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A guide to adding legacy giving to year-end appeals

November 02, 2021
A group of happy older donors sit together celebrating.

For nonprofit organizations, year-end appeals are highly effective ways to leverage the season’s heightened generosity and boost fundraising revenue to power the upcoming year’s initiatives. After all, 30% of annual giving occurs in December, with the last three days of the year bringing in about 10% of all annual donations.

At the same time, year-end appeals have the potential to secure stronger relationships with donors as well. All you need to do is incorporate legacy giving into your nonprofit’s appeal to pave the way for long-term success. To help you make the most of this opportunity, let’s check in with the basics of legacy giving, then discuss some tips for adding legacy giving to your year-end appeal.

What is legacy giving?

legacy gift, or planned gift, is considered a donor’s ultimate contribution in support of your nonprofit’s future. In addition to regularly donating to your organization, supporters can arrange for your nonprofit to receive substantial funds and assets after their passing. 

Oftentimes, planned gifts are an appealing option to donors because they honor their legacy after passing, offer tax benefits to their family members, and provide increased legal control over how the receiving nonprofit spends the funds. 

A legacy gift can take many different forms depending on the donor’s financial situation and preferences. Some common types of planned giving include bequests, charitable gift annuities, and retained life estates.

How to ask for legacy giving in year-end appeals

In order to craft a nonprofit year-end appeal that successfully incorporates legacy giving, you’ll have to follow some general best practices, such as segmenting supporters based on shared characteristics, like their capacity to give a significant donation, and personalizing your messaging accordingly. Then, use these tips to encourage donors to consider legacy giving:

1. Determine your legacy giving goals.

Your year-end appeal will differ depending on your specific goals for promoting legacy giving. For instance, are you looking to educate donors about the benefits of planned gifts or are you hoping to actively solicit legacy gifts at year-end? Some tangible, achievable goals could include:

  • Identifying a specific number of legacy giving prospects
  • Informing a specific number of supporters about your planned giving program
  • Having a specific number of donors commit to giving a legacy gift to your nonprofit

Goal-setting is essential for guiding your nonprofit toward success. Be sure that each goal you set is actionable, so your staff can actively work to accomplish them. Once you have your priorities laid out, it’s time to find your specific audience.

2. Identify legacy giving prospects.

Enhance the effectiveness of your year-end appeal by promoting legacy giving to those who are most likely to be interested in the opportunity, rather than sending a standardized, blanket message to your entire supporter base. Take advantage of the data stored in your nonprofit donor database to identify planned giving prospects, such as:

  • Major donors
  • Annual donors
  • Monthly donors
  • Loyal volunteers

Keep an eye out for wealth and philanthropic indicators such as past nonprofit involvement, stock ownership, and real estate ownership. Donors who are both devoted to your nonprofit and capable of leaving an impactful contribution are ideal legacy giving prospects to reach out to in your year-end appeal.

If you need more detailed information about an individual’s ability and desire to become a legacy donor, send out surveys with questions regarding their interest and commitment to your cause. 

3. Educate your audience.

As you incorporate legacy giving into your year-end communications, ensure that it builds upon the other content in your appeal. For instance, you can reach out to annual donors and suggest that they optimize their annual giving through donor-advised funds, which can easily allow them to continue their contributions even after their lifetimes.

Even if some donors aren’t immediately ready to get started with legacy giving, offering them a basic foundation of knowledge will make them much more receptive to the idea later on.

4. Leverage storytelling.

While it’s essential for prospective legacy donors to understand the basics of planned giving, it’s appealing to their emotions and devotion to your nonprofit’s cause that motivates them to make a legacy gift. Share stories and quotations from your donors that illustrate various planned giving options and communicate the impact that these contributions have had on your organization’s work. Feature these stories in:

  • Your email newsletter
  • Your social media posts
  • A dedicated page on your website
  • At your year-end fundraising event

Making your supporters aware of the significant impact that legacy gifts can have on your organization’s purpose is key to motivating them to contribute. Powerful storytelling will turn legacy giving into a memorable and meaningful option for supporters devoted to your cause.

Appreciating your legacy donors

If your nonprofit is new to soliciting legacy gifts, year-end appeals are the perfect opportunity to get started. Once you’ve attracted legacy donors to support your cause, remember to strengthen your relationships with them by thanking them frequently and inviting them to opportunities such as exclusive events or facility tours. 

Properly recognizing donors for their legacy gifts not only proves that you value their commitment to your nonprofit, but encourages others to leave their own impact as well.

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