Why Aren’t We All Doing This?

Why Aren’t We All Doing This?


27 June 2023


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


If you have remembered _____ Land Trust in your will, please let us know so that we can say Thank You during your lifetime.

This is so easy. It makes a good PS: note. It makes a good line below your email signature. It makes a good banner on your webpages. With a video testimonial, it makes a good social media post. It works on the back side of most appeal response cards.

Why aren’t we all doing this?


For nearly every land trust and conservation organization out there, planned giving is the most important fundraising investment in the long run. Every dollar invested today will pay off in BIG ways down the road.

At the very least it deserves its own web page. The idea shouldn’t be buried on a Get Involved page, right next to Volunteer Your Time. Or a Ways of Giving page. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Think about it this way: More people will be looking specifically for planned giving information, on advice from their attorney, than will be inspired to change their will after tripping over the information while looking for something else.

Creating a separate webpage for those people looking is so easy!

Why aren’t we all doing this?


Focus group research suggests that many people can’t relate to the words “Planned Giving” and they feel like Estate Planning is something rich people do – which excludes most people they know.

Perhaps our planned giving menu item should be labeled: “It’s Super Easy to Leave the Conservancy in Your Will! Click Here!”

It’s easy to make these changes to your website.

Why aren’t we all doing this?


August is National Make-A-Will month. Who knew? So a mailing now – in June – to all of your members and donors is likely to be timely. Remind them that its time to make their will or to update the one they already have. Include all the information an attorney might need to name the land trust – specifically your organization’s full legal name and current legal business address. Include a simple form that allows donors to alert the land trust that it has been remembered in their will. (This form should also be easily found and downloaded from your website.)

So you can say thank you during their lifetime.

You’ll be doing an important public service AND planting the idea at the same time. It’s easy!

Why aren’t we all doing this?


When people DO let you know about their end-of-life intentions, you have the opportunity to say thank you in a personal way – and to learn more about THEIR story. Do it! Not surprisingly, their stories are rich and inspiring. They are full of passion about place and land. Get permission to use them (some – not everyone – will allow you to do so) in their words, photos, and even video. If the stories inspire you, they will inspire others as well.

Then you will have more people to thank during their lifetime!

Why aren’t we all doing this?


There is strong correlated evidence that people who have made decisions to leave your land trust in their will, and have taken the step to tell you about it, end up giving more during their lifetime also. (They are also less likely to change their minds later.) Meet with them. Thank them. Include them in a named “Legacy” Circle (or somesuch). It’s not time taken away from annual giving. It’s another opportunity to build your annual giving program from a different direction.

Why aren’t we all doing this?


Building a strong planned giving program is easy. It doesn’t feel like it’s producing right now results, even though it might be. But it’s a long-term investment that might be the most important investment YOU can make in your organization.

And here’s the thing – it doesn’t need to be intimidating. It’s EASY!


Why aren’t we all doing this?


Cheers, and have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Bonnie Moreland courtesy stocksnap.io



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  • Annie Jacobs
    Posted at 09:37h, 28 June

    Hi David, we are putting together a webpage and materials for a new planned giving circle. Currently, we have only a very small number of people we know of who have officially put us in their will. Assuming they are Ok with us sharing their name in a list, is it worthwhile to list even a very small number (2)?

    • Charlotte Hand Greeson
      Posted at 13:00h, 28 June

      We’re in a similar situation, as we just created the name/branding. However, we do have a few folks who we know have named us in their wills/trusts. We decided NOT to make the names known and NOT to create an event this year. I’m hoping we have folks alert me that they have already named us and that I can quickly add to the list…and do the naming and event next year!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 16:10h, 28 June


      I’m not sure I understand your question. I may have been less than clear in the blog points. First of all, I wouldn’t necessarily “count” people who haven’t let you know in writing. Second, I wouldn’t publish the list at all, and certainly not without permission. (I would think you’d like to have at least eight to publish, regardless.) The “named” Legacy Circle would not necessarily be published anywhere. It would just be a list of those whom you invite to a special event each year. They will begin to know each other, but they wouldn’t necessarily be recognizable to others. And third, each story you share would be about one person (with permission!), and preferably in their own words. For most of this work, the number of people included will not be important.
      Hope that helps!


  • Emily Torres Barton
    Posted at 12:45h, 27 June

    Great article. Thank you!

  • Rick Newton
    Posted at 12:22h, 27 June

    Not to change the subject, but something else virtually no nonprofit does is making it easy to change (upgrade) a monthly / quarterly gift. I only came across this recently when I received a mailing from APM / Marketplace asking me to bump up my monthly. I was glad to see they added the option to their website: https://support.marketplace.org/mkp-header (see the “already a sustainer” button)
    So while you are updating your website for legacy giving, you might want to do this as well.

  • Charlotte Hand Greeson
    Posted at 09:05h, 27 June

    I’d love an example of a “simple form that allows donors to alert the land trust…” The only one I have found is way more complicated than I need it to be (and is from a much larger organization where they have individuals whose sole job is legacy giving!).

    Thank you for this blog — I look forward to first thing, Tuesday!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 10:01h, 27 June

      Charlotte – Thank you so much for writing. The Land Conservancy of New Jersey used a matching gift campaign to encourage people to notify the organization of their giving plans. TLC-NJ’s campaign description and materials can be found at the bottom of my Resources page on this website. The document is at the very bottom, and the notification form is the very last page of the document. I like it a lot, and part of the reason I like it is how simple it is.

      I’m so glad you asked the question – thank you!


  • Jill Boullion
    Posted at 08:51h, 27 June

    This approach absolutely works! We are hearing from donors every few months that BLC has been added to their estate plans in one way or another. We not only put your suggested language on our membership renewal letters, we add it to our printed newsletter (along with stories of those that have made the decision to join our Legacy Circle), social media, and our e-newsletter. We also sent a mailer out this spring to donors that we could identify as 65 or older. All of this will impact the long-term sustainability of our mission!

  • Deanna Frautschi
    Posted at 07:02h, 27 June

    This is a great thought. Also to include tax ID Sally mentioned in a comment. I had to contact my non-profits to get this info for my own will.

  • Sally Cross
    Posted at 06:45h, 27 June

    Also always include your tax id # – a good attorney will want it (and your donor doesn’t want to pay them to look it up) and it’s required on beneficiary designation forms.

    • David Allen
      Posted at 10:02h, 27 June

      Absolutely agree, and I regret omitting it from the post originally.

      Thank you for the reminder!