The Obsession with Free Wills
Do not get me wrong: I am NOT against free Wills (only the ones which do not comply with the regulations!).
But I am not for them for most prospects or all charities.
Who are the best audiences?
One simple way to look at it:
- Silent generation: you will get my legacy rather quickly probably within 5-10 years. In fact you might still be in the charity at which you currently work.
- Baby Boomer. Typically you will get my legacy in less than 20 years.
- Gen X. Typically you will get my legacy in 35-40 years’ time.
- Millennial: Typically you will get my legacy in about 50 years’ time
Excuse me for asking but it is worth waiting 50 years for a gift you are possibly never going to get?
I am 69. I am a better prospect than a Gen X or Millennial (and certainly better than Gen Z!)
What is success?
First question. Let’s pretend:
A major donor promises to give a £40,000 gift. Not now, but in 50 years’ time. How would you react?
How would you measure the success of a promise to give £40,000 in 50 years’ time?
How do you cultivate an enquirer, and steward a pledger, for 50 years?
God knows. You will all have died or be retired and the number of hand overs and communication/engagement trends we cannot even imagine. Well maybe everyone will go to an AI event.
Can you trust so-called evidence?
No! You have no idea of the future wealth (or not) of any prospect.
None of us know how much we will be worth when we die.
None of us know WHEN we will die.
None of us know what property will be worth in the future.
None of us know what on earth will happen to the stock market, economy or inflation in the future.
All this uncertainty adds fuel to Boards/leadership teams argue NOT to invest. Which is so depressing as legacy income rockets and is due to double again in the next 30 years…. whilst donations stagnate or even drop alarmingly.
A legacy programme is a two-way programme of trust and confidence. Prospects trust and confidence that you will use their legacy well and a charity’s trust and confidence in prospects to give their gift.
Will Making trends.
Typical ages to write a Will:
Mid late 60’s
Or that used to be the case.
Having listened to over 2,000 donors since the outbreak of covid (let alone over 30,000 others) there is no doubt in my mind of the following trends:
- We are more likely to make/change our Will five times.
Because silent generation (and baby boomers) are wise and thoughtful.
Because the majority of us have framilies/blended families/broken families.
Because after divorce, partnerships are increasingly common with retireds.
Because everyone is now discovering how easy it is to make or change a Will or add a letter of wishes. (In our research a legacy is placed in the Letter of Wishes NOT the Will for up to 70% of current prospects).
We are increasingly sensitive to family and charitable needs.
- We are more likely to ignore a past Will and just re-write it
Because personal circumstances are incredibly fragile and impermanent.
Families are increasingly fragile
Baby boomers are enjoying retirement and spending on fun.
Donors are increasingly sensitive to cost/income ratios. Upset them at your peril – the age of the “hokey cokey legacy syndrome” has been alive and well for 5+ years.
- Will we use an online Will or a solicitor in the future?
There is no doubt Millennials and Gen X are keener than older generations to use online Will making NOW. But as we plan our estates (usually aged over 55) we need well qualified inheritance planning advice from a financial adviser NOT a solicitor.
Baby boomers and the silent generation go first to their wealth/financial adviser who universally recommend a solicitor to take care of their wishes which need to take into account fragile families and impermanent family relationships.
Legacy Giving Trends
When I took over Smee & Ford 30 years ago (I sold it 18 years ago):
- How many charities benefitted from legacies?
- Now, how many benefit?
If you take your CURRENT prospects – what charitable beneficiary changes are obvious?
- Big charities out
Local charities in
Campaigning charities in (baby boomers were in at the start with Rainbow Warrior and Greenham Common).
Mental health and homeless charities in (baby boomers have a totally different perception of the needs of these causes compared to previous generations)
Arts/heritage: (they are engaged for years as regular visitors and legacies are triggered by engagement and loyalty).
My penultimate message:
- Concentrate on older generations who love you lots.
- Give them freedom of choice to do what they want to do in their Will.
- Give them freedom of choice to write their Will in a way they want (which might include an online Will)
- Prove you are a great investment in the future.
My last message (which does not mean I am dying)
EVERY donor I meet asks:
What will the impact of MY legacy be?
This MUST BE YOUR FOCUS.