Aunt Mary and bequest inspiration

publication date: May 21, 2019
author/source: David Kravinchuk

Last week, my insightful colleague Lynne Boardman explained why an effective legacy marketing program is so critical, exploded some of the myths related to asking donors to make gift in their will to your charity, and shared how you can get started with low cost ideas you can implement right away.

Lynne and I have been spreading this gospel across Canada this year. We both believe it’s the most urgent crisis facing Canadian charities. If our sector and your charity doesn’t do a good job on this and seize the opportunity to have this crucial conversation with donors, we will miss out on hundreds of billions of dollars in charitable gifts that can transform our communities, improve our country and save our planet!

With that said, I’ll tuck away my soapbox and share some tips on inspiring your donors to consider making a gift in their will and offer an outline of a powerful legacy marketing tool, the Bequest Inspiration Booklet.

First, let’s talk about my Aunt Mary. Lynne mentioned her last week. In case you thought she was a handy, but too-convenient-to-be-true aggregate profile of a donor, I’m here to tell you she does in fact exist and she fits the profile of a bequest donor to a T.

Civic Generation? Yup, she’s in her 80s.

Female? Yes ma’am.

Modest income? Dry-land farmer for 50 years in the heart of Palliser’s Triangle in Southern Saskatchewan, so super-CHECK!

Religious affiliation? Amen.

Direct Mail donor? And how!

She’s my secret weapon in Legacy Marketing.

Oh, and you should also know that I’m sure to be written out of her will (if I’m even in it) should she ever know she’s slowly becoming notorious in Canada’s fundraising community.

There are some things you need to know about Mary…some ways you need to #MindYourMary.

First, Mary already knows plenty about Wills. She’s probably had two or three versions of her own already. She knows all about making bequests. She has a lawyer. She has a financial advisor and a trusted accountant, too. She doesn’t want your recommendations. Her lawyer also knows how to word a Will and arrange a bequest.

So, don’t tell Mary how to write a Will or that it’s important. Don’t give her a list of Lawyers or sample language.

Instead, tell her WHY she should consider naming your charity in her will. Why do you deserve to have YOUR name beside her daughter’s (and mine, of course)? How come she should let you in the family?

Also, she also doesn’t want to hear about death. Not because she’s in denial, but it actually shuts down a part of our brain that allows us to process any more thoughts….so stay away from that.

Instead, show Mary how, by giving to you, she can extend her deeply-held values into the future to make the world a better place.

Also, Mary had to work hard and be prudent her entire life. Her parents were immigrants who came to Canada with nothing, after surviving WWI. She was born just at the beginning of the Great Depression. Her elementary school years were during WWII. She wants to know that you are stable. That you do not waste money, that you get results and that you will be here in 25 or 50 years doing great work (or have achieved your mission).

Now Mary also happens to be a human being. So, stories are what works for her. Testimonials are very powerful.

And make sure they are from people like her. No billionaires with their name on the side of your hospital. And not the local car dealership owner with a penchant for novelty-sized cheques. Find a teacher. A farmer. A nurse. Someone she can relate to and see her own story reflected.

You also have to be kind to Aunt Mary. This is a deep conversation and a personal one. Take things slow. Send her things in the mail (she really, really likes communicating by post). Make sure it’s easy to read – use nice big, serif fonts, deep indenting and double-spaces after a period. This is not only more comfortable, it’s familiar.

Lynne and I strongly recommend investing in a fulsome and well-resourced Legacy Marketing program with a variety of elements and communications tools. Things like survey packs, a series of mailings, telemarketing, a revamped website with a legacy section tailored to Aunt Mary, gift-in-will newsletters and full integration into your direct marketing and communications portfolios. We absolutely recognize it will take some time to pull all of this together, get approvals and then budget allocations.

But there is simply no time to lose!

So, I’d like to share a single, inexpensive tool that you can use to get started right now. The Bequest Inspiration Booklet (BIB).

This booklet can take a lot of forms, from a simple bi-fold brochure to a 24-page booklet. I prefer one that’s about 12 standard letter-sized pages in a booklet format that can be printed on demand and also downloaded from your webpage.

The front cover is an instant emotional hit with a strong photo meant to evoke emotion and copy that’s limited to an inspirational but simple title like “Your Legacy – for a just and sustainable world”.

Inside we take time to share a vision of the future being made better because of Aunt Mary’s bequest gift, alongside a plan so Aunt Mary knows we’re not just a bunch of flakes. We also share a testimonial from a living donor who has arranged a gift in their will and a testimonial from a surviving loved one explaining how proud they were to know their spouse, sibling or parent continued to contribute to their lifelong passions through their gift in their will.

The BIB evokes emotion and nostalgia (where applicable) on every page with meaningful photos and simple design that allows limited copy to breathe with tons of white space.

The booklet takes a few pages to do a little business, showing Aunt Mary some simple financial facts that allow her to have confidence and trust in your organisation’s stewardship of her gift. Your treasurer, lawyer and accountant will also be happy to see a page reserved for codicils and legalese, but presented as a helpful tool Aunt Mary can share with her advisors to make sure they have the details they need.

Perhaps the most important page inside the BIB is what I like to call the Kind Contact page. It features the name, title and photo of the person at your charity who will be responsible for the relationship with Aunt Mary. This page takes the time to share a little bit of the personal story of this relationship manager and how they have common values and goals as it relates to the mission of their charity. Finally, the Kind Contact invites Aunt Mary to contact them directly and confidentially to address any questions or concerns by sharing multiple direct points of contact (phone, email, address, etc.).

And when Aunt Mary closes the booklet, she’ll find a final bit of inspiration on the back cover with a large, evocative photo and compelling quote she already loves, or will soon grow to be one of her favourites.

The BIB can be used to send to people who check a box asking for more information about making a gift in their will, it can be posted online, shared by email, taken to events and delivered by hand during an afternoon tea-and-banana bread visit.

It also can help you flesh out your legacy donor webpages and get you started on story content for your mail series and legacy newsletter.

I can’t recommend this powerful tool enough and it’s a great first step to building a strong, multi-faceted Legacy Marketing program that will deliver millions in transformational bequests to even the smallest charity.

As The Common Good Fundraising’s Philanthropy Firebrand, David lives to empower donors of modest means to achieve their philanthropic dreams by building successful annual giving and legacy marketing programs for his clients. David also founded Western Canada Fundraising Conference the multi-award-winning annual conference for fundraisers in western Canada.

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