Since 2019, FreeWill has participated in National Make-A-Will Month, a lesser-known holiday that takes place throughout August.
When first deciding to participate in Make-A-Will Month, we recognized an opportunity to further our mission by raising awareness about the importance of estate planning and providing nonprofit supporters with the motivation and resources to create their wills and the choice to leave part of their estates to charity.
Year after year, we have been astounded by the results. Each year, Make-A-Will Month continues to be one of our greatest months at FreeWill in terms of overall estate plans created, and the number of dollars users commit to charity.
Last August was our third year of running Make-A-Will Month campaigns in coordination with our partners. We helped nonprofits raise $604 million in bequest commitments across FreeWill, and our partner sites, and nearly 43,000 Americans made their wills.
How can one month yield such tremendous results? Well, the answer is urgency.
Urgency drives action in estate planning & legacy giving
Procrastination remains the top reason people don’t make or update their wills. In a survey of 2,500 Americans by Caring.com, 42% said that they “just hadn’t gotten around to it yet” when asked why they don’t have a will or trust. Yet, over 60% said having an estate plan was important, an increase from previous years that some attribute to higher inflation rates.
So the problem isn’t that people don’t care about having an estate plan — they just need the incentive to act on what can feel like a non-urgent matter.
When you emphasize urgency in estate planning, people will get their documents completed and be extremely charitable in the process.
So what happens when we go big in these moments? Let’s look at how our partners did for Make-A-Will Month last year.
Make-A-Will Month 2022: How did we do?
2022 was our most successful Make-A-Will Month in FreeWill history.
63% of our FreeWill partners participated in a Make-A-Will Month campaign in 2022, during which they sent personalized outreach to engage their supporters. This resulted in over 11,000 bequests committed to charity during one single month.
Overall, we saw a 30% increase in total bequest commitments created in August from last year’s Make-A-Will Month and over $160 million more dollars committed to charity.
Over $115M in bequest commitments was raised through our partners’ custom FreeWill-drafted outreach.
Nearly $77M committed through our public will-making site was dedicated to our partners, and an overwhelming majority ($73M) was committed to our Featureship partners.
Over $112M in bequest commitments was committed via our public will-making site to organizations yet to be partnered with us.
We are thrilled at the number of new will-makers, their propensity to give, and the number of nonprofit organizations who benefitted from Make-A-Will Month. But one major takeaway from the past three years of participating in this campaign is that the results get bigger and better every year.
And still, there is so much opportunity for growth. Few Americans have an up-to-date estate plan – only 34% said they had one in 2023. Nonprofits are fit to help fill this gap (while benefiting from the estimated $30 to $70 trillion expected to be passed down through the Great Wealth Transfer).
How to seize the opportunity for planned gifts now
The success of Make-A-Will Month is not a random occurrence. It can be attributed to a few essential factors that nonprofits can consider when thinking about planned giving.
Fundraisers must inspire supporters to create their estate plans to successfully capture the gifts that will secure their organization’s future.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Go big during important moments.
To maximize your organization's fundraising potential, it's crucial to incorporate legacy giving campaigns during Make-A-Will Month and other big moments related to your mission, such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Earth Day. Even if your main focus is raising cash gifts during those events, you can still introduce your supporters to legacy giving.
One approach to encourage legacy giving is offering donors a thank-you gift as an easy way to make their estate plans. For example, if a supporter makes a cash donation on Earth Day, you can follow up with a thank-you email and provide them with a free estate planning tool without necessarily mentioning legacy giving. This strategy is closely linked to the following point.
2. Make estate planning easy & accessible for all your supporters.
Email is a highly effective tool for soliciting legacy gifts. Our data shows that sending emails to more people increases giving. However, just sending emails isn’t enough.
Deliberate framing of your planned giving messages is essential to ensure that estate planning is presented in a way that is clear and accessible to your supporters.
Our partners have seen success with various approaches when promoting Make-A-Will Month. Here are a few examples:
Frame the FreeWill estate planning tools as a valuable resource to help their community create their estate plans
Include a soft focus on legacy giving
Make legacy giving the sole focus of their content
And our newest insight from 2022 – sharing an internal email offering free estate planning for staff drove an extremely high use rate (78%)
Fundraising teams can’t have one-on-one conversations with every donor about legacy giving. They have limited bandwidth and need to focus on their biggest prospects. Unfortunately, too many should-be legacy gifts fall through the cracks.
But by reaching out to all of your supporters via email during your biggest moments of the year and emphasizing ease around estate planning, you can capture more legacy gifts in less time and sustain your organization's legacy for years to come.
To learn more about how to get the most out of Make-A-Will Month this year, request a consultation with our team.