For most of us in the nonprofit arena, we recognize the power our volunteer leaders can lend to our organizations. They help us govern, fund raise, friend raise and are often one of our most important constituent bases. And, while we all know how critically connected a strong board can be to fundraising results and how important peer to peer solicitation is in major gifts fundraising, consider how equally powerful it may be when applied to planned gifts.
At The Nature Conservancy we have developed and shared across our organization the Trustee Legacy Ambassador program. The concept is relatively simple: use peer-to-peer promotion and solicitation, to leverage volunteers’ relationships, influence and leadership to expand the reach of our Gift Planning program.
The implementation of the Ambassador concept is equally simple - ask one board member to serve as Ambassador. For the Conservancy this meant working with fundraisers in state programs to share the concept, achieve buy-in, then provide input as they sought out a Trustee on their respective board to serve as Ambassador and promote gift planning to fellow trustees and Conservancy members. Withthe support and resources provided by staff, each Ambassador undertook efforts to help keep gift planning a top-of- mind priority for their program and to inspire others, especially fellow board members, to consider their own legacy gift.
In the five years since the program’s inception, the percentage of trustees who have included The Nature Conservancy in their estate plans has grown from 10.7% to 32%.
The Ambassador model can work with any size organization provided due diligence is completed to assess the readiness for the program. Important questions to consider include:
- What is the general understanding of legacy giving?
- Is everyone in the organization supportive of such a program?
- What is the size of your staff?
- What is the scope of your gift planning program?
Lastly, how you would like to engage your Ambassador? At The Nature Conservancy, we have asked our Ambassador to do a variety of activities, suited to their individual interests and comfort level. Possible activities include:
- Thanking current legacy donors
- Soliciting fellow board members
- Hosting events to promote legacy giving
- Recruiting gift planning donors to give testimonials
- Sending pertinent gift planning news/tips/information
- Presenting at board meetings
We have had great success implementing the Trustee Legacy Ambassador concept and hope it offers a fresh way to think about engaging those at the top of the organization in Legacy giving.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via the form below.
Contact the Authors: Nancy Baker & Abby Favro, The Nature Conservancy
Abby Favro has worked exclusively in the non-profit arena since graduating from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Museum Studies in 2003. While in Phoenix she worked for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Desert Botanical Garden.
Nancy A. Baker, J.D. entered the not-for-profit world in 2000, after more than 20 years as a practicing estate and trust attorney in California. Since then she has worked with countless donors interested in making a difference through various types of legacy gifts.
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