Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Your bullet proof plan to effectively talk about bequests

I’m regularly amazed at how much bequest/legacy materials focus on the mechanics of making a Will or leaving a gift in a Will .

Yes, this is important. Yes, we need to get it right. But frankly, if you can’t convince someone why they should do it in the first place, this is a waste of time.

So, when developing your bequest materials, consider the checklist below. Side note: the most effective combination of materials is a long, personal and emotive letter with an accompanying bequest brochure.

Within these two pieces, ensure that every time we:

Use empowering imagery. If you’re a medical research agency, I don’t want pictures of lab coats and test tubes. I want images of people whose lives have been changed a result of the lab coats and test tubes.

Make the case. Why do you need me to leave a bequest? Make it compelling. Make it concise. Make it clear.

Tell a story (and back it up with those empowering images). Don’t be afraid to use emotion, tell me how someone’s (could be a cat or dog by the way) life has been or could be changed because of a bequest/legacy you have received.

Provide a testimonial. They shouldn’t just believe you (the organization). Tell it from ‘the horse’s mouth’. Let one of your amazing supporters tell other supporters why they decided to leave a gift in their Will, and why they should follow suit.

Include an ask. Don’t tippy toe around the subject. Use language that specifically asks them to change/update their Will to include your organization. Specifically promote residuary bequests (whereby someone leaves a residue or percentage of their estate). Data we have looked at for our clients at Pareto Fundraising shows that a residuary bequest realized is worth anywhere from 4-12 times as much as a specific bequest, simply as it maintains it relative value over time.

Show the impact. You’ve told a story, but actually use a real example of a beneficiaries life that has improved because of a bequest.

Provide a response form. Make it easy for the donor to respond. Promote residuary bequests as the thing you most want them to do. Include a prepaid reply envelope to eliminate an excuse not to return the form.

Provide your details. The dull stuff, but still important. Let them know how they can contact you, mention that they should consult with their lawyer.

If you get these things right, you're well on your way to developing brilliant, compelling and effective bequest materials.

Refer to my previous post about surveys which talks about the best way to cultivate prospects for bequests.


PS - The covering image is a bequest brochure I worked on for a client in Australia, a disability organization, Scope Victoria. I loved the simplicity of this piece, combined with some fantastic imagery.

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