Top 4 Legacy Marketing Myths

WARNING: These myths may impair your charitable bequest potential

Have you concluded that Legacy Marketing just can’t work for your charity?

There are a lot of reasons why so many smart and good-looking fundraising professionals come to this conclusion.

That’s why I created this quick checklist of Legacy Marketing myths.  I want to make sure you don’t miss out on a great opportunity for your organization and your donors.

1. Only the ‘Big Guys’ get bequests.  We hear a lot about big-city research hospitals, prestigious universities, national health charities and ‘blue-chip’ arts organizations receiving bequests.  But charities of all sizes and without name-brand recognition are successfully communicating with their donors about making bequest gifts.  The key is to start respectfully speaking about it with your donors.  And I guarantee they are already on someone else’s list for this very important conversation!

2. My charity’s donors aren’t rich, so it’s just not worth it.  The average charitable bequest gift in Canada is now around $30,000.  This amount is typical for a donor of modest means.  And many donors who leave this size of gift have never made a single gift larger than $25 or $30 during their lifetime.  Can you imagine the transformative good that could be accomplished if two or three dozen of your average donors decided to include your charity in their Will?

3. Donors will only make bequests if I meet with them in person.  Many of us learned early on in our fundraising careers that Planned Giving equals tea and banana bread with little old ladies.  This isn’t really fair to little old ladies, Planned Giving professionals or banana bread.  Also, it’s really not very effective for maximizing the number of charitable bequests for your organization.  First, there are simply too many people willing to name your charity in their Will to ever have enough time to meet with all of them.  Second, most donors who leave gifts in their Will prefer NOT to have you sitting in their living room while they make estate plans.

4. Legacy Marketing has to cost a lot to be effective.  There are legacy marketing programs that can cost tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But this does not mean they are effective, even for big charities with lots of resources.  What’s most important is to make a plan, build a strategy that will fit your budget and start the conversation with your charity’s donors.  A smart place to begin is examining opportunities to include bequest giving information in your current print materials and online content.

I hope you’ve decided to have another look at this terrific way to significantly increase your fundraising revenues.  There are some great resources available to help you create a sharp Legacy Marketing strategy – many, are low or even no, cost!  You can contact me directly for some free advice on where to begin.


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Add this Supplement for a Healthy Fundraising Diet

Are you maximizing your holiday fundraising potential?

Almost every single fundraiser breaks out an extra strength campaign for the November and December holiday season.  And for good reason.  Many of the top charities receive 30% or more of their annual revenue in December.

But this is not a post about that holiday period.

I want to talk about Thanksgiving.



It’s our work summed up in 2 words.  A more perfect holiday for our sector just doesn’t exist.  In fact, if we didn’t already have it, fundraisers would have to invent it.

Can you imagine a better time to send an ask to your donors?  If you already are, then you are awesome and class dismissed.

But, if you’re like the legions of charities in Canada not capitalizing on this wonderful opportunity then I’d strongly recommend adding an early fall campaign related to Thanksgiving.  Here in Canada that means having something (mail, email, or both) arriving in people’s homes in early October.

Here’s an easy-to-swallow prescription to get started:

Step 1 – Evoke a Feeling of Gratitude:  Most people feel strong emotions when they pause to think about their good fortune.  I know this stirs some pretty intense feelings in my own mind.

Step 2 – Link Gratitude to Philanthropy:  Help your donors string together the gratitude they feel for their relative abundance and the thought that many people are not as fortunate with an example tied directly your cause/organization/work.  This is a powerful frame of mind to create for donors.  Personally, I know how downright emotional I can get in these moments.

Step 3 – Ask :  You’ve set the stage, so make sure you ask.  Connect the solicitation directly with the work your organization does.  Show your donors how they can really help someone, or solve a problem by giving a gift in thanks.

Bonus StepFrame the Ask:  Create what Direct Marketing consultants like to call ‘dollar handles’.  Frame your ask amounts around some traditional Thanksgiving costs – eg: typical price of a turkey,  a fancy dessert, a special bottle of wine, or even the cost of fleeing town to avoid an unpleasant family member (just a completely random inclusion, I swear.)

Adding another solicitation campaign to your fundraising program is not always a simple process, I know.  But this just makes so much sense.  I promise it will be worth it.

And if you get started today, you’ll have just enough time to be successful.

Who knows…after you see the results you may even want to add Fundraising Pharmacy to your thank-you list for next fall!

If you’d like some help getting your Thanksgiving campaign off to a healthy start, click here to contact me right now.

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5 Step Formula to Meaningful Thank You Letters

A few days ago I actually typed these words in an email to a former colleague:

“I get downright preachy about effective thank you letters.”

Hmmm…upon reflection, I realized there were a couple of serious issues with this:

·        I was pitching a luncheon presentation and ‘preachy’ is probably not a great descriptive for a positive and entertaining learning experience.

·        It’s been a long time since I wrote a rant about Thank You letters.

OK…so I can’t do much about the first point.  But I can pull out my soapbox and get back on it…

Here’s a Fundraising Pharmacy formula for effective thank you letters:

1.    Choose a great signatory – The best signatory may not be the Board Chair or President.  It may even be you!  The signatory should convey their passion for the work that your charity does and be able to speak about how the donor’s gift will impact that work.  And this letter must only be signed by one person (no co-signing or generic signatures like ‘the Board’).

2.    Write it how you  would say it – It always amazes me that people who are so warm and genuine in person feel the need to be formal and stiff in their writing.  I find it very helpful to imagine I was meeting the donor at an event and then jot down what I would say to them face-to-face.  It always surprises me how much material this gets me!

3.    Keep it personal – Throw in a micro-anecdote to draw your donor into the world of the signatory.  Did the person signing the thank you letter just walk past a room where program staff are busy helping people?  Maybe they walk past a photo of the founder every day?  Build a thank you around that experience and their feelings.

4.    Don’t wait for the Annual Report – The number one thing donors want from you is to know how their gifts make a difference.  So, make sure you update them in the thank you letter. You just have to find a success you can report that relates to the campaign/appeal the donor gave to.  EG:  the equipment you raised funds for has been purchased and will arrive in a few weeks; you are set to begin renovations to the program space that needed improvements.

5.    Give them your digits – If you want to see this donor again, you are going to have to give them your phone number.  Email, too.  Don’t try to shuffle them off to the switchboard, general reception line or info@ email address.  Give them the signatory’s direct line and actual email address.  Invite them to call anytime for any reason.  If your signatory is not comfortable with this, choose another signatory.  A few donors may call, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll receive more than a few calls over the course of a year.  But extending the invitation will help build trust.

Here’s your chance to seize the opportunity to transform an obligatory task into a powerful and personal connection with your donors!  And this formula should get you well on your way to healthier donor relationships.


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