The Myths of Bequests


Raising money from individuals via bequests, which are gifts made through wills or estate plans, is a valuable and established fundraising strategy for nonprofits. However, like any fundraising approach, it is not immune to myths and misconceptions. Let’s explore some common myths associated with bequest fundraising:

Myth 1: Only Wealthy People Make Gifts in Their Wills

A common misconception is that only wealthy individuals make bequests. In reality, people of various financial backgrounds make bequests to nonprofits. Bequests can come in all sizes, and even modest contributions can make a significant impact when combined with those of other donors.

Myth 2: Talking About Bequests is Morbid

Some individuals and organizations avoid discussing bequests because they perceive it as morbid or inappropriate. In truth, discussing bequests and legacy giving can be a positive and meaningful way to engage donors. It allows them to leave a lasting impact on a cause they care about, ensuring their values live on.

Myth 3: Bequests Are Only for Older Donors

It’s a common myth that bequest donors are only older individuals. While older donors may be more likely to include bequests in their estate plans, younger donors also consider legacy giving, especially as they become more engaged with a nonprofit over time. Encouraging conversations about bequests with donors of all ages is crucial.

Myth 4: Bequest Fundraising Is Overly Complex

There is a misconception that bequest fundraising is overly complex and requires significant legal knowledge. While seeking legal counsel is advisable for both donors and nonprofits, the basics of bequest fundraising can be straightforward. Nonprofits can work with professionals to simplify the process for both donors and themselves.

Myth 5: Bequest Donors Want Recognition

Not all bequest donors seek public recognition or accolades for their contributions. Many bequest donors prefer to make their gifts anonymously. Nonprofits should respect and honor donors’ preferences regarding acknowledgment and privacy.

Myth 6: It’s Only About the Money

Bequest fundraising isn’t just about financial contributions. It’s also about building long-term relationships and involving donors in the organization’s mission. Donors are often deeply invested in the nonprofit’s work and want to leave a legacy of support.

Myth 7: Bequest Donors Will Reduce Current Giving

Some nonprofits worry that encouraging bequests will lead to a decrease in current donations. In practice, legacy giving often complements current giving, as bequest donors may continue to support the organization during their lifetime. Nonprofits should communicate the value of both types of contributions to donors.

Myth 8: It’s Invasive to Ask About Bequests

Nonprofits may feel that asking donors about their estate plans is invasive. However, discussing bequests can be done sensitively and respectfully. Donors who are passionate about the organization’s mission often appreciate the opportunity to consider legacy giving.

Myth 9: Bequests Only Benefit Large Organizations

Gifts in wills benefit nonprofits of all sizes. While larger organizations may receive larger bequests, smaller nonprofits can also secure meaningful legacy gifts. Bequest donors are often motivated by their connection to the mission, rather than the size of the organization.

Myth 10: Bequest Fundraising Is Time-Consuming

While bequest fundraising requires some planning and communication, it doesn’t have to be excessively time-consuming. Nonprofits can integrate discussions about bequests into their existing donor stewardship and engagement efforts, making it an ongoing part of their relationship-building process.

In conclusion, bequest fundraising is a valuable strategy for nonprofits that should not be shrouded in misconceptions. By dispelling these myths and embracing legacy giving, organizations can engage with donors in a meaningful way, secure long-term support, and further their missions.