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Forward Thinking: Legacy giving in and beyond COVID-19

Legacy giving. It might not be the most glamorous subject, but there’s real potential in the power of a well-tuned program. The picture might have changed a bit this past year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for growth. After all, legacy giving has always been about the long game!

What happened when COVID-19 hit?

A legacy giving program takes years to cultivate, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t immune to short term challenges. Far from it. Many legacies depend on factors such as real estate value, share prices, death rates, and other drivers. Unfortunately, these have all been hit by COVID-19, thus affecting the value of legacy gifts made in this period.   It might sound disastrous, but if you’re planning for the long-term (and you should be) there are those who believe this loss is likely to be short-lived. Of course, it is impossible to know for sure, and the state of the economy now makes the crystal ball hard to read. But, public awareness around legacy giving is growing, and for the most part, historic trends have been strong and growth potential is still there. The question is, how to unlock it?

Using data to unlock the future of legacy giving

The external environment might be out of your control, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a stake in the process. As with so many areas of fundraising, it starts with data and in order to build a successful legacy giving program, you need to:

Define your own legator: Look back at the history of legacy gifts at your organization. What can you learn about the demographics of your donors? Who are they, where do they live, and why do they give? Answering these questions is the first step to identifying, segmenting and cultivating relationships with new legacy givers.

Get to know their giving history: Most legacy donors are likely to be long-term supporters of your cause. But not everyone is. Look at the giving levels and history of your legators. Can you pin-point the type of donor that is most likely to consider a legacy donation? (And if they’ve come to you out of the blue, is there a pool of potential regular donors you aren’t tapping?).

Understand the time-lag between pledge and donation: One of the biggest problems with legacy giving is the issue of immediacy. There can be many years, even a decade, between pledge and donation. Can you find out when your donors wrote their will and how many years passed before their final gift came through? This will help you design your legacy giving strategy and project long-term ROIs.

fundraising CRM like thankQ can help you explore your legacy giving data. But what do you do if your nonprofit doesn’t have the information it needs? Do not despair. Why not connect with other organizations of a similar nature and size, and suggest a skills share or exchange?

The above might seem like obvious points, but they’re important. Information is gold. Not only can you use it to identify potential donors, it is the foundation of your stewardship plan, tailored donor communications, and broader fundraising campaigns. Yes, it will take time to see the fruits of your labor. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

To build a successful legacy giving program, you need to monitor response and engagement to each and every stewardship/campaign mechanism you deploy. It doesn’t matter if you can’t count success in money just yet. Think clicks, web traffic, inquiries, conversations, and even pledges. They are all important indicators of future success. So set your KPIs and track them closely. Learn from your data and use this information to adapt and evolve your legacy giving strategy.

And remember, data might be your starting point, but it is the relationships with your donors that will bring your legacy giving program to life. Get the balance right, and there is no reason why you can’t make your organization one to remember. Even in a post-pandemic world!

thankQ CRM can help you get the most out of your legacy and other fundraising efforts.  Contact us to see how. Set up your personalized demo today.