Gifts in wills: your first four steps to creating a gifts in wills programme
This article will give you a plan on how to introduce or develop your gift in wills programme within your parish.
Gifts in wills often are an individual’s largest donation to a charity. If your parish received £3,000, £13,000 or £130,000 what could it mean for your parish? Could it be the financial backing you needed to fund a youth worker to push your youth projects forward or could it help fund the development phase of a capital project that you have always wanted to undertake? Leaving a gift in a will is a positive way for a person to leave a legacy and create a better future for their parish.
Gifts in will fundraising can account for on average between 20-30% of a charity’s voluntary income. Within the Diocese of London, gifts in will fundraising is showing a static level across the Diocese of approximately 2% voluntary income. Could you imagine if we could turn 2% into 30%? Each year parishes fundraise £100 million within the Diocese. What could £18 million extra voluntary income fund each year? We cannot expect this to happen overnight however we must start the journey now to allow us to seize this opportunity.
This article looks at the whys and hows of taking your first four steps in developing your gift in wills strategy as part of your fundraising strategy.
Step 1. Put it on the PCC agenda
The first step should always be adding it to the PCC agenda to bring to the attention of everyone for discussion and then in a subsequent meeting to add it in to your fundraising section of the meeting. Gift in wills fundraising, similar to other forms of fundraising, needs the support of everyone on the PCC and the clergy to ensure that everyone understands that this kind of fundraising is something that goes on in the background through the year with a number of opportunities each year to encourage your congregation to review or create their will.
Ask your PCC secretary, with the blessing of your vicar, ask for time at the next meeting. It is important to review the policy every year and if possible elect a sponsor within the committee to take lead with the vicar.
Step 2. Create a gift in will policy
A gifts in will policy is an important document that all parishes should have. The policy allows the PCC to prepare and discuss how they would wish to see a potential gift left in a will to be used. It can also help to reassure those interested that the PCC has a policy in place and that the PCC can refer to it when required.
It is also an opportunity for the PCC to discuss how best to celebrate gifts as an act of sacrificial and generous Christian stewardship. It is key to cover the following topics.
- The financial opportunity legacies can offer for ministry and mission
- Giving is a fundamental part of our Christian ethos
- It is a simple part of good stewardship to write and review your will
- Every parish should have a gift in wills policy.
Below is an example of a gift in will policy, which your parish could amend, adopt or use as inspiration for your own policy document.
At St Mark’s, we welcome all gifts in wills, however large or small, and we promise to use your gift to make a difference in our parish. Our PCC gift in wills policy is to use gifts to help fund significant development projects, whether buildings, equipment or staff.
Since needs change over the years, we encourage you to leave a gift in your will for the general purposes of the parish rather than for a restricted purpose. We will bear in mind your known areas of interest in the church (e.g. music, buildings, children and youth, overseas mission or aid) and the church’s priorities at the time.
You can be confident that your gift will be used to make a real difference to our future mission and ministry. We will acknowledge gifts in the most appropriate way. Equally, we can make sure that gifts remain anonymous if the donor prefers.
If you would like to talk to someone in confidence about the sorts of purposes your gift might fund, and how (if) you would like your gift to be acknowledged, contact [name], on/at [contact information].
If you would like to make a gift to our church in memoriam, please come and discuss this with us too. It can be a wonderful and appropriate way to remember a loved one.
Step 3. Communicate to your congregation
It is important to share your vision with your congregation and the importance of making a will. As mentioned in the gift in wills policy, giving is a fundamental part of our Christian ethos and it is part of good stewardship to write and review your will.
As with all forms of fundraising, it is important to communicate the message on different mediums at different times as different members of your congregation will be receptive at different times. Here are a few examples of ways to communicate with your parish
- Use a sermon as an opportunity to speak about gifts in wills and Christian stewardship. Take a look at our website for a list of helpful notes that could be used to prepare a sermon about the importance of a gifts in wills within the context of Christian discipleship.
- Write an article twice a year in the parish newsletter on the importance of gift in wills. Perhaps one of the articles can focus on a small and large legacy left to yourselves and the other looking at the importance of leaving a gift in will. If your parish hasn’t had a legacy in recent history, then perhaps get in contact with a neighbouring parish for a story from them. For a template on what the article could look at, please take a look at our fundraising toolkit.
- Gifts in wills fundraising will be in the background for most of the year and it is important to have what we like to call “Behind the Clock” literature which is there for when an individual wants to learn more. This literature can be a gift in will bookmark or a small booklet. To receive a free Parish toolkit, please send your postal address to Eleanor Gill, who works at the National Stewardship team for the Church of England. You can also order Church of England branded legacy leaflets.
- 1-1 chat with the vicar. We understand that the topic may have a tough one to initiate but it is a vital conversation that your vicar should feel comfortable having with members of their congregation. At the very least, it is important that each person has considered writing a will in the first instance.
- If you include a p.s. in an email, the click-through rate on that p.s. call to action is usually high. For example: “P.S. This year, we are saving funds by not producing a gifts in wills brochure however if you would like more information on how a gift in your will could make a big difference to our parish, please take a look at….”
- Excited? Need more ideas or need help on how to do the above? Why not sign up and attend one of our Legacy seminars for inspiration. Please visit www.london.anglican.org/fundmychurch for more details about training opportunities, articles and templates that can help your parish with your gifts in will programme.
Step 4. Celebrate/remember
It is important to talk about gift in wills to your congregation. A simple service can highlight the importance of making a will and reviewing it regularly. You can then continue to explain that your parish has a gift in wills policy, that you welcome gifts in wills and where more leaflet information can be found.
- Giving thanks. Why not say thank you at the end of the year for:
- Your congregation’s regular giving/collection amounts
- Those that have left a gift in their will
- Those who have pledged to leave a gift.
- Received a recent gift in a will? Share it with the congregation and not just your PCC. If it has been spent on something recently (heating, chairs, kitchen etc.) when celebrating these new facilities, celebrate the gift also.
- The Month of Remembrance. November is a good month to reflect on gifts that have left a gift in their will. (All Souls’ Day)
- Annual Events
- Have you considered holding or including an annual gift in wills service
- Holding an annual giving celebration on how much the parish has raised through different means over the year and draw focus on any gift in wills.
For more information
Please take a look at our fundraising pages for more information, ideas, case studies and stories of how other parishes are introducing their program to their congregation.
If you have any questions on anything relating to introducing a gift in wills programme into your parish, please do not hesitate to contact the fundraising team either by t: 020 7932 1264 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org.