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Charitable bequests are increasing during COVID - What your nonprofit can do to see that too

Updated: May 29

FreeWill is seeing a 6x increase in bequests in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Google Analytics reports searches involving "estate planning" and "how to make a will" is 50x higher than it's ever been since Google started keeping track. Nonprofits around the nation are reporting they are seeing dramatic increases in bequest giving over the last 2 months. Even better news - once a donor makes a legacy gift, data shows they will give an increase of 75% more in following years!


So how does a nonprofit leverage this change in donor behavior right now?


Practical applications first:

1) Provide sample bequest language and the tax ID number on your website.

2) Provide a form that records the donor's intentions (oftentimes referred to a legacy letter of intent) on your website.

3) Provide contact information where donors can return the form or ask more questions on your website.

4) Ensure you have counting versus accounting procedures in place for deferred gifts.

5) Have gift acceptance policies in place.

6) Have a stewardship plan in place for donors who give legacy gifts to your organization.


The art of communicating and soliciting bequests:

1) Firstly, use this time to connect with your donors over email, video, and by phone. Now is the time to be deepening your relationships with your donors. When this passes (and it will), donors will remember who reached out and made a connection.

2) Keep in mind, donors who can help right now are looking for you to tell them how they can.

3) If you're doing a broad solicitation, offer a legacy gift option as one of three ways to give to your organization (Triple Option Strategy from FreeWill).

4) Don't lead with death, rather lead with a sense of community: "join the many supporters like you are giving through their legacy."

5) Don't stop your planned giving marketing if this is something you already do!

6) Consider surveying your donors and including a question about legacy giving (also highly advisable to have a question about donor-advised funds). Ensure you have a follow-up plan for any respondents.

7) If you have a donor where the timing is right for an ask, consider making a blended ask.


Many donors are not able or comfortable giving in the same way they did in 2019. Establishing and/or marketing a basic bequest program allows your donors to help your organization in the way they can right now. They are your heroes, let them shine!



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