Results in from bequest counting poll!

Thank you to the 30 or so people who took our informal poll on the counting of bequests!!

Now, you might say that 30 people is not much of a poll statistically.  True.  But, the results are useful in that they reflect the ranges of practices out there and options to consider.  And, I believe the results are actually a nice representation of the whole picture.

Here are the results, with my comments to follow each slide:

blog question 1

I am actually surprised at this result. I just assumed everyone, or almost everyone, includes realized  bequests in their annual fundraising totals.  Maybe the question was confusing as I should have asked “whether your org includes realized bequests in  your annual fundraising totals?”

Blog question 2

I would like to see this at 100% YES but at least this tells us that not every organization will use the so-called “irrevocable bequest” to pad their campaign numbers.  Bottom line: campaigns need the flexibility to include irrevocable bequest intents as long as reasonable age guidelines are used (i.e. over age 65 or 70 or older!) and this is not overly relied upon (will land your org into not welcomed litigation).

Blog question 3

OK, nobody went over 50% of their campaign with irrevocable bequests – not surprising.  But, most being less than 5% of their campaigns shows that irrevocable bequests are not overly popular.

Blog question 4

Who counts “revocable” bequests intents in their campaigns?!  Well, some do but it is certainly not the norm.  I am surprised that so many of the voters said they did – 8 out of 25 voters on this particular question.  That is 8 more than I expected but I am guessing that institutions are using their campaigns as springboards for their planned giving programs. In that case, I think it is a great idea to give some recognition in your campaigns for these revocable “gifts”.

Blog question 5

I had assumed that most charitable bequests are overwhelmingly unrestricted.  Either I am wrong or the respondents are not so representative of experiences I’ve seen.

Blog question 6

Lastly, I like the answers to this question – meaning the policies run the gamut.  And, that is fine because this is purely a policy question!  Your organization’s choice and even when your board decides to put unrestricted bequests into endowment, the funds are not permanently restricted and can be realized by board at any time!

Thank you to all who participated in this informal poll!  Please share this post with others – we are on a membership drive to push our subscribers over a 1,000 and reach 100,000 visitors to the blog.


  1. A couple quick notes that I hope are useful to others…

    Q1: Our institution does of course count realized bequests in our annual fundraising totals. But I would have answered “No” because that was not how the question was worded. Just a clarification 🙂

    Q2: While our institution would count an irrevocable pledge in our capital campaign numbers if the donor was over 70.5 yrs of age, we don’t ask for irr bequests unless it is for a naming gift. Part of the attractiveness to many donors of the testamentary gift like this is the flexibility to make a change if something catastrophic occurs in the future.

    Q4: We do count revocable bequests in our campaign numbers as a pledge (but not in our annual fundraising totals because it is only a pledge), if the donor is over 70.5 years of age and if we have sufficient documentation (i.e., we know how much, the source, a copy of the will or pertinent section of the will or a letter from the donor specifically describing, etc). Sometimes we use present value but more often, depending on type of gift and age of the donor, the amount counted as a pledge is discounted based on the situation for that specific donor. And a guideline that I personally use is that I don’t generally look to “count” a rev bequest even if it meets these other conditions, unless the amount is at least $100k. If it’s less, I would look to simply document it so that we can accomplish appropriate stewardship with the donor, and simply count the gift in both the campaign (if there is one running at that time) and our annual fundraising numbers when it is actually realized.

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