Best Way To Launch a Legacy Giving Program

Legacy giving is a powerful way for charities to secure long-term financial support and ensure the sustainability of their mission. The key to a successful legacy giving program is taking the time to encourage individuals and families to include the charitable organization in their financial and estate plans. Launching a legacy giving program requires careful planning and a commitment to implement it step-by-step in a way that allows the tactical activities to reflect the overall strategic plan.  Here, I will explore with you the best ways for a charity to launch a legacy giving program, focusing on building relationships, educating potential donors, and providing seamless administrative support.

Building Relationships – Establishing quality relationships with potential legacy donors is crucial for the success of a legacy giving program. Here are a few strategic steps that can yield great building blocks for a new program:

Connect on a personal level and engage the potential legacy donor in the life of the organization in meaningful ways. Of all the donors who support your organization, a good starting point is identifying the individuals and families who have shown significant and consistent support for the charity over the years. Reach out to these individuals and look for opportunities to engage in personal conversations. The aim here is to learn about and understand their philanthropic goals and aspirations. Philanthropic relationships are built on trust and rapport. These conversations are the first steps in raising the donor’s level of awareness and knowledge, which will be important as they begin to consider the importance of a legacy gift.

Hold donor appreciation events. While it may be possible and appropriate to organize an event exclusively for those who already have remembered your organization with a legacy gift, it may be just as effective – and much more cost-efficient – to piggyback on existing eventswhere you can include time to recognize and honor those whose legacy commitments have made (and will make) a significant impact on the organization. Invite a select number of potential legacy donors to such gatherings to give them an opportunity to see how the organization expresses gratitude, showcases the impact of the legacy commitments, and spotlights the benefits to the donors who make legacy gifts.

Create a Legacy Society.  If one already exists, then focus a special initiative on rebranding and relaunching the legacy society to raise awareness and attract new members. The key value of a legacy society is that it helps to create a sense of community among legacy donors. Offer special benefits such as exclusive updates, invitations to events, and recognition in publications. This fosters a sense of belonging and encourages others to join.

Educating Potential Legacy Donors – Educating potential donors about legacy giving is essential to focus on creative gift planning opportunities, highlight the benefits to the donor and the organization, and dispel common misconceptions.  Here are a few key strategies to consider:

Customize and personalize your communications. Craft targeted messages that focus on the importance of legacy giving and showcase the impact it can have on the charity’s future. Use various communication channels, such as newsletters, website content, and social media, to educate potential donors about the legacy society.

Provide simple, easy-to-read materials. Focus on opportunities to make legacy gifts in one’s Will or Trust. It’s the number one way that donors create legacy gifts.  Avoid the alphabet soup of gift strategies that have no real meaning to donors and just make it harder to engage in quality conversations with donors.  CGA, CRAT, CRUT, CLT, et al.… When a situation arises when a discussion about a complex gift plan is appropriate, that will be the time to introduce such ideas. But, as a general rule, prepare simple materials – brochures with personal case studies and testimonials – that use real-life examples to demonstrate how their contribution can make a lasting difference.

Engage professional advisors. Collaborating with local estate planning lawyers, financial advisors, and accountants provides opportunities to first raise their awareness about your organization and, in turn, helps them raise the awareness of clients who may have an interest in your organization. Look for opportunities to co-host informative seminars or workshops. These sessions can address legal and financial aspects of legacy giving, dispel any concerns potential donors may have, and feature examples of the impact legacy gifts have for your organization.

Seamless Administrative Support – Streamlining the administrative process and providing ongoing support are crucial for a successful legacy giving program. Consider the following approaches:

Dedicate at least one member of the staff as the Legacy Giving Officer.  Appoint a staff member to serve in a full-time or at least part-time role so that your organization has a specific point of contact for potential legacy donors. This individual should possess strong interpersonal skills and a working knowledge of legacy giving, enough familiarity with the subject-matter to provide potential legacy donors with personalized support and guidance.

Develop documentation that is professional in appearance and transparent in purpose. Your legacy giving documentation – such as testamentary gift agreements and sample provisions for a Will or Trust – should be clear and concise.  Ensure that potential legacy donors have easy access to the information they need to make informed decisions.

Provide appropriate donor recognition as part of a year-round stewardship program.  If permitted by the donors, publicly recognize and express gratitude to your legacy donors for their commitments. Highlight their contributions in annual reports, newsletters, and other communication channels. Recognizing their generosity inspires others to consider legacy giving.

A Final Thought – Launching a successful legacy giving program requires a strategic and thoughtful approach. By building relationships, educating potential donors, and providing seamless administrative support, charities can foster a culture of legacy giving within their donor community. Emphasizing the impact of legacy gifts, showcasing success stories, and offering ongoing support will encourage individuals to leave a legacy, ensuring the organization’s continued growth and impact for years to come

Ted Sudol

(Reference Partner Chat GPT)


About ted sudol

Ted Sudol brings a cross-disciplinary perspective to his work in philanthropy & fundraising. Currently Managing Director at CARTER, a professional firm dedicated to advancing philanthropy worldwide, he has nearly four decades as a fundraiser, lawyer, executive, communicator and consultant in the voluntary, public and private sectors. From local to global, his work with educational, healthcare, arts & cultural, and community organizations ranges from designing new ventures, campaign readiness plans, and complex gift strategies for high net worth families to rebuilding and repositioning projects. His specialty is bringing together diverse parties in innovative collaborations. He devises simple approaches for complex matters to achieve successful outcomes. A graduate of Georgetown and Temple Law School, he currently serves on the board for AFP Shenandoah Valley Chapter, the AFP International Education Advisory Council, and the Virginia FundRaising Institute's Planning Committee. He has been a long-time board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County, Virginia.
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