What Nonprofits Should Know About Bequests

Sections of this topic

    Unlike all of the other planned giving mechanisms, a bequest program doesn’t require major technical expertise and specific financial instruments. It’s easy, it’s fast, it can pay off substantially, and the dollars from bequests comprise close to 90% of all planned gifts.

    Many non-profit organizations refuse to get into planned giving because of the perception that it’s all about technical wording and/or complicated financial instruments. That’s a misperception.

    Most planned gifts mechanisms do require some degree of technical expertise, possible registration/approval by States, and a legal contract between the donor and the non-profit organization, BUT NOT BEQUESTS!!

    Bequests are simple, and should be a standard item in every organization’s development toolbox. Simply worded, a bequest is a gift left to you in someone’s will.

    A “donor” can leave you a specific dollar figure, a percentage of their estate, a percentage of what’s left over in their estate after other gifts/provisions are executed, a specific gift depending if anything is left in their estates after other gifts/provisions are executed, or the entire estate. The actual wording however, is a topic for discussion between the prospective donor and their attorney.

    Your job is to get those who might name you in their wills to want to do that.

    What do you have to do?
    1. Reach out to folks and get them involved with you and what you do.
    Involvement means working on committees, being asked for advice, helping to provide service
    2. Be creative, think of how to get people so excited about being part of who you are and what you do that they’d want to help continue that work, even after they’re gone.
    3. Let them know how easy it is to leave you a bequest.
    4. Let them know of the recognition they’ll get — the appreciation they’ll be shown — while they’re still here.
    5. Create a named “society” just to honor those who name you in their wills.

    Recent figures show over $16 billion in bequests given to non-profit organizations in just one year. Do you want some of that !?

    Consider, those who (first) name you in their wills are more likely to make major and planned gifts to you while they’re still with us. And, many Board Members find it easier to ask someone to name an organization in their will than they do to ask someone to write a check.

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