[Book Review] How to get smart about legacy giving — fast

Book Review: How to talk About Legacy Giving: Your Guide to Creating Inspiring Legacy Message by Aimée Lindenberger

My alma mater keeps sending me this fancy, nice-looking newsletter that’s all about “planned giving.” They’re hoping I’ll include them in my will. So far, so good. That’s a smart strategy for any fundraiser.

But the bulk of the newsletter is about other planned giving products. Like charitable gift annuities, remainder unitrusts, donations of appreciated securities … and on and on.

I’m sure those things are all good and strategic ways to support my dear old alma mater. But they’re not for me. They’re hardly for anyone. They make sense for some high net worth people who live with a lot of financial complexity, usually managed by accountants. They don’t mean much to the rest of us.

So when I read that nice-looking newsletter, it is mainly about complex financial products that I won’t (or can’t) use.

Which is too bad, because I might choose to include them in my will. I don’t have to be a Mr. Moneybags to do that. Almost anyone can do it.

But my alma mater is paralyzing my decision-making. They’ve presented me with a “jam paradox” — that famous experiment where shoppers who found 24 different types of jam on the shelves bought far less jam than those who found 6 choices. Too much choice leads to no decision.

That’s one of the foundational truths you’ll learn in this excellent book on planned giving:

The last thing you want to do with a donor who has decided to make a legacy gift is trigger decision paralysis about the myriad ways they could designate their gift.

It’s a treasure-trove of must-know things about about encouraging donors to include your organization in their will. Whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, you will be more equipped for this extremely important area of fundraising when you read this book.

It’s a quick, easy read. You don’t need to be a financial planner or attorney to get what you need.

This is an ultra-important topic for all fundraisers, more so now than ever. Because while by percentage of donors, not many will ever even talk to you about their will, the potential revenue from those who do is astounding. You can easily double long-term donor revenue. Or triple it. Or more.

But you need to be on top of it. Now.

Here’s some more information from the book that will really help — and maybe boost your confidence that you can do this. It’s the differences between typical fundraising messaging and legacy messaging. They’re similar in some ways, but meaningfully different in others:

Bequest fundraising messagingTypical fundraising messaging
BroadSpecific
Long-term visionImmediate needs
Help future generations/societyHelp beneficiaries
Personal, privateSocial norms
Donor’s beliefs and identityWorthiness of the cause
Soft ask, no immediate actionUrgent ask for immediate donation
Possible for anyone with assetsRequires available cash

Don’t be afraid of planned giving! This book can get you going right away! Highly recommended.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.