Jolene Miklas, Associate Creative Director  ●  1/26/2021

Make Your Legacy Donors’ Stories Part of Your Planned Giving Campaign

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Too often, planned giving campaigns seem cold or over-complicated. Loaded with big words, legalese, and vague promises about taxes, they can come across as transactional or sterile.

But asking for support through a donor’s will, trust, or other bequest can be simple and life affirming. It’s a way to offer your donor the joy of being a lasting part of your mission.


A great way to do this is by showcasing your legacy donors’ stories.

You already know that storytelling triggers the emotional center of our brain. A good story can make a potential donor feel something, and move them to take action. Chances are, your legacy donors have stories to share that will resonate with their peers.

Recently, one of my clients arranged a virtual meeting so I could interview two of their legacy donors. After we got to know each other, I only had to ask the couple a few questions to get to the heart of their story:

  • What brought you to this charity?
  • What moved you to set up a planned gift?
  • How does your decision make you feel?

In simple terms, they offered a heartfelt story about how the charity changed their lives. They talked about wanting to make sure others have access to the same services, and imagined new advancements that might one day be possible with donor support.

Their story was one of compassion and hope. In a world that seems divided in many ways, they articulated how giving is a way to connect with others and live their values.

“We thought, what side do we want to be on? The side of light and helping people, or not? It’s wonderful to put a real, material contribution behind that,” they said.

It wasn’t a statement I’d ever seen on a planned giving brochure — but was one I knew would resonate with their fellow donors.

Your legacy donors may feel honored to share their stories, too. Best of all, they’re likely to demonstrate a major benefit of planned giving: the good feelings it brings.

A few more points to remember:

  • Not all legacy donors are elderly, wealthy people. In fact, the average age a donor writes their first will is 44. Almost all wills are written before the person is 65.
  • Think outside the stock photo. Be as authentic as you can, while respecting any requests for privacy. Make sure your marketing doesn’t look like an ad for prescription drugs!
  • Talking about planned giving is not talking about death. Investing in the future is a life-affirming act.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of social proof. Show your donors that they’ll be in good company when they make a planned gift.
  • Be sure to thank your donors for sharing their story. Their words are a gift!

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