Annual legacy society luncheons: more valuable than you might realize!

Check out this short blog post from my friend Phyllis Freedman at SmartGiving:

It reminds me of the great value of legacy society luncheons (or teas or dinners or whatever works for your crowd) for typical planned giving programs.  Not only is the event itself an opportunity to reconnect with planned giving donors (and typically results in new discussions and even new planned gifts), but the PR for the event and invitations themselves are great opportunities for marketing your program.

Here are some of the great value I have witnessed in my career from these events:

  1. The “save the date” is a light touch point, itself, for your legacy society donors (you don’t want to forget these folks – see this post for a frightening discussion of the percentage of charitable bequests that don’t come to fruition ).
  2. A classy invitation – with a nice description of the legacy society and some named inductees – can be a great marketing outreach piece for targeted, long-time givers and board members (whether they attend or not!).  Don’t just invite your society members – pick out a target group of potential prospects, too!
  3. The “encourage to attend” phone call to legacy society members and planned giving prospects is a nice way to initiate personal contact.
  4. Attendees of the event get an 1-2 hr infomercial/rah-rah session on your institution and typically inspires new commitments (or at least informing you of existing ones – I have seen some huge gifts revealed at these events).
  5. Post-event marketing, pictures and articles for newsletters, follow-up letters, etc.., are all very useful in keeping the planned giving message in front of your planned giving donors and prospects.

There is probably a lot more that I am missing.  If you add-up all of the touches surrounding an annual legacy society event, you might have a good amount of your light planned giving marketing taken care of, as well as some good prospecting, too.


  1. Very timely as we are sending out the printed invitations for our May tea, having sent a save the date as part of a semiannual mailing in January. While we invite prospects and board members, the cost of the event is such that we have to limit these–and room barely large enough for the response, though we always have no-shows. Cost worth it for all the reasons you mention, though I expect donor attendees would be shocked if they knew just how much it is per head (blame our NYC location).

    One other benefit: we invite program staff to host tables and it has been a great morale booster for many of them, especially in time of changing administration and many retirements and other personnel changes–it certainly creates good will that allows us to tap these folks for cultivation and stewardship efforts, notably tours.

    Re. actual percentage of bequest intentions that are realized, we are doing a survey of the last ten years’ worth of legacy society decedents and finding that close to 90% were good to their word and made a bequest to us. Note that a significant percentage of the decedents had life income gifts with us, so actual bequest made percentage may be lower. In any case, stewardship efforts important and worth the staff time and out of pocket expense!

  2. i encourage those attending to bring a guest – someone who also likes the organization’s mission and may feel inclined to do more as a result of the good feelings from the reception. It’s good to prospects in a roomful of committed donors!

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