can take over. I doubt you need much of an introduction other than if you don’t know Tom, please follow him, checkout his website, buy his book, and listen to this presentation. So go for it, my friend.
Tom:Okay. Thanks, Steven. Okay, there’s the title slide, “How to Market Bequests and Asking for that Final Gift.” Now, this has been my hobby for many years now. Going around the world, asking experts, “How do you market bequests?” Now, the reason I turned this into a hobby is that I couldn’t really get any most of my clients — I do have some exceptions, most of my clients — to actually do the marketing of bequests. They would think about it and they’d certainly be impressed, I hope you will too, by the potential for bequests. But they never seemed to get around to it.
And that is reflected across now. I’m in the United States, so it’s reflected across the United States. And I know Bloomerang mostly works in the United States, although they have a now advancing footprint up in Canada. And in the United States, we do just basically a lousy job at marketing bequests. And we just don’t just seem to have a grasp of the urgency or the basics of how to do it. So you are going to learn all those today. And this is kind of a world-sourced webinar, so you are going to see stuff from other countries like Canada there — see the maple leaf — and hear some advice from a publication up in Canada, Hilborn. And they are saying, you know, “Do you want to double your income? Well, move some people to monthly giving, upgrade some of your donors, not a lot, 3%, and get 5% of your donors to include you in their wills, okay?” So there’s one approach, easy enough, sounds like, doesn’t it?
Here’s something else, this is also Canadian, Agents of Good, creative house in Toronto, which does amazing work. And they are pointing out and this is data, so good data, about 2.5% of your donors will put a gift in their will if you, by the way, follow the advice that you’re going to hear today, which means if you have 6,000 donors, that’s 150 bequests that you can count on. And once you see what the average bequest actually amounts to, you will be drooling. You are going to, you know, you’ve seen those dogs where it’s just pouring out of them, that’s what your face will look like once you see how much you can make in bequests.
Now, in the North American marketplace, and it is not this way in other places on earth, we call it planned giving, which of course raises the philosophical question, what is unplanned giving? But we’ll put that aside for the moment. And I don’t use that term. I’m trying to actually kill the term because we are parking bequests marketing in the wrong department.
Here’s some data, and some of it is from universities. Of course, universities are very staffed up, and they have a whole plan giving department blah, blah, blah. And even there, 42% of these so-called planned gifts are bequests. And then there’s the data from Mal Warwick, the chief guru of all. And he’s saying that 80% to 90% of all so-called planned gifts are bequests. And they are other easy methods for moving money to charity too when you die, which is like re-designating the beneficiary in your IRA or your life insurance and so forth. So, these are the easy ways.
This stuff CRUTs and CRATs, you know, CRUT, charitable remaining unitrusts and so forth. You pretty much have to have a law degree to understand this stuff or a financial advisor if you are really wealthy. So the market for those products is not the same as the bequests market as you will discover. And this why I’m trying to move bequests marketing out of the planned giving department and into, if you have such a thing, the annual giving department. Because the one thing you have to do here is an annual letter. And, you know, the annual fund people are just set up to do that.
Now, why would we bother, you know, adding to our to-do list of duties and things that, you know, it’s just that . . . we are already too busy. You know, we have all those meetings to attend. Why would we do this? Okay. Let’s look at what the return on investment is, which is one useful way of kind of deciding how you are going to spend your time. You know, if you spend a buck, how much do you bring in?
Well, direct mail, you spend a buck, and it’s good direct mail and the list is good and blah, blah, blah, all the other things are in place, you’re going to make two bucks. Every buck brings in two bucks. Maybe for an event, every buck brings in two bucks or three bucks.
Major gifts? Well, you know, you can bring in 10 to 1. I’ve heard that as a number. When you have a competent major gift officer and she’s been, you know, there for at least three years and she’s got it all working, she’s making 10 times her salary. So, you know, 1 to 10. If you get a gift in your will, what’s the return on investment there? Well, you spend a buck and you make 40,000 bucks. So, you know, the return on investment is really, really high.
Here’s another way of looking at it. This is from my friend Bernard Ross. Bernard and I traveled together on a tour across Canada last year talking. And he’s Scottish and he needed an interpreter in order . . . but any way, that’s different. And here’s from him. You know, they looked at how much money, a staggering £2.4 billion a year comes through charitable legacies in the UK where they do a lot of bequests marketing. And what is the equivalent of that? Well, if you were doing peer-to-peer fund raising with 10K events, it would you’d need another 44 years and 1.75 million more runners. So, yeah, really bequests marketing is so easy compared to the other things that you might spend your time on.
Let’s look at another metric, lifetime value, LTV also called. So if I get a donor and that donor gives me just one gift, as most new donors do, 8 out of 10 do not make a second gift, I’m going to get a high average would be $50. And that’s through lifetime value. That’s all they are giving us. I’m probably losing money. If they give the same amount for 10 years, which is very uncommon, I get a lifetime value of $500. If they convert to monthly, a lifetime value of about $1,200. By the way, these numbers have been vetted by Adrian Sargeant, the world’s top fundraising researcher, they become a $1,000 annual donor. You know, they’ve joined the president’s club. Well, ultimately, you’re going to raise about $9,000 from them. But if they give you a gift in their will, which is the focus group correct way of talking about it, you can expect that their lifetime value will rise like a beautiful soufflé to $50,000 or more.
Let’s look at some data from Australia, which is a way better marketplace for bequests in terms of their efficiency and effectiveness. And you can see here we’ve stated the donations and the annual round-up of data from all the charities in Australia. This is 2014, but it’s typical right now too. You can see, if somebody gives you a one-time gift annually, $85 that’s what you are going to realize from them. They become a regular donor what in the United States would call a monthly donor. You are going to see about 400 bucks from them. If they become a major donor.
Now we keep thinking of major gifts as, “Oh, well, you know, somebody gave $10 million, $100 million,” something like that. No. Major gifts, if you look at all major gifts and you kind of just melt them down, this is a real average major gift, about 4,000 bucks. But look at the bequests. Bequests are 10 times what the major gift is, okay? So it’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money.
And we have this confirmation from England, from Stephen Pidgeon, who built the UK’s largest direct mail fundraising firm and knows a ton. And he’s saying, “All but the biggest major gifts are chicken feed, right? Chicken feed compared to legacies.” So there’s so much money out there that we are not reaching out and getting.
And here’s my challenge, I guess, to all of us. You know, if the person who was the fundraiser 10 years ago had fired up the simple program that we are talking about today, today your organization would be, I promise you, swimming in money. So if your organization today is wondering, “How are we going to keep the lights on and the doors open? And how do we plug that gap? And oh my Lord. I hope that the year-end fundraising effort works because we are down.” Well, you wouldn’t have those problems if you had a bequest marketing program.
And so let’s look at the grand-plan because it’s really hard. It’s really simple. Here’s what it is. Takes one extra letter annually. One extra letter. Do you think you can do that? You know, it’s not even a complicated letter. It’s a simple letter. It’s a letter that you can write in a half a day. And that’s if you are a really slow writer. You know, a professional writer could write it in 30 minutes, easy. Well, we’re going to get . . . and I’ll show you what has to be in that letter. That will come near the end. But here’s the entire plan at a minimum. I mean you can dress this up if you want.
But first, you have to know who to talk to. Now, the good news is they’re are already on your list. They are people who have given to you in some fashion three times or more. And what you are looking for is loyalty. What you are looking for are people that are showing, “Yeah. I’m kind of attached to this cause.” Then you create this legacy society. We’ll look a little bit at that. And that’s an exclusive group. And exclusivity in marketing is a very powerful trigger. You know, “Here is this group. You want to join this group.” And then, you know, you can do things with this group, like you can have an annual lunch where they are celebrated, and they all get together, and they see each other and social proof happens and the rest of it.
You’ve got your list, you’ve got your legacy society, and then you send the list one extra letter a year asking them if they will join the legacy society. And they do this by adding charity to their will and letting you know that they have done that. Do they let you know how much? No, you don’t ask for things like that. That’s embarrassing. You don’t ask for stuff like that. Well, some people do, but I wouldn’t. And then, you keep doing it. That’s it. That’s your entire grand-plan.
And here’s some great advice from Seth Godin, my favorite guru of all. And start, just start. Just do it. And don’t think, “Oh, we got to get it right. We’ve got to get it perfect. Let’s get everything, you know, just, no. Just get started.” Because until you get started, nothing is going to happen. You know, except the accidentally. But we are not talking about the accidentally bringing in bequests today. We are talking about marketing, which is a planned activity to bring in bequests today.
Now, one of the objections that comes up is, “Oh, hey, Tom. That’s tomorrow dollars. We can’t wait 20 years.” And so here’s some data, which is going to shock you, I hope, I expect, as much as it shocked me. I was absolutely flabbergasted. My jaw was on the floor because look at this data. This is new data and I’ll give you the little, you know . . . so here’s the data, 43% of the realized bequests to charity came from wills that had been written only one to four years earlier.
And, you know, I can explain this if I have more time, but there’s a reason why that is. And this comes from Mark Phillips Bluefrog in the UK. I just saw Mark two weeks ago in Oslo, Norway. We were speaking at the same conference and Mark said, “I’ve got some added data here.” The fact is it’s mostly one year. It’s not four years. It’s mostly one year. What happens often is that people have a will, then they get a diagnosis, and the diagnosis is not good. And they are, you know, 79, 80, 82, 85 whatever. And they know, you know, come on, we are not immortal. And so they update their will in order not to leave a mess, and then they die. And then you get the gift. And so it happens much faster than anybody expected.”
Now who is it that’s doing is? And I love this part. See, the rich are irrelevant. And this is another reason to move bequests marketing out of planned giving. The planned-giving people, they are all about the wealthy. And that’s not who you are chasing here. You are chasing the middle-class.
And here’s the proof. ASPCA, “Who leaves us bequests? Donors who give often but not very much,” okay? So average donors. Here’s Erica Waadorp, “75% of your charitable bequests now monthly donors.” Now, monthly donors are giving you, you know, 10 bucks a month. That’s $120 a year. You know, they are not your huge donors. Here’s Agents of Good again from Toronto, “Most of your legacy gifts come from minor donors, the 80% of the file that tends to get ignored.” It certainly gets ignored by the planned giving department.
And here is Australia source of all good, true, vital, accurate, to the penny data, and they examined who’s making bequests or pledging bequests, and I’ve circled that group. And that group are the people that are giving $100 to $250 a year.
Now, another attribute, not that you might know this from your own database yet, but you can always ask, it’s childlessness. If I don’t have heirs, my likelihood of putting a gift in my will for some charity that I love is much higher. So just bear that in mind.
Now, let’s go back to start this legacy society. Why do you start a legacy society? Well, best explanation I’ve ever heard from Kim Butler at the Rhode Island Foundation, “You can’t thank them when they’re dead.” Now, this is the 1916 Society. Call it whatever you want. This is their legacy. And it is just named after their founding date, 1916. And this is a legacy society that I and my wife belong to. And what is this society in real-life? Well, it’s what psychologists call a synthetic family.
Now, you’re born into a biological family and then, for the rest of your life, you get attached to synthetic families, sometimes involuntarily like the kids you are going to pre-school with, sometimes quite voluntarily like the teams you want to root for, the university you go to, the church you attend, the synagogue you attend, you know, the foodie club, the book club. These are all synthetic families. They are, though, important. I mean, I don’t mean to make them sound unimportant and small. In fact, they are components of your personal self-identity. Who am I? Well, I am a Packers fan. By the way, I’m a Patriot’s fan because of course I live in New England. And it’s a synthetic family.
And what you are looking at here is . . . and this is the brochure about bequests from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. And in that brochure, we very much, very carefully chose a bunch of people to show this is the synthetic family. And you can see you’ve got some couples, including Tim and Tony. You’ve got a couple of singles, including Glen, who’s now a school administrator. At this point, she was a school principal.
And, you know, what I was trying to say is, yeah, you know, it’s people that are kind of like you. And that kind of like you includes . . . now this was originated in 2011, what you are looking at, this brochure. And Tim and Tony, at that point, had not won their Supreme Court case that made same sex marriage legal all over the United States, but that was their destiny. They were moving in that direction ultimately. But at this point, that was not in their life. And yet we wanted to celebrate them because we wanted to say, “Open for business. We are, you know, we are just everybody should think about this.”
Tim and Tony had put a gift in their will. Tim a high school teacher. He saw kids coming in and they were, you know, ill-fed, they were ill-dressed, they were embarrassed, they weren’t ready to learn. He said, “You know, if I ever have money, I want to do something about that.” And he and Tony met and Tony was a major real estate developer. They ended up with money. And now they have a gift in their will. So we wanted to say, “Yeah. We love you.”
Now, another piece of . . . this is social proof by the way. It’s like, “What do other people like me do?” Social proof, in psychology, is one of the major reasons we behave however we behave. We see other people doing it and we say, “Oh, maybe I should do that too. Oh, I could do that. Oh, they’re like me. I should do that.” And that’s social proof in a nutshell, you know, layman’s terms.
And so here is some more social proof, your board. You start with your board and you say to the board, “Look, we want 100% participation. We want to be able to say to the rest of our donors that the board strongly supports us. So we need you to pledge that you will put a gift in your will.” Now, do they have to actually prove that they did that? No, they do not. They just need to say, “Yes, I pledge that I am going to put a gift in my will for this cause. Okay.” And here’s the other side of that coin, which is great. This is from Richard Radcliffe, a researcher in London, “The best way to get rid of a bad board member is to ask them to do this and then they resign.” Just like, “Thank you, Richard, for that trapdoor.” Excellent work.
Now, I like to talk about endowment. Now, if you don’t have endowment, then call your community foundation. There’s one just down the street in every state in the union and up in Canada, too, they are very common, and you say, “Okay. We want to sell endowment. How do we do it and can you guys manage it?” And the answer is, “Yes, they can manage it.” That’s what they are in business to do is to manage things like permanent endowment.
And when you can offer permanent endowment, well, now you are basically able to sell eternity. We got issues. You know, the brain is an interesting thing. This guy, Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist as you can see, he was famous in Vienna already in the 1930s as a person specializing in preventing teen suicide. So, you know, doing good work. Unfortunately, Jewish when the Nazis marched in. And so, he was taken away to the camps. His pregnant wife was taken away to the camps. His entire family except one sister who had emigrated to Australia, went to the camps. They all died there.
But Victor Frankl still was a scientist. You know, even in this desperate, awful, gruesome, inhuman situation, he was observant. And what he observed was that people with a purpose tended to survive longer. And it didn’t have to be a great purpose, it just had to be some purpose. So if your purpose was you are the one who made sure that the stick that held the window open at night was there and in place so you can get some fresh air, that was your purpose, you would tend to live longer. And he came, you know, to the conclusion humans need purpose. And I think, in fact, that’s one of the great things that as a charity you can offer to your donors is purpose.
Now, Claire Routley, professor, also talks about this. She’s over in England. And she talks about the existential challenge. You know, you wake up every day knowing that one day you are not going to wake up or you are going to die, sorry to tell you. And so, we seek as, you know, humans seek, this is part of the big brain thing, we know we are going to die. We seek symbolic immortality. Okay.
So where do we find such a thing? What store sells this? Well, you can be the store that sells it. I tried to find the oldest endowment, the oldest surviving endowment, and the one that I came up with that you see on the screen, 1249 it was established at Oxford University. And today, 2018, it is still there doing its work, making it possible for, you know, smart kids from poor families to go one of the greatest universities on the face of the earth.
That’s like about, you know, I don’t know, 750 years of doing good? That’s pretty good for a legacy I think. And Sally Kirby Hartman, who’s the Senior VP of Communication at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, she talks about Florence Smith who established in 1952 a scholarship bequest that sent kids to medical school and has now produced over that time, 750-plus and keeps going, doctors. You know, and it’s like wow, wouldn’t that be an incredible legacy?
So now we go back to Richard Radcliffe. Now, he calls himself Dr. Death. And the reason he does is because his specialty is looking at statistics and talking to people in focus groups about bequests giving. And he has talked to over 25,000, not a typo, donors about why they make gifts to their favorite charities. And as you can see here, he says, “The legacy act, the act of putting a gift in my will is not just like any other donation. It’s more of an investment in this whole concept of, you know, symbolic immortality.”
Again, back to Sally, back to Hampton Roads Norfolk, Virginia, and somebody came in. Somebody had heard an ad by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation on NPR, a 15-second spot. And it was enough for him to learn that you could, you know, set up this permanent endowment with a gift in your will, and it would just roll on doing good forever. And this is a quote from him. You know, why did he think this was a good idea? Well, he liked this idea of doing something good after he was gone. It just appealed to him. So you look at a product that appeals to people.
Now, of course, sell what you can to your target audience. So I removed the example here. It was from a Catholic charity in Italy. And basically what they were saying is that put a gift in your will for the Catholic charity, and we will say prayers for you until you get out of purgatory however long that takes. And, you know, so if you have that, sell that.
Have an offer for information. And this is because getting somebody to agree to put a gift in their will is not something that happens immediately. A lot of charities kind of impulse purchase based. You put an offer in front of me and I go, “Yeah, okay. You know, I’ll help that child. I’ll help that puppy and kitten. I’ll do that for my community.” And I do. But with a bequest, well, different because you need a will, for one thing. And in order to, you know, that means a lawyer usually. And it just can take a long time. I mean, the last time my wife and I updated our will, it had been 15 years, and it cost us $3,000 for the update, so you don’t do that a lot. And that, you know, that’s fine. You want to go with people that this is brand new to them. You want to just kind of have this information step. Yeah, or you can tell them a little bit more and kind of get them excited about it.
And this is the one from Hampton Roads, their brochure. And it was written in a very special way. It was written kind of to not be like everything else that we had been seeing. And you can see it’s got a headline that’s very, you know, very clear, “Adding Charity into Your Will or IRA.” And that was the suggestion of a board member, IRA. And they are absolutely right about that.
But look at the subhead, “A Quick Guide,” quick, meaning it won’t take you a long time to absorb it, “to the Pleasure and Promise of Charitable Bequests.” So those things are there to say, “Look, this is fun. It’s not a chore.” And you can download this, by the way, from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation as a PDF file. It’s now in its third edition since 2011. And it was written in a very special way. It was written with zero jargon as far as we could. It had, you know, no legally speakable stuff, accounting stuff. And all of that is because the audience doesn’t need that. Eventually, they’ll need it, but at this stage, they don’t need it.
Now, in focus groups, back to Dr. Death, London, Richard Radcliffe, in the focus groups, they call these death brochures. And people do not want your death brochure. So you have to create this as a joy brochure instead. And you can see two examples. “A Quick Guide to Making Your Philanthropic Wishes Come True,” this is from the New York Community Trust. And then you’ve got on the right, “Leave Your Mark,” Akron Community Foundation. These are joy brochures. These are meant to make you feel like, “Wow, this is so cool. I should do this.”
What you don’t want is this kind of stuff, because it’s pretty unmotivating. And furthermore, this is the problem with, you know, parking bequests under planned giving. It’s, you know, you are selling bequests and then you’re putting them fifth in a list? It’s just like stupid.
And the other thing that’s kind of stupid is that the explanations here came from somebody who, you know, has a degree in something like accounting. And the donor’s income tax actually there’s a difference between the fair market value of the initial gift amount and the actuarial value of the non-charitable income obligation. This is not inspiring. This is not inspiring. And you don’t want to talk this way, because it looks like, “I don’t get it. I don’t know what you are talking about. I will not ultimately do it because you haven’t inspired me.”
And I lean on George Smith, the late George Smith, died too young. Incredibly fundraising copywriter in the UK, again. And he said, “All fundraising copy should sound like conversation.” And so, what does conversation sound like? Well, this is an example from a very conversational bequest marketing brochure. “How do you start a miracle growing? Well, you plant a gift in your will.” And then it goes on to explain medical miracles usually require or sometimes require just two things, a bright idea and the right mind scientist and enough philanthropy to transform that wonderful idea into a healing reality.
Well, here’s a different one from a community foundation. That was from a med school. “How does it work? Pretty simple. Once you decide to save the world . . . Or your local library.” You know, easy, conversational, friendly, warm, all those things.
So let’s look at key brochure messages for marketing of bequests. Here’s one from Australia. “You can [inaudible 00:36:03] leave a gift to Eastern Health in your will.” In other words, you’ve been helped by Eastern Health and you want to say thank you to them. This is how you do it. You thank them because they replaced your hip or they saved your life by putting a gift in your will.
Now, step number one, before you do any of this is stop thinking of these people as dead people. I think this is part of . . . you know, people say, “Oh, you know, we don’t want to talk about death.” Well, you are not talking about death. That’s you thinking, “Okay, when they die, that money comes to us.” It’s not about their deaths, for them. It’s about their life as Dr. Death, Richard Radcliffe, says over and over and over and over, bequests are life-driven deaths activated.
Now, here’s a little bit . . . here is a view from Mark Phillips. Now, Mark Phillips to me is one of the world’s most insightful fundraisers. He runs an agency called Bluefrog, founded it and runs it and they are very, very good at fundraising for their charity clients. But they do a lot of research too. And one of the things they found is what you see there in red. People give more, i.e., put a gift in their will when they feel rewarded by their philanthropy. So are you making your donors feel rewarded?
Well, you can. You can say to them, for instance, as Sick Kids did up here in Toronto, make your will a document that begins a life, that saves a child. That’s, “Oh, I could do that.” And then Richard Radcliffe steps in and he says, “You know what? We’ve just been so boring about this. And we’ve been so, you know, just . . . and people aren’t paying enough attention, so let’s be outrageous, and tacky and tasteless, and just get them to think about this.”
Okay, now let’s go to the core of why you are not getting as many bequests as you could and could and should. Because you are not talking about it enough, you have to. This message repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. And, you know, here’s an example of Tim Craig, Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch. And this is . . . put this in your face because I want you to see what a, you know, a typical, not crazy, marketing plan looks like. And so, they’ve done this for [inaudible 38:57] now since the mid-1990s. So this is over . . . we’ll, it’s about 25 years, let’s say. And they get that amount of money every year, almost $200,000 in estate gifts, and that’s about $40,000 per bequest, which is, you know, it follows all the data we’ve been looking at.
And what did they do to stimulate that pipeline to keep it flowing? Well, they sent out three mailers a year, and they promote it in their newsletter. That’s all they have. That’s all they do, okay? Those three letters a year or maybe a postcard even and they promote it in their newsletter.
Here’s Jeff Comfort, who at the time he said this was at Georgetown, and then he got recruited for probably a ton of money to a West Coast university. And this is . . . he’s a nationally recognized expert in the United States about bequests and planned gifts, because that’s his department, drip, drip, drip. You know, you don’t know when people are going to update their will. But it is going to be at some what the insurance world calls a life event. You know, they have the child is born, they get married, there’s a death, there’s a, you know, there is a bad diagnosis for their health and so forth, they retire or whatever.
And, you know, you’ve got to the in their head when that moment happens. And being in their head . . . this is from Canada. This is great. Up in Canada, you can write a legal will online. And here’s one of the questions they ask, “Before we get started with distributing your possessions, have you given any thought to whether you would like to leave something to charity?” It’s a perfect . . . and then, the social proof, “Many people use their will to acknowledge the work done by charities.” So they are saying that this is not uncommon, it’s quite common. But perhaps you haven’t thought of it.
And this is from Australia, “And two volunteers/donors/bequestors, they put gifts in their wills have died,” and so they are doing a tribute in the donor newsletter to these two wonderful people. And they are also saying at the same time, leave a gift in your will as an everlasting act of generosity that can empower the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities. So, you know, it’s a good thing to do. If you haven’t thought about it, think about it.
Some other messages that your brochure will want to be bearing. A gift in your will could be the most thrilling donation you make, most satisfying gift you ever make, most rewarding gift, the biggest. And it will be for a middle-class household because, you know, they are giving you $100 to $250 a year. Now at death, they are able to transfer something much bigger that can have a much bigger impact. And you want them to think about that. What can I do with like assets?
You have social proof, messaging over and over and over and over. What do other people like me do? Well, here’s Mary, she’s a retired nurse. She put a gift in her will. This is Jerry. He’s a retired school administrator/teacher/coach. He put a gift in his will and he says that account there, which is from the Akron Community Foundation, he says in that account, “You know, I had a good life. I want to give back.” So does Mary. Marc and Sylvia Trundle, they are cops. The two of them are both police officers in Akron, Ohio. They’ve put a gift in their will. These are normal, average people just like most of the people on your list.
What do you send out the most? Well, if it’s email, make sure there’s footer on that email that talks about your legacy society. What else do you send out? Well, you have your newsletter. Now, I wanted to point out a term from advertising. It’s the term hero shot. And the hero shot is a photo of the thing you are going to get if you ask for it. And when this brochure from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation came out initially, the ad in the newsletter looked like this. “Free. New,” because it was, “And yours for the asking.” And then it gave you four different ways for you to ask for it.
And these recurring ads just keep coming. They are in every newsletter. You hear that? Every newsletter. And when you have a photo there showing people that have done it, that’s social proof, “Oh look at those people. That could be my dad and my mom.” And there’s the headline that tested best and brought in the most response it is, “Ettie’s will said a lot about her. What’s does your will say about you?” And now it’s personal.
Home page, not buried four, you know, levels deep under some tab that almost no one visits where it talks about planned giving. Put it on your homepage that you have this informational brochure that I can ask for. Have, you know, have a social media presence on this too.
This is a fascinating thing from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. It was about African-American philanthropy, which it wasn’t, you know, well investigated, but they had been an academic who got into it and she is featured in this. And it turns out that the African-American community is more charitable than the Caucasian community. So it was fascinating, it was news, it was good news, and it also, of course, social proof.
If you have donor surveys, then you can add questions to them that talk about bequests as the Lost Dogs Home in Australia did here and kind of . . . you know, it asks questions at the same time, it’s prompting people to think about this, right? And the reason you’re prompting people to think about this is very simple. It’s about what you are about to see here.
See, the research was done and it was done and I first saw it up in a book called “Iceberg Philanthropy,” which was done in Canada. Fraser Green was one of the key authors. And a lot of research went into that book and it was “Iceberg Philanthropy” meant that most of the money that you could get from normal donors was under water, you’d never see it. Just like with an iceberg, most of it is under water and you don’t see it. And Fraser was basically saying, you know, “The real money is not in your hands because you don’t do good bequests marketing.”
They did research. Okay, so they are asking people who are reliably charitable, they give to 10 or 20 different charities every year. And they ask these people, “So if you were asked by your favorite charities, you know, maybe your top three, to consider putting a gift in your will for those charities, would you consider it?” Because that’s the way you talk about this. You don’t try to paint anybody into a corner. You ask them to consider it. And these charitable people said, “Absolutely. Why wouldn’t we? I mean that makes perfect sense. Of course, we would consider it.”
And they asked, “Well, how many of you have actually done it?” And it was less than 10%. Then they asked the key question, the question that basically this entire show today answers is, “Why didn’t you do it? Why haven’t you put a gift in your will yet for your favorite charities?” And here was the answer, “It never occurred to me.”
So that means that bequests marketing is essentially just a communications problem. You have to make sure that in your communications to your donors, to the people that are giving to you loyally, reliably, time after time, it occurs to them to put a gift in their will.
Okay. So one more time. What do you have to do? What’s the big plan? How much effort is this? Well, you’re sending me one extra letter a year warmly inviting me to join the legacy society. And what’s in that letter? Because it could be very complicated, right? Well, not actually. These are donors after all. You’re going to donors, so you are thanking them right away for their years of help. And then you say, “Look, we have this legacy society. Would you consider joining it?”
And next time you review. In other words, you are not saying, “Please die soon and give us money.” You’re saying, “Next time you review your will, would you consider putting a gift for your favorite charity in there? Let us know and we will, you know, list you or anonymous in the legacy society.” Then you thank them some more, because they are donors. And then, you have this PS maybe that offers the free information. So there is your hero shot again.
Finally, summary. This is it. Then we’ll take questions. You’ve one letter, the money is just sitting there, they already like you because they are giving you money, the come much faster than you thought within a year to simple communications problem, repetition is your friend, life-driven death activated, and it’s an easy way to double donations. So there you go. You can subscribe to my e-newsletter if you want to have me yapping at you every once in a while. And that’s life celebrity cat Precious. And so what have we got for questions? Steven, are you out there?
Steven:I’m here. I was riveted by that. You made me a believer and in bequests over those past years there, so thank you.
Tom:There you go.
Steven:Thanks for being here. This is some great info. Yeah. We’ve got a lot of good questions. A lot of people are wondering . . . I think a good place to start is how do you weave this into the other letters you are sending out throughout the year? So you say you can move it to the annual fund department, makes sense. When should it go out if you don’t want to maybe cannibalize another letter? How do you kind of deal with that when you are making multiple touches throughout the year?
Tom:Okay. First of all, remember this is not an ask in the same way as a typical appeal would be. They are not going to give to you right away. “Oh, I’m dead. I’m having a heart attack. Here’s my money.” Not happening. So really it’s never going to cannibalize anything. It’s just the information. It’s just another . . . in fact, it’s a chance for you to day, “Hi, we love you. Thank you.” As well as, “Would you consider?”
And I don’t know, you know, you can try. I mean the Shiloh Ranch sends something three times a year. So they just . . . they, you know, bump it out there. And, you know, am saying at a minimum, once a year because if you don’t do . . . if you do zero, you get nothing. But once a year as minimum. They are doing three times a year. I kind of like February frankly. February is a nice . . . yeah, where I live anyway up in New England. It’s a dour month, kind of gloomy, kind of cold. You know, a little warmth coming in from my favorite charity saying, you know, “We love you people. We love you so much, Tom. Would you consider?” “Well, yeah. Why not?”
Steven:That makes sense. Along the same line, is it okay to maybe weave in some of that language in other things like maybe a newsletter? Or should it always be a standalone piece?
Tom:No, no, no, no. The letter is actually . . . the letter is the most likely to be opened and noticed. That’s why you do it. And, you know, if you don’t do this letter, you don’t do it so it looks like generic mass marketed, mass produced direct mail. You do it so it’s special, because it is. I mean, basically, what you are asking for, if you want to look at it another way, is you are asking for, “Would you give us $40,000 on average in your will?” That’s a very special ask. And so, you know, make it nice, different, personal, but back it up because the drip, drip, drip method, back it up with repeated reminders in everything you send out, so emails, e-newsletters etc. Yeah.
Steven:That makes sense. Great. That covered a lot of the similar questions. So I’m going to kind of turn the corner here. Jennell, our friend Jennell, is wondering and this [inaudible 00:52:35] when you mentioned not putting a dollar amount. You know, if you not asking for a specific amount of money or you are not asking for anything to your point. Are there exceptions to that in terms of maybe an endowment campaign or deferred gifts, you know, any thoughts on that?
Tom:Well, I have run across . . . I was speaking to the Jewish charities of Chicago a month or so ago and they press a little harder than I would. You know, and even the Girl Scouts I ran across, the pledge form from the Girl Scouts, which was working, where they would ask for a certain amount of . . . you know, tell us how much you are going to put in and also, you know, sign this pledge. Now, it’s a non-binding pledge. In other words, it has no legal basis.
But it is a way . . . you know, people we know from Cialdini’s, Dr. Robert Cialdini’s, research that people tend to be consistent. So when they say they are going to do it, and particularly if they sign a document that says they are going to do it, then it gets filed and then the next time they go into their lawyer, they do bring that along and say, “Yeah. We’ve got to do this because we said we are going to do it.” That’s one step further than I go. But you can try it, you know.
Steven:Yeah. Everyone is different, right? You never know. Okay. So you touched on this before, just want to reiterate, the best prospects. It’s not necessarily rich people or even older people, it’s the loyal donors, right? Just to hammer that home.
Tom:Yeah. And let’s take another look at that for a second, Steven, because, you know, when I think rich, I’m thinking somebody that could, you know, today give $10 million to something because they love them, right? They can part with that level of money. Most people in the United States, you know, that’s 1% of the United States, 1% of the population at most. It’s probably a half of 1% at most. But the other 99.5% of the population, they are typically wealthier than they realize at death. Most people don’t, you know, they feel middle-class, but when they die, they estate will probate, and this is real data not, you know, some fantasy number I’m making up, they will probate at $800,000 to $1 million. That’s what their estate will . . . you know, when they sell the house, they sell all the property, maybe they have also a condo somewhere and blah, blah, blah, they have savings and all the rest of it. When you probate that all, it’s $800,000 to $1 million.
And that’s a typical middle-class estate. And most people they . . . you know, if you said, “Are you a millionaire?” They’d say, “What? Are you kidding me?” No. But they are in a sense because they have that amount of assets when they die. And so, you know, are they rich? Not in their own view. But are they rich as far as a charity is concerned? Yeah. I mean, somebody who gives me $40,000 is giving me 10 times what the average major gift is, so, yeah. I like them a lot. But they are not what we would normally, you know, they are not people with estates and all that stuff.
Steven:Right. That makes sense. Well, we are about out of time. I know we didn’t get to all the questions. Tom, is it okay if people maybe reach out to you via email or Twitter with more questions? Is that okay with you?
Tom:Yeah, yeah. Of course. Well, we do have three minutes according to my clock here. You’ve got one more?
Steven:I do. What do you want more? My buddy, Pamela, here, who is always on our webinars. I wanted to make sure we get to her question. Trust attorneys, attorneys, you know, accountants. Should we get those people involved? Do you recommend, you know, offering up those services or should you just kind of keep it clean and simple and let them handle the legalistic piece of it?
Tom:Yeah. I mean, most . . . the community foundations I know, and I’ve worked with about 12, typically will have what’s called a professional advisors committee, which is basically accountants and lawyers. And that’s a feeder string, you know, because people do come in and say, “Hey, you know, I need to write a will.” Or, you know, “I want to know what to do with my estate.” And so those professional advisors can be . . . can suggest, if it’s a comfortable moment, charitable giving.
Now, the other thing that you can do and a community foundation is well positioned for this. A lot of times, lawyers don’t know that much about charitable gifts. And so the community foundation can be an information source for them. And they can just kind of step in and say, “Well, here’s how it all works and so forth.” I’m not sure that’s answering the question directly.
But also, another thing I know from Canada up in Winnipeg, they have something called Will Week. And they get a lot of volunteer lawyers to go to places like senior centers and say, “Look, hey, we will write you a simple will at no cost. Just all you have to do is listen to a pitch about community foundations.” And lots of people do it. They’ve been doing it for a long time, so we know it works.
Steven:Those Canadians. They’re always one step ahead of us I should say.
Tom:I know. Yeah, no mercy, no mercy.
Steven:Final thought. How should people get started? Is it just to write that letter? I mean, is that the best thing they should do today?
Tom:Yeah. Go through the list, get the people you should talk to, you know, people that are giving to you regularly, write the letter, send the letter, don’t ask your boss what they think of the letter, that’s important, and just get it done. Once a year, minimum, a letter, yes.
Steven:I love it. We’ll call it a day there. This is awesome, Tom. Thanks for being here.
Tom:Go forth and vouch for everyone.
Steven:All right. Join us next week. Hopefully, you enjoyed this one. We’ve got a great presentation coming up one week from today. Like I said, every Thursday, we’ve got Leah Eustace. Nice dovetail on this one “Cases for Support, Case Statements, Writing Your Case Statement.” Check it out. Leah is awesome. She’s an ACFRE. She’s brilliant. It’s going to be a good session 1:00 p.m. Eastern next Thursday. If you have already written that case statement and maybe that won’t [inaudible 00:59:47] as applicable to you, you should come anyway. But if not, there are some other webinars you can check out. We’ve got them scheduled into the next year already. I can’t believe it. But we’d love to see you on another.
So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks for being here and look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. I’ll get that to you today, and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. Have a good rest of your Thursday and have a safe weekend, and I’ll see you again soon.