Yes, you have to read research. And yes, you should conduct research with your own donors, too.
Check out new research from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, research about bequest giving.
Researchers Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang give us important information about the kind of people who make bequests. The study, Identification, Death, and Bequest Giving, was funded by AFP and Legacy Leaders.
Sargeant says, “People who support an organization through a bequest are expressing their passion for the enduring values of that organization. Through their gift, they are saying something about who they are and how they want to be remembered.”
A bequest is easy to give . . . just one little line in your will. Of course, that means you have to have a will and lots of Americans don’t. And that one little line in your will doesn’t have to be lots of money. Maybe your bequest is just a few thousand dollars, or merely 1 percent of your estate. And the rest goes to your children.
Here’s an interesting question: Do you have a will? Does your will include any bequests to charities? You work in the nonprofit sector. You may be a fundraiser or the executive director. You know full well how important giving is to sustain your organization and other charities.
I ask again: Do you have a will? Does your will include bequests to any charities? And if you cannot decide which charities, how about making a bequest to your community foundation. Your community foundation can figure out where the money needs to go in future decades when you aren’t around anymore.
But back to Identification, Death, and Bequest Giving.Here’s the bad news: While 65 – 70% of Americans give to charity, only about 5% make bequests in their wills. And the good news: lots of growth potential!
And you know why people don’t make bequests? No surprise: Because they are not asked. They simply don’t know they can.
Find out more about bequests by reading the research. Also read a great little book called Iceberg Philanthropy, also about bequests and based on research. This book by Green, McDonald, and van Herpt gives you lots of tips about how to design a great bequest program.
And there’s more . . . more research that is. Visit the Center on Philanthropy and check out all their research. For example, I really liked the study Significant Gifts: Where Donors Direct Their Largest Gifts and Why. The study examined the characteristics and influences that produce big gifts. And, this study explains how important personal, face-to-face solicitation is. I was also intrigued by the various studies on giving circles and donor motivations and disaster giving and gender differences in giving motivations.
Check out all this information. That’s your job. Analyze the trends and figure out the implications for your organization. Make sure that your organization’s leadership – the CEO and the Fund Development Committee and your staff colleagues and the Board of Directors – all of them should participate in conversations about what the research means to your organization.
Do it. Now.