Bequests or gift-in-wills (GIW) are a key source of fundraising dollars for many charities. Even those who place little focus on this area are often surprised and significantly boosted by the occasional bequest received. And yet, charities large and small are failing to use their own websites to empower and inspire supporters to take action.
While a number of more innovative charities are benefiting greatly from online assisted gift-in-will offerings, a high proportion of charities are struggling to convey the basics of their offering online – even amongst large and seemingly well funded charities.
Through their website, charities can communicate the potential impact along with helpful information and tools to support the bequest-making process. The cost to get started can be nominal and can be as simple as drafting some copy and having it added to a charity’s website.
And for those charities that have crossed that initial bridge – how well do they articulate the message? How helpful is the information provided? Are online will-writing platforms provided as a way to streamline the will-writing and bequest making process?
Recent research conducted by Willed surveyed 30 randomly selected charities to study how they are presenting GIW information online. The data below are taken from Australian charity websites (10 large, 10 medium and 10 small per the designations used by Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission designations.
Only 26% of charities surveyed feature a designated GIW section on their website – 60% of large charities compared with only 10% for both medium and small charities.
Of charities promoting GIW on their websites, 75% of charities had a direct link to the GIW page on their homepage. The remainder either had their GIW page two clicks away from the home page or could not be navigated to from the homepage (and required a search to find the GIW page).
Where GIW is featured, 75% of charities explain the different types of gifts (residual or pecuniary) with 25% failing to do this.
With only one exception, charities that explain the different types of gifts also provide wording to assist will-writers.
Surprisingly, 20% of charities that feature bequest programs on their websites do not use the opportunity to provide any message regarding the importance of their work or cause.
A case study is presented in only 37.5% of GIW website communications. Larger charities with GIW offerings did not provide case studies any more than the medium and small charities with GIW offerings on their websites.
An online will provider was included on 37.5% of the charities promoting GIW on their site.
While relationship management is often seen as integral to GIW fundraising, most of the websites surveyed provide only generic contact information.
A GIW page (like a website landing page) is a great opportunity to provide a downloadable brochure promoting a particular cause. While charities may be prepared to design, print and distribute hard-copy collateral, only 3 of the 8 charities with GIW pages provide a downloadable document.
With a decline in general donor giving (those that can give between $1-$1,000), fundraising expert Catherine Brooks of Wendy Brooks & Partners says having a GIW program is crucial for all charities and not-for-profits. “Whilst many charities see a GIW program as complex and burdensome, the first important step – including information on your website – ensures that anyone looking on your website for how to leave a gift in their will to your organisation can readily find that information.”
With the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth now happening, it is crucial that organisations make it clear to donors who want to leave a gift in their will that the organisation is ready, willing and able to accept a GIW. Otherwise, potential donors will go to the next organisation’s website and you may have missed out on an important influx of untied funds.
Wendy Brooks has keenly observed the development of online will writing platforms and their role in GIW fundraising. She says: “we now recommend that our clients consider including an online will-writing platform on their GIW landing page, as this just further reduces barriers for people to get their will done. Some online platforms such as Willed.com.au, prompts people to consider leaving a gift in their will at possibly the most crucial moment. This is particularly attractive for our middle-aged and younger donors juggling the many facets of family life but wanting to get their estate planning in order.”
In conclusion, charities can vastly improve the way they story-tell and assist in the GIW space starting with their very own websites. The cost to significantly improve the information provided can be minimal and the ability to share resources such as online will-writing platforms makes a charity’s GIW page integral to modern fundraising.
Aaron Zelman is joint-CEO of Willed. To find out more about Willed for charities, visit www.willed.com.au/charities