Last week the Journal of Philanthropy carried the summary of a study by Campbell & Company on bequest giving.

And once again I found myself asking why arent fundraisers — particularly those good in direct response — falling all over themselves to get in on what the Journal of Planned Giving estimates to be a $41 trillion bonanza.

Maybe its because planned giving has historically been viewed as some arcane science best left to Planned Giving Officers trained in legal and tax matters. After all, what could a lowly database or direct response fundraiser possibly know about this?

Well, inferiority complexes aside, the fact is that any organization with a base of donors, some giving history, and some gumption can launch a successful legacy/bequest marketing program. Best of all, using proven direct response techniques, these programs pay off quickly and handsomely.

Tomorrow (Wednesday the 23rd) from noon to 2 p.m. The Legacy Giving Group, will hold a free seminar in the conference room of the Human Rights Campaign at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C.

Im part of this Group and I want to share some of my missionary zeal over legacy and bequest marketing with readers of The Agitator. So, if on this short notice you have two hours, youre certainly welcome to attend. Just drop an email to and let me know you're coming.

My point is to not flog yet another seminar on planned giving, but to alert you to the fact that for too long a sense of mystery and complexity have served to obfuscate an approach to fundraising that should be on the top of every organizations fundraising agenda.

Just consider these facts from the Campbell & Company study:

  • Most people who name nonprofits in their wills tend to have been steady donors during their lifetimes. And, as a rule, they contributed an average of $2000 more annually than other non-legacy donors.
  • 33% of the donors surveyed have not yet made a planned gift, but say they would consider it.
  • Only a small percentage of retirees have made bequests, but a whopping 25% say they are willing to consider doing so.

At a time when the average Return on Investment for direct mail campaigns is around $3:1, shouldn't you invest some time in understanding how your direct marketing skills can be used in marketing bequests, where the ROI is $20:1 and where the payoff comes far more quickly than most fundraisers imagine?

[For a view that is quite contrarian to that of most planned giving fundraisers, visit my earlier post, Secret Riches and Why You're Missing Them, and download The Legacy Giving Groups white paper there.]


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