7 September 2018
Ever wondered how easy or hard it is to make a bequest to your organisation?
Information frustrations and missed opportunities are the motivations for a fundraiser and a lawyer to create a new bequest service which benefits both charities and estate lawyers.
About ten years ago, a charity asked Heather Newell to conduct a mystery shopping exercise on their bequest programme. Although each branch had beautiful brochures, the result of phoning to ask for bequest information was patchy to say the least. The worst offender was the national office of the charity “I called the national office main phone number to ask to speak to someone about leaving a bequest, said Heather. “I was quickly put straight through to the fundraising office which I already knew would be unattended that day. The phone rang and rang until it was automatically disconnected. The receptionist had not asked for my contact details so theoretically, the opportunity was lost.”
And this is not an isolated example. More recently a friend of Heather’s reported that they had tried to get information about bequests from a large and very familiar organisation. Information gathered from the Charities Services register suggested that the “New Zealand” branch was in fact the national organisation. No, not correct! The “New Zealand” branch only services Auckland. The national representative body has a different title altogether. The receptionist at the “New Zealand” branch did not know who looked after bequests, and then confessed that she didn’t know what a bequest was.
Many large charities have registered two charities (one being a foundation) – how does a lawyer know which one to list in the client’s will?
And on top of that, if the client gives the wrong charity name to the lawyer, will the lawyer have time to dig deep to investigate properly?
Heather and her husband Reg Newell, lawyer, know the answers to these questions because for the last twenty years Reg has been asking Heather (a well known fundraising specialist) to check the correct names of charities and provide clarification on geography and services. Potentially hundreds of organisations may lose bequests simply because the bequestor was not specific and the lawyer didn’t know what questions to ask of them.
This year Heather and Reg suddenly realised the time was right to launch a very simple online service which, with one or two clicks, will allow estate lawyers to find the correct charity name, the CC number, the wording for the bequest and a note about what the bequest might be used for. No need to troll through multiple pages of a charity website to find the details, no need to search through 27,000 records on the charities services register and most importantly, no need to navigate the charity bureaucracy seeking the right person to talk to.
“While I know that all fundraiser will understand the scope and size of the bequest pool, many charity managers and trustees are unaware of the dollar value of bequests,” said Heather. In the last four years 772 charities have received bequests of more than $100. In 2017 bequests amounted to $36 million to 182 organisations.
The Priory In New Zealand of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem received more than $7.3 million, followed by the National Heart Foundation receiving $5.8m. 57 charities receiving bequests were branches or regional affiliates of St John.
Smaller and less well-known organisations such as the Napier Friendly Neighbour Service Incorporated and Tu Teao Marae and the Western Suburbs Rugby Football Club Incorporated also received bequests showing the diversity of donor interests.
The first iteration of the website already has more than 500 basic entries, listing charities which have received a bequest in the last four years. This means an estate lawyer can at least find the name and CC number of the major charities on day one. Heather and Reg will then be asking these charities, and any others, to complete their entry listing with the preferred bequest wording which can be cut and pasted into the client’s will, and any notes they wish to include such as what a bequest would be used for. A charity listing is $99.00 + GST for 12 months.
A key benefit for charities is the page counter which will allow a charity to identify whether their page views have increased during a bequest campaign or see trends in access to their page. “Although this won’t be an actual indicator of how many real people have looked at the listing, because we can’t isolate the search engine bots, it will at least give charities an idea of up and down trends, particularly during bequest campaigns,” said Heather.