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Do Your Donors Have a Will or a Won’t?

By David Workman, Vice President

If you’ve been fundraising for more than 20 minutes, you’re well aware of the importance of estate gifts for your ministry or non-profit. But estate planning is also one area organizations often struggle to market effectively to donors. 

What you may be missing is that while wills and estate plans are important for your organization’s fundraising goals, they’re even more important for your donor

And not just from a planned giving standpoint … 

The Value of Estate Planning for Donors

I recently watched my dad execute my grandmother’s estate. Fortunately, she had a will and was very clear about most of her wishes — which kept my dad, aunt, and uncle from having to make some difficult decisions. 

Even so, there were still some holes they had to fill. It was challenging. And I can’t imagine how much more taxing (and time-consuming) things might have been if she hadn’t taken the time to create a will in the first place.

All this is to say: A donor’s decision to create a will and estate plan is about much more than leaving a gift to your ministry or non-profit when they pass away. This choice will be a blessing for their entire family — and a key component of their legacy for years (even generations) beyond their lifetime. 

So maybe it’s time to rethink marketing legacy giving as a valuable service to your donors. 

After all, without a will, your donor is really saying, “I won’t.”

  • won’t make this easier for my family.
  • won’t leave a clear plan for what my assets should accomplish. 
  • won’t support the charities I love. 
  • I won’t leave a legacy.

That’s not who your donors are! They care enough about their families — and their legacies — to leave a willinstead of a won’t. And you can help them.

How to Help Your Donors Create a Will 

One of the best things you can do is to create a steady “drip, drip, drip” of information. 

We are all reluctant to think about death, especially our own. But we all inevitably experience “death reminders” throughout the year — be it a traffic accident, a serious illness, or the loss of a loved one. 

It’s at these times that your donor will ponder their own plans and be motivated to act. Having the right information steadily streaming will be a valuable service to those who are looking. 

Here are a few ideas for your estate planning communication strategy: 

  1. Remind them of the value of estate planning several times a year. 
    And not just for leaving a gift, but for the practical reasons to have a will (avoiding taxes, naming guardians of minor children, family knowing specific wishes, etc.). This type of content often fits well in receipt stuffers, newsletters, emails, and your year-end tax receipt.
  • Conduct a survey.
    Send out a simple survey to gauge your committed donors’ attitudes toward estate planning. You can even use this survey to ask if they already have a will and if they’ve named your organization as a beneficiary.
  • Create resources to help your donors through the process.
    By inviting donors to request these free tools (whether it’s a simple “how to get started” e-book or a detailed “Wills Guide” that leads them through all the specifics about the process, sample language, estate structures, etc.), you’ll be providing them with valuable resources to help them establish or update their plan.

Plus, you’ll also be able to create a list of donors interested in this important topic with whom you can build deeper relationships and engage in a more tailored way!

It’s time to view planned giving not as an ask of your donor but as a gift to your donor. By providing a steady stream of information and encouragement, you can help each one to leave a will — and not a won’t. 

Have questions or want help with your estate planning marketing? I’d love to chat with you about your organization’s specific goals and strategy. Simply send me an email at