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From Intentions to Action: Unlocking the Path to Legacy Giving Conversion

At the upcoming Bridge to Integrated Fundraising & Marketing Conference, I’ll present new research in legacy giving and the real-world impact on our planned giving marketing programs in my session “Legacy Giving – A Slow-Moving Field Speeds Up: New Research on Donor Decision-Making.”

For two decades, bequest revenue has been flat or declining. According to the most recent Giving USA report, bequest revenue remains about 9% of contributed dollars, an estimated $45.60 billion in 2022. This is a decline of 5.3 percent when adjusted for inflation). And only about 7% of supporters include a gift in their will.

In March 2023, UK data research firm Fastmap in collaboration with Mal Warwick Donordigital, conducted market research, surveying 10,000 charity supporters aged 50 and above across the United States. This process yielded an impressive 3,000 hours' worth of data. Our goal was to find actionable insights that would allow us to convert more planned giving prospects to legacy donors.

The result is our new Legacy Competition Index and Annual Charity Benchmarking Report. This research shows that broadly, consideration rates for bequests are – with important variations between charities and sectors – 40%. FORTY PERCENT. And rejection of charitable bequests is only 20%. Another 40% haven’t considered or thought about it yet.

This is real-time information: in March 2023, 40% of charity supporters over 50 had included, intended to include, or were considering a legacy gift. Yet if the trend continues, 33% won’t follow through.

Loren Nordgren at Kellogg School of Management writes about the gap between intention and action in many different contexts, looking at the interaction of “fuel” and “friction” as it relates to conversion. It’s easy to look at the fuel: the ways we can motivate people to buy a product or support a charity. But friction is as or more important than fuel.

Our research project asks, at an individual charity level, why aren’t we closing the deal? What is holding people back from acting? Where are our donors falling off of the "intention to action" continuum? We don’t look at just one or two barriers and motivations. It’s too simplistic to chalk up lack of donor action to single factors like “aversion to thinking about death” or to assume that offering the right online will writing platform will provide motivation to act.

We look at 64 barriers and motivations across multiple categories (personal, family, process, charity) for individual charities and their primary ten competitors.

To learn more about what these barriers and motivations are and how they interact, come to my presentation “Legacy Giving – A Slow-Moving Field Speeds Up: New Research on Donor Decision-Making” at the 18th Annual Bridge to Integrated Fundraising & Marketing Conference.

Tracy Malloy-Curtis, Vice President of Legacy Giving, Mal Warwick Donordigital
Tracy Malloy-Curtis is Vice President of Legacy Giving at Mal Warwick Donordigital, where she creates multichannel legacy marketing strategies and campaigns for mission-driven organizations across the country. With 25 years of experience in planned and major gifts, Tracy has focused primarily on the social justice sector, managing planned giving programs for ACLU, IRC, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and others. In 2018, she launched the legacy marketing division at MWD. A former litigator, Tracy has a J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law.