Major donor fundraising and legacy fundraising are at the top of our classic donors pyramid. Often lonely.
Despite the fact that legacy and major donor fundraisers often find themselves on the same team, there are still considerable opportunities to REALLY work together.
A few years ago, at a conference, I talked to a group of major donor relationship managers and asked them how important it was to speak with major donors about the possibility to leave a gift in their will. “Very important!” while everyone nodded. “Great, who of you does that?” Then it fell silent and from then on we talked about the barriers of not bringing this subject into conversations.
The reasons are many:
“I find it difficult, I don’t know how it works legally and am afraid I cannot answer correctly”
“I want to keep the relationship good, I secretly think this subject is ruining the atmosphere”
“I focus on an ask, am afraid that this will have a negative influence on my cultivation towards the ‘big’ ask”
In other words, there is quite a task for legacy fundraisers and managers to break down barriers to realize a proper integration. Because, how reasonable these arguments all sound, we are missing big opportunities if we don’t.
An average legacy to a charity is already around 40.000 euros. The average legacy of a major donor quickly runs into tons and sometimes even millions. Don’t forget that most of their future legacies are now into real estate, but also securities and investments. All have increased significantly in value in recent decades.
Interesting in this sense is the higher ratio of giving. Major donors are more likely to leave a gift in their will than regular donors and vice versa; legacy relations have a bigger chance of giving a (middle-)high donation. Almost everyone can leave a will, but not everyone can leave a big gift. On the other hand, the group of legacy-relations (pledgers, intenders, considerers) is often much larger than major donors. And because of their higher engagement, it is undoubtedly a logical fishpond to look at potential for giving larger during life. Win win. In both groups there is a ‘sweet spot’ that can be mutually enormously promising.
So if you want to make a significant impact for your organization effectively and efficiently: this is the sweet spot to be!
Therefore, take a good look at the overlap of the major donor profile versus the profile of a legacy relationship. Then, if you have not already done so, create personas from which you see similarities in needs, ideals and wishes. And from there, consider which program elements there are to merge or mutually reinforce from a synergetic perspective.
Below five tips of win-win opportunities:
1. Events: It is an open door, but that doesn’t mean that everyone walks through it. In your intro-talk: Always state why we do what we do and say that this is only possible thanks to small gifts, larger gifts and legacies. Do not forget to conclude with an invitation to contact the relationship manager with any question whatsoever.
2. Means of communication: Because you want both target groups to be familiar with the possibility of doing a major gift or leaving a will to your organization, it is helpful to integrate each other’s propositions in means of communication, such as brochures, website, etc.
3. Knowledge sharing: Give each other every year a major donor or legacy ‘fundraising for dummies workshop’. Explain to each other the basics and practice conversations on how to bring up specific topics.
4. Experience-sharing: Suggest that as a legacy fundraiser you agree to join, for example, all 60+ major donors. And that you take your major donor colleagues to the more prosperous legacy relationships. Look carefully at how one conducts in these conversations. Learn from each other’s experiences.
5. Integration Key Performance Indicators: Formulate integration objectives and indicators in annual plans. For if you do not make agreements with yourself and or with others, you will not make any progress. So formulate ‘integration-KPIs’ and evaluate regularly.
Going back to the mentioned barriers earlier. Reassure your major donor fundraisers that as a fundraiser, you never take the position of a financial advisor. Donors don’t expect that either. In addition, leaving a gift in your will is not about death; it is about life itself. What is important to someone and what would someone prefer if he or she had to choose to help out or into this world? Probably you end up with the same reasoning why they became major donors in the first time.
Which makes a legacy proposition something that can contribute enormously to making philanthropic dreams become real. And vice versa, how beautiful it is to see already during lifetime what your gift can mean to the world or community.
Integration does not happen automatically, but the chances are sky-high, precisely between legacy fundraising and major donor fundraising. So let’s take advantage of that: Good luck!