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Downes Murray International News

Yes, there is proven value in bequest programmes - and direct mail fundraising

In the last issue of Fundraising Forum, we looked at the merits of bequest promotion programmes. Now, Marisol Gutierrez considers the outcome of investing in these and checks out two recent case studies.
When bequest promotion programmes are implemented attentively, as part of the broader fundraising mix, expect measurable results. Just don’t expect them today – or tomorrow, for that matter.

Like other fundraising activities that seek to build sustainability within an organisation, bequest programmes ordinarily take time to bear fruit. Going the distance – through planned, sustained activity amongst your bequest prospects – does reward non-profit organisations (NPOs) in the longer term.

Sincere stewardship

This was proved again recently when DMI analysed several of its clients’ databases of individual donors to track these organisations’ ‘bequestors’ and to ascertain the lifetime value of these amazing donors.

One of these NPOs is an organisation with national reach (let’s call it XYZ). Theirs is a diverse fundraising programme that includes online giving, direct mail and donor-centric newsletters.

An analysis of XYZ’s bequest income – in a one-year period – revealed that every one of the 29 deceased donors who had included the NPO in their Wills had initially been acquired through the organisation’s direct mail programme.

The collective value of their donations to the organisation during their lifetimes amounted to around R47 000 – but the total lifetime value of their giving, including their bequests to the NPO, cumulatively totalled R7.4m.

Another NPO’s database revealed similar results. The only difference is that this organisation (let’s name this one ABC) has had an international direct mail programme in place for many years, has an active, well-managed bequest promotion programme and also applies comprehensive, tailor-made donor stewardship strategies to its entire individual giving programme.

For this NPO, DMI analysed a segment of 8 000 of their donors who were acquired by direct mail in 2004 and who had given to the organisation until the end of 2015. The results were startling.

In 11 years, those 8 000 generous men and women had donated R12m through direct mail . . . and the organisation had received bequests totalling around R48m from 332 of those donors who had passed away. Even without the benefit of a favourable exchange rate, these results speak for themselves.

These examples prove beyond doubt that good donor stewardship practices are a key factor in not only retaining donors, but in building a reciprocal relationship of trust. Consistent sincere stewardship affirms for potential and confirmed bequestors that the NPOs they support are indeed worthy of inclusion in their Wills.

Additionally, the role of bequestors in enabling the NPOs to continue their work beyond their lifetimes had been frequently and sensitively highlighted in these organisations’ communications and bequest promotion programmes.

Direct mail

This also answers questions around the worth of direct mail in the fundraising mix. While more expensive to implement than online programmes, results have shown – in South Africa and abroad – that direct mail fundraising is key to developing relationships with donors and continues to generate the lion’s share of income for charities that invest in it and stay the course.

Marisol Gutierrez is Communications and Partnerships Manager at Downes Murray International.

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