The Greatest Gift Of All

The Greatest Gift of All - October 1998

For centuries, bequests and in memorial gifts have provided a major impetus for non-profit organisations of all kinds. In the USA, the great Stanford University was built in memory of Leland and June Stanford’s 15-year-old son who died of typhoid fever. In South Africa, the University of Cape Town with its beautiful campus was built on land bequeathed by Cecil John Rhodes.

All around the world, there are numerous examples of other transformational gifts through the power of bequest. But it is in more recent times that the importance of bequests as a source of income in the non-profit sector has really become recognised. As an example, in the United Kingdom, some one-third of all income to the top 500 charities was generated from bequests (more than £565 million in November 1997*).

Many organisations are now to the point of budgeting annual bequest income, either as an endowment stream or in some cases, part of their operating budget. The simple revelation that bequests to most non-profits come mainly from existing members, supporters and donors . . . and that the decision to leave money to charity is most often made when a person is 70 years or older should change the way your organization does fund-raising. The “typical” profile of the average bequestor looks like this:
•The majority of the bequests come from women
•There is an established relationship with the organisation (usually donor, volunteer or beneficiary)
•They often live alone and their husband pre-deceased them
•They have many assets, but not a large income (their donations are often small/regular and may even have ceased altogether in their later years)
•Three to five organisations (including their church) will benefit from the will The average size of the bequest is about $70,000
•Most estates consist of a fully-paid for home and its contents
•Finally, the decision to leave money to charity has often been made only in recent years.

Where to find those typical bequest prospects? Look no further than your own donor file. Bequest promotion and direct mail are often a powerful combination that work together seamlessly for an organisation, yet rarely considered together. Typical successful next steps include a dedicated bequest promotion program aimed at identifing those donors over 75 years of age (usually through the mail program), a well-trained bequest (planned giving) officer, consistent and timely publicity about giving through bequests and finally, some type of annual recognition society that offers memberships to confirmed bequestors. While a new bequest program may take two or three years to show consistent financial returns, once its up and running, your donors will certainly provide some of the largest and greatest gifts your organisation will ever receive.

If your organisation is still looking for the greatest gifts of all, call us. We can tailor a bequest program that will work for you and your donors. If you would like to discuss your Bequest program, please call us today. Please visit our website