Category Archives: Legacy Giving

Jewish Culture Laying the Groundwork for Charitable Legacy Giving?

Vintage bronze Siddur cover useful for backgroundOkay, let’s not all start going through donor lists and chasing after everyone with “stein” or “berg” in their name; but nonprofit fundraisers should definitely read the article by Alex Daniels in the recent Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled “Jews Are Twice as Likely to Leave Bequests Than Non-Jews.”

It cites a Connected to Give study called “Jewish Legacies,” which found that 23% of  U.S. Jews age 40 and over with household incomes of at least $100,000 have provided for charities in their wills. If that doesn’t sound impressive, realize that it’s double the number of non-Jews who have done the same. Another impressive percentage is the 74% of U.S. Jews who have prepared wills in the first place; well ahead of the 60% of non-Jews to have done so.

If you’re with an organization that directly serves a Jewish population or cause, the lesson is clear: If you don’t already have a planned or legacy giving program in place, it’s time to start developing one. You’re working with a population that apparently acts with above-average maturity in planning for the end of their life and deciding what mark they will make on the world.

There’s good news in here for non-Jewish organizations, as well; the 23% includes 6% whose legacy gifts were intended for non-Jewish causes. Providing for basic needs, health care, and the environment ranked high on the list.

Fundraising Kudos to: Yosemite Conservancy

I’m always on the lookout for graceful yet clear ways to remind donors that — let’s see, how shall I word this — they might want leave you money when they DIE. Okay, that’s an example of how not to phrase this important message.

The Yosemite Conservancy presented much better language in its Spring/Summer 2012 newsletter. The headline reads, “Anyone can leave a legacy.” That message is encouraging, not age-specific, and leaves out the “D” word.

I particularly like the use of the word “anyone” because, despite what the fundraising academics might tell you, it’s not only wealthy donors approaching old age who consider making legacy gifts. The real-world truth of the matter is that a surprising number of younger donors are happy to name a charity in their will or legacy, for the very reason that they do not yet have more immediately available assets to give.

The newsletter entry goes on to say, “Including Yosemite Conservancy as the beneficiary to your retirement or insurance plans are simple ways for anyone to make a lasting difference to Yosemite.”

This is also helpful, as it reminds donors that they don’t need to get into charitable annuities or other complex estate planning arrangements to name a nonprofit as a recipient of their estate.

Of course, you can’t just lift their text outright — but you might want to think about how you might adapt it for your group.

How Are Legacy Donors Responding to Recession?

A friend of mine recently mentioned that his father, after reading yet another set of headlines about the Dow taking a nosedive, declared that he was going to change his will to remove each and every gift to charity.

It wasn’t so much that the father worried that there would be no money left for his kids but that, looking ahead into the future, he wondered for how long the stormy economy would damage his children’s  financial security.

I haven’t seen any reports of whether this is a trend. But uncertainty is certainly driving a lot of economic decisions these days.

That, and the knowledge that people can change their wills at any time, create added challenges for any nonprofit’s legacy or planned giving program.

What can you do in response? I would advise:

  • Don’t let up on your messaging about your group’s importance in fulfilling your donor’s fundamental interests, and your group’s ability to help them create a lasting legacy.
  • Never take legacy donors for granted. Find ways to celebrate their commitment and keep them advised about how other legacy gifts are being put to meaningful use.
  • Sign up for a planned giving seminar that will update you on the latest estate tax rules, so that you’ll understand when your donors might have a continued financial interest in reducing their estate through charitable giving.

And of course, batten down the hatches for the ride ahead.

Fundraising Kudos to: McNay Art Museum

I’m an art museum addict, so while at a recent conference in San Antonio, Texas, I managed, in the few hours before my return flight, to fit in a trip to the McNay Art Museum. (Maybe I should mention how graciously they fit all of my luggage into the coatroom and called a cab in time to get me to the airport, too.)

But aside from the pleasures of the collection, I was struck by something I’d never seen before: Wall postings next to selected paintings containing patrons’ recollections of what that particular work has meant to them over the years.

The accounts included everything from adults describing their childhood favorite paintings — or in one case, a man describing how a Modigliani became his ideal when searching for a wife — to a child saying of Monet’s Water Lilies, “My favorite picture was of the pond and lepads.” (I think I’ve got that right — I know I remember her spelling of lily pads correctly!)

What a great way to get people to reflect on what the museum means to them, using the power of storytelling. It’s a subtle strategy to build loyalty and a sense of affinity with fellow patrons, which of course leads to donations.

Also, the tendency for people to consider what the art has meant to them over a lifetime also inspires the sort of reflection that translates into legacy gifts.

My one criticism is that I couldn’t find any of these patron accounts on the McNay’s website. (Or maybe they’re there somewhere, but too well buried to be useful.) They’d be perfect additions to the donor pages, which are otherwise rather dry.