Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them

7 Insights from a leading Catholic legacy fundraiser

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Why is it so hard to ask for legacies when you know people are considering what to put in their will? Will-writing is when you would think it would be the easiest to ask, don’t you agree?

You would think people would have productive conversations with fundraisers without wasting time on explaining the importance of giving. Everyone is already in agreement that giving is essential. We just have to find the right cause, the right organization, and the right solution to the donor’s desire.

Currently, the number of people over the age of 65 is 600 million. That number will balloon to 1.5 billion by 2050. With numbers like these, you would think fundraisers were excited about the possibilities.

However, the opposite is true, everyone – including fundraisers – are scared about breaching this topic.

Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them

Richard Radcliff explains how to overcome these obstacles in his book, Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them. A Catholic himself and long-time legacy fundraiser, Radcliff outlines step by step how you can make the most of legacies, which he advocates offer considerable opportunities to any Catholic charity willing to take the time and energy to follow his advice.

I recommend reading his book which you can order today by clicking this link.

He begins by pointing out an interesting – but often forgotten – underlying fact about these donors over the age of 65. They are becoming less spontaneous with their giving as they have to support children and grandchildren. They may have money in their retirement account, but they are much more prudent about where it goes. This means that they are giving to fewer charities and focused on a more personal experience. Even more, they are considering how well they spend their nest egg.

The solution for any Catholic cause would then be to offer these savvy donors a solution that costs them nothing now but meets their requirements of making the most of their money. How does one do so?

Richard offers a step by step solution in his book. Today, I will outline the 7 steps I think will help you get people to leave your charity in their will, either through a cash sum or percentage of their estate.

7 Steps to Getting Legacies

Step 1 – Have a legacy vision that stands out. Richard explains that a bland line such as, “Please remember us through a gift in your will,” just doesn’t cut it. He recommends writing a sentence that is unique to your mission, inspirational, and memorable.

If you are enrolled in my Fundraising Boot Camp, I provide a complete overview of how you can do this. Click here for more info.

Step 2 – Consider planting seeds rather than going for a direct ask. Richard explains that legacy fundraising is different than normal fundraising. In his research of asking over 26,000 people in focus groups. An indirect ask is better received than a direct. Everyone is happy to know about the need and benefits of legacies to your charity, therefore share them without being ashamed.

For more details on how to ask, check out my article, What to Say and Not Say When Asking for Donations.

Step 3 – Have your legacy communications be less formal and more focused on telling the story of how your Catholic cause has benefited people. Richard recommends having someone who’s benefited from your charity tell their story. This could even be a person who has already put your charity in their will and shares why they’ve done so. Also, keep your messaging is upbeat, positive, and inspirational.

Go more in depth on this topic by reading my article, Why Story Telling Dramatically Improves Your Fundraising.

Step 4 – Promote your legacy material year round, ideally through stories that focus on your legacy vision as it is short, inspiring, and memorable. Some recommended times to promote your legacy giving include anniversaries of your charity, reminders of how legacies have benefited your charity, seasonal messages, and after significant accomplishments.

I give you a simple format for sharing your messaging year round in this article: Stop Screaming ‘Please Donate’

Step 5 – Consider structuring your legacy campaign as such:

– A summary of the charitable outcomes and finances (use infographics)
– A one-page that describes ‘look at what we’ve done together’ (this messaging is critical)
– The legacy vision which shows that there is still more to be done
– Provide a way to take action (your contact information along with words to include in their Will)

Check out this article, 3-Steps to Your Best Campaign Ever, for more details on how to structure your campaign.

Step 6 – Segment your audience and focus your communication to those who are committed donors, lapsed donors, eventers (those who keep showing up), and major donors. Richard highlights the important fact that statistically, a direct mail legacy campaign generates around a .5% response rate (please note: that’s half a percent). Richard strongly recommends you do not attempt to run a direct mail campaign because you will drive people away.

For more information on how to segment your audience and deliver a great legacy campaign, contact me directly by clicking here. Let’s get you moving forward today.

Step 7 – Listen. One of Richard’s strongest recommendations is to listen to donors. Listening can often be the best thing you can ever do, and they are far happier than they were before when you are asking for money. However, always be ready with your legacy material at hand and available. Again, it’s the indirect ask that works best. Provide them the information to take action, and leave the rest to them.

Moving Forward with Getting Legacies

I’ve offered a brief outline of Richard’s book, Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them. I strongly recommend ordering the book, as he goes into greater detail on each of these topics. He also explains how to use your website and social media to maximize your campaign results.

I leave you with one final thought. When running a legacy campaign, it’s best to offer people the tools to take action and get them to inquire about the possibility. Integrate your legacy messaging into thank you letters and emails, and make sure to ask softly.

Question: What recommendation do you have for asking Catholics to leave you in their will? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.