Monday, December 06, 2010

About Bequests and Its Unique Fundraising, What They Are, & How A Nonprofit Can Begin A Bequests Campaign

Bequests are a specific type of donation whereby the bequeathing donor chooses to include your nonprofit organization in their will, so that upon that donor's death your nonprofit receives whatever the donor has left the organization, which is often but not limited to a portion of that donor's estate (cash, property of value, stocks or other traded assets, etc.).  Raising bequests is, like grant writing, another method of fundraising that is another way to raise larger increment donations.

One of the reputable standards, in the American nonprofit sector, Guidestar, has written a free five piece series of blog posts describing how a bequests campaign works.

There are more benefits for a nonprofit, to raising bequests, besides a seeming one time donation.  While the nonprofit organization develops this specific type of donor (which is done during a specific and unique fundraising campaign, the bequest campaign, the nonprofit's key volunteers and staff already having learned what a bequests campaign is, and how one operates such that it succeeds, fully planned it out, and implemented it); the nonprofit is simultaneously bringing someone one who potentially is interested in supporting the nonprofit (perhaps through regular contributions) during the rest of their lives, considering they are interested in giving a portion of their assets to the nonprofit, upon their death.  That is the ultimate goal of any fundraising: to locate potential donors interested in a specific nonprofit's cause, the specific type of work it does on that cause, and in the given nonprofit, itself; such that they are committed to give again and again (usually by the virtue and success of the specific nonprofit's success rate and potential).

Bequest campaigns are run, during a given fiscal year for example, right along side the rest of the year's fundraising.  So, perhaps an example nonprofit during its fiscal year, this year, will do the following fundraising methods (as planned out and organized) and some will be run concurrently: remittance envelopes included in quarterly postal mailed newsletters (mailed to past donors, all clients, and community partners), website donations, four different special events (i.e. golf tournament, gala dinner with auction, mom and me camp, and a celebrity poker tournament), grant writing, a capital campaign, and a bequests campaign.

Guidestar is one of the best resources that exists, for donors (including the Donor's Bill of Rights, tax records information and donation record keeping information, and a database of registered nonprofits so that donors can research how old, effective, efficient, ethical, etc. a nonprofit is, should they be considering giving to that organization).  Guidestar has written an excellent, free, five part primer on what a bequest campaign is, how they function, and how one can be started at your organization.  The link to the first post in the five part blog post series is:

Make 2010 the Year YOU Start Planned Giving Part 1

You will see that the series of five blog posts are listed on the right hand side of Guidestar's blog web page, to further read the remaining four posts.  Needless to say, your organization can use their information for 2010, but also 2011, and on. 

It's always good, too, to consult with an organization's Certified Public Accountant and governing jurisdictions to be up on the current laws, rules, and required reporting before an organization launches a bequests campaign.  Good luck!


Michael J. Rosen, CFRE said...

One reason that many nonprofits do not seek bequest gifts is the mistaken belief that they will not be realized (the donor won't die) for a great many years. The reality is, depending on the demographics of the donor population, many bequest gifts will actually be realized within five years of the commitment being made. Also, research shows that those who have included a charity in their will tend to give more to the annual fund. So, a quest for bequest gifts is a wise move for most organizations. You can learn about the latest research on the subject, how to identify prospects, what motivates prospects, and how to effectively market to them in my new bestselling book "Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing." (

Arlene M. Spencer said...

You are also a "reputable standard" in our professional field and I appreciate your posting a Comment with the quick link to your book on Amazon as it's an excellent resource. Thank you. Best, Arlene