The rules don’t apply anymore (part 2)

Bequest/legacy giving is fundraising’s next Big Thing. In the next 20 years, $30 TRILLION will pass between generations in the United States alone. At an average donation of $40,000 a pop. Nothing to sneeze at.

Enter Jennifer Xia and Patrick Schmitt, a couple of students at Stanford.

They didn’t know all the rules about bequest giving. About warming up donors with a long mailing series, making the solicitation at the end. So they developed an online-based free bequest tool.

And just like that, they showed that asking for – and securing – online bequests is a real thing.

To the tune of over $100 million pledged, and counting.

In their research in building their online tools, they found some key takeaways:

Team-wide planned giving goals are a good thing

Sharing responsibility for obtaining new bequest donors amongst the team – including your digital team – was shown to have proven success. Silo-ing planning giving to the major gifts team or a planning giving officer isn’t a great idea.

Ask donors straight up if you’re in their will

From Jennifer and Patrick: “To fill in the missing data on planned giving, organizations should regularly ask supporters: “Have you chosen to include us in your will or estate plan?” and “What motivated you to do so?” These questions must come with a clear explanation of why the information is valuable: It helps the organization plan for the future and understand how to motivate other donors.”

And of course, using that information to conduct a whole series of tests to find out what’s resonating with your audience.

Estate planning is in dire need of innovation if we want to unlock the power of bequests

The general population puts off writing their wills, and estate planners don’t discuss giving. It’s not a great combo. But with tools like FreeWill that make it easy to give, people can (and do) take advantage.

I’m super impressed.

You can read more about the thinking behind FreeWill in the Stanford Social Innovation Review here.