Bequests – planned giving

It is without doubt the pinnacle of giving and the most interesting and significantly rewarding area of fundraising. It beats other areas of giving hands down and yet so many charities are at a loss of what to do. They don’t know how to start, and are unsure of how much to invest before expecting a return. So instead they do nothing


Donors are leaving bequests to other charities, so why not yours?

Bequest income in the United States was estimated at US$22.6 billion in 2008 . While bequest income varies annually, it represents seven to nine percent of total estimated donation revenues.

In Australia, access to reliable data proved difficult however Givewell found that Australians left $140 million in bequests in 2003/04 (from an analysis of financial statements of 220 nonprofit and government organisations ).

In the UK bequest income is estimated around £1.9 billion, representing twelve percent of income of the largest fundraising charities .

In New Zealand, the trend continues. Around 5.9% of total giving ($74.9 million) was personal bequests, representing an increase in the average bequest of 9.6% per annum since 1996 .


[1] Giving USA, Giving USA 2009: The Annual Report of Philanthropy for the Year 2008, Giving USA Foundation in conjunction with the Centre on Philanthropy, Indiana University, 2009.

[1] Giving USA, Giving USA 2009: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2008, Giving USA Foundation in conjunction with the Centre on Philanthropy, Indiana University, 2009 and Givewell, Australian Giving Post-tsunami: Australian Charities Financial Analysis 2004, Givewell, Evan Heads, 2005.

[1] C. Pharoah, Charity Market Monitor, Volume 1: Fundraisers, CharitasDataPlace, Published, 2008 and Legacy Foresight, Legacy Foresight 2009, Published, 2009.

[1] Philanthropy New Zealand 2007.


Figure 1 - Philanthropic giving in New Zealand 2006


These figures will continue to grow during the next few decades because we are in the midst of the largest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen.


Taking the first step

RedEdge Fundraising Solutions has developed the Bequest Toolkit - a resource that, on a daily basis, will guide your organisation to success. The Bequest Toolkit provides you with a step by step and all of the resources, word crafted templates that you will need to create a proactive bequest program.

The Bequest Toolkit will provide you with the communications devices and strategies to engage with donors and wording to use when you ask a donor to leave a bequest in their Will.

The Bequest Toolkit also has a chapter dedicated to how bequest programs should be reported on and accounted for. If you have ever wondered if your bequest staff or volunteers were being effective, the Toolkit will provide reporting templates and show you how your program can be accountable and tracked.

The Bequest Toolkit is useful to anyone working or volunteering for a not for profit organisation or charity.


Questions that you may be asking about bequests

  1. Has your organisation received a bequest and not had any knowledge that it was coming?
  2. Do you actively try to cultivate known bequestors to your organisation?
  3. Do you employ bequest staff and wonder if they are performing as well as they can be?
  4. Does your organisation have a bequest policy?
  5. Do you have trained staff and volunteers who can proactively and confidently ask your supporters and donors if they have left a bequest to your organisation?
  6. Should your board be involved in your bequest program?
  7. How should we word our letters to bequestors?
  8. Should you still include potential bequestors in other fundraising programs?
  9. Do you struggle to word correspondence to supporters about the issue of bequests and will?


Why you need a bequest program – NOW

Never before has there been more funds available to your cause than now. Who we are talking about is the generations who lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, now in their 80s and 90s, are collectively leaving billions and billions of dollars to not for profit organisations in all countries around the world. We refer to this generation as the “caring” generation. These generations were used to extreme hard work, surviving through economic depressions but they were good savers and homebuyers.

There are courses that you can attend and training available to help your organisation through a bequest planning process and operation. Often this knowledge is lost when the bequest staff leaves your organisation. The Bequest Toolkit is a resource that can be accessed by staff, board and volunteers. The Bequest Toolkit will become vital to your organisation for many years to come.


Should you proactively cultivate bequests?

The short answer is YES! And bequest cultivation is not about ambulance chasing but nor is it offensive. The Bequest Toolkit will provide you with the tools and words in order to raise the issue of Wills and bequesting with your donors and supporters. The Bequest Toolkit will provide you with not only the trigger points on which you should raise the topic, but the Toolkit will equip you with the words to use in relation to this sensitive subject.

If you employ bequest staff, the Bequest Toolkit will provide direction on how staff should proactively engage with supporters. Staff will be provided with key points on when and how to interact with supporters and donors. Staff will also be provided with reporting templates so that they can be more accountable in their role.


What is included in the cost of the Bequest Toolkit?

The Bequest Toolkit has been developed as a step-by-step guide to setting up and running a successful bequest program. The unique feature of the toolkit is the number of templates that are provided. There are more than 100 templates covering everything from thank you letters, invitations, job advertisements and job descriptions, report templates, cultivation letters, function speeches – a template to cover every aspect of a bequest program. It is all done and at hand for you to tailor to your organisation.


The toolkit is provided in a hard copy folder that includes:

  1. 24 chapters
  2. Over 100 templates ready to tailor to your organisation
  3. Useful website references
  4. PDF samples of over 30 real life bequest brochures and materials from other organisations
  5. USB containing word and excel templates for you to easily modify to your organisation
  6. 2 year free electronic updates
  7. Up to five hard copy manuals included