The Pentera Blog

Donors Give Three Key Reasons for Making Legacy Gifts

As a gift planning officer, you naturally talk to donors a lot about bequests. So it may be helpful to know three key reasons why donors make legacy gifts, as described in a new report that reviews dozens of research studies about legacy giving.

Everything Research Can Tell Us About Legacy Giving in 2018 was recently published by professors at the University of Plymouth in England, including Adrian Sargeant, who has been doing planned giving research for decades on both sides of the Atlantic. The 52-page report includes a lot of fascinating information about charitable giving by bequest.

The report says that most donors say they make legacy gifts (including tribute gifts) for one or more of these three reasons:

  1. This is a cause that has been an important part of my life or a particular passion of mine. I want it to live on beyond my lifetime.
  2. This charity has helped me greatly in life. I have a desire to pay back.
  3. This charity or cause represents a person that was important to me. Help me remember a loved one.

The report suggests that prospective legacy givers should be given the opportunity to tell their life stories, focusing on what has been meaningful to them—and in particular their connection to the mission of your charity. You might even be involved in helping to collect and disseminate those stories (beyond the typical donor story in a newsletter), and that could provide an invaluable service to donors.

“They may be facilitated to find meaning in their life through what they have achieved, either in their past relationship with the organization, or what they may now achieve as their life reaches its end,” the report says. “Charities could also seek to reassure donors that these memories would be preserved.”

The complete report can be downloaded for free at