The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Family comes first.

with 4 comments

I’ve always wondered why so many gift planners are reluctant or downright refuse to include information in their marketing materials about residual or contingent bequests.  Their reasoning usually goes that a specific or percentage bequest is essentially guaranteed (insofar as bequests are guaranteed) while residual and contingent bequests may result in zero to the nonprofit because there may be nothing leftover or the stated beneficiary or primary provisions of the will may be met.  I always thought the more choices for the donor, the better.  And, the revenue potential with a contingent or residual bequest could be so much larger than a specific or percentage bequest.

Now comes some interesting research reported by Third Sector in the UK (my thanks to Martin Goetzinger of Blackbaud for forwarding it to me).  According to the survey, nearly nine out of ten people would be “proud and pleased” to see their parents leave money to charity in their wills after they have looked after their family.

The survey by legacy consortium Remember a Charity found that 89 per cent of those polled would support the move. Only 7 per cent of the public would regard such a decision as “eccentric”.  Stephen George, chair of Remember a Charity and head of legacies at the NSPCC, said the research “flips the issue of charity-giving in wills on its head. Despite what many parents think, it seems many of us are very happy to see a proportion of our parent’s estates go to charity. “This perception gap may be why only 7 per cent of the UK’s population have included charitable gifts in their wills.” 

And may explain why the percentage of Americans leaving a bequest to charity isn’t higher. It’s interesting to read this in light of recent research by The Stelter Company and Legacy Leaders both of which indicate that childless individuals are much more likely to make bequests.  Maybe that’s because we’ve failed to educate donors with children about ways to take care of their family and leave a legacy.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

June 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm

4 Responses

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  1. And thus the rub…how do we go about educating the children, especially when they already feel we have received a great deal of their inheritance through the entry and maintenance fees we must charge? Part of the solution is to talk more about benevolent care, but SeniorCare Development is tough by its nature.

    Bob Price

    June 2, 2009 at 8:14 am

  2. Phyllis,
    You raise an important point about bequest marketing: there’s little upside to positioning bequests as large, specific, and exclusive in your marketing campaigns–and there’s a lot to gain by highlighting the flexibility and revocability of this type of gift. Stelter’s 2008 national scientific survey confirms that the desire to leave money to family rather than charity is a major objection to bequest giving. But nonprofits can overcome this barrier by directly addressing their supporters’ concerns and explaining how putting family first and charitable giving are not mutually exclusive. Here is a link to an article on our Web site, which details three research-based messaging strategies to motivate parents and grandparents to give: .

    Larry Stelter, President & CEO
    The Stelter Company

    Larry Stelter

    June 2, 2009 at 10:52 am

  3. Here is the link:

    Larry Stelter

    June 2, 2009 at 10:58 am

  4. Sometimes it’s possible to address family inheritance vs charitable giving with insurance trusts using annual gifting to pay premiums for insurance that may better benefit the family heirs than the item gifted to charity. I find it harder to discuss “contingent beneficiary”. Conrad Teitell calls it the “god forbid clause”…”god forbid so-and-so predeceases me”, etc. but it’s hard to convey this in a conversation. If you have any suggestions Phyllis, I’d love to hear them.

    Lorri Greif

    June 2, 2009 at 3:42 pm

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