David Love, Executive Director of The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto, who also happens to be an old friend, great fundraiser, wonderful cause hell-raiser, and reader of The Agitator wrote the other day noting, “I remain obsessed with social justice and green groups getting legacies. Ripping them out of the hands of universities and hospitals. Is that of interest to The Agitator?”
Attached to David's message was a story from the Toronto Globe & Mailheadlined “Teacher kept her riches secret, then left charity $4.3 million.” The story details the generosity of Roberta Langtry, who lived plainly and shied away from the limelight and left the largest legacy gift ever given to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
The story of Roberta Langtry is a microcosm of the larger world of legacy giving of which all too many fundraisers are woefully ignorant. She was single. Her wealth hidden. And her true potential unknown. As the the vice-president of the Conservancy noted upon learning of the gift: “We weren't entirely sure it was true, or not.”
What is true is that far to many non-profits still view the “Planned Giving” process as the province of specialists familiar with the intracacies of taxes and complex giving instruments like charitable lead trusts, pooled income funds, etc. And as David Love noted in his message, historically it has been the colleges, universities, and medical centers that benefitted.
No more. The reality of legacy giving is that 95% percent of all 'planned gifts' come in the form of bequests by a simple will…averaging about $35,000. And, more and more these legacy gifts are being given to environmental, human rights, civil liberties, animal welfare and women's rights groups.
And…these gifts are coming as a result of the largely inadvertent result of direct mail and small gift donor programs.
I note this not out of a pure desire to flog this important new venture, but to emphasize that without more attention to the marketing aspects of planned giving
— with a dramatically increased focus on the mass of small gift donors instead of the “known” major gift potential — non-profits are missing out big time.
The fact is that virtually every non-profit — advocacy organization, animal rights organizations, environmental groups, cultural groups, you name it — has an amazing and largely untapped source of secret riches.
The key is in aggressively reaching out by marrying proven direct response techiques with data mining and scoring. I realize this is a contrarian approach to what has been the historic norm in approaching planned giving. So, attached you'll find a white paper, The Legacy Group Approach, by Mike Johnston and me on why we think it's so important.
In fact, the figures below lead me to conclude that if you're not considering a more expansive and ongoing legacy giving effort, then You Oughta Be Fired!