The Artful Persuasion for Bequests

For most donors, making a bequest to charity is the most meaningful gift they will ever make. Why do some people choose to make these gifts and others do not? More importantly, how can you effectively persuade them to leave a bequest?

    Peggy Killeen, principal director of development, faculty of fine arts at Concordia University in Montreal, and Fraser Green, principal and chief strategist at Good Works in Ottawa, offered several tips in their session “Artful Persuasion” during an AFP Toronto Congress:

  • Make bequests your focus. Some 95 percent of the money is here for everyone. Wills are something most people can do. They are easy to explain and they are simple and flexible.
  • This is no place for a sales mind-set. Don’t push. This is a different type of ask, and the bequest decision comes from a different part of the brain. Probe prospects with such questions as “How do you feel?” or “Have you ever …?” or even use role play. Ask them to share their current thinking.
  • Never tell donors to make a will. Not only is the comment unnecessary, but they will feel you are lecturing them. And who are you, anyway, telling them what to do?
  • Speak to shared beliefs.
  • Go back to the beginning: Talking about your organization’s founding answers why, and gets donors thinking over a long time frame — both back and forward.
  • Use an everyday bequest donor to say, “You don’t have to be rich.”
  • Use social proof — other donors who look and sound like the prospect.
  • Never underestimate the power of stewardship. Acknowledge quickly, thank sincerely, show real results and ask for opinions. Develop trust. It’s everything.