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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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A whole new twist on bequest mailings
Deborah Block and Paul Karps

January, 2010

Over the years, we’ve written about all sorts of bequest mailings. Some contain a well-crafted letter from the organization’s leader. Others feature a heartfelt letter from a donor who has actually made a bequest. While others include an effective brochure or insert piece with additional background information.

A recent bequest mailing by the Natural Resources Defense Council (New York NY) certainly hit the mark with each of these three components. But this appeal added an entirely new twist to the whole concept of a legacy package—something, quite frankly, we’ve never seen before.

What NRDC did was incorporate a traditional matching grant into its legacy program. Here’s the pitch in the main letter, signed by Founding Director John Adams:

“An NRDC Trustee recently offered to match your future gift with an immediate contribution to NRDC’s Wildlands Campaign, up to $1 million dollars (sic) as part of the new NRDC Legacy Leaders Million-Dollar Challenge. That will give your gift twice the impact—by preserving our natural heritage now and protecting the planet for generations to come.”

The lift note, written by someone who has already included the NRDC in her and her husband’s will, explains the offer even further: “All you have to do is tell NRDC that you’ve included the Natural Resources Defense Council in your estate plans. There’s no need to write a check; it’s just a matter of saying that you’ve named NRDC in your Will.”

Interestingly, the 8-1/2 x 11” three-panel brochure makes no mention whatsoever of the matching grant. Perhaps it’s because this piece has been used in other bequest mailings—or will be included in future, non-matching grant mailings.

A one-panel buckslip, however, really pumps up the idea, with the headline, “Announcing the NRDC Legacy Leader Million-Dollar Challenge!” The matching grant also takes center stage on the reply slip—in the headline, in copy at the top of the form, and next to the check-off box.

The real power of folding a matching grant into a bequest package is that it adds an element of immediacy and urgency not normally associated with legacy giving. For example, consider this line from the buckslip: “If NRDC already has a place in your plans, please let us know right away so that we can take advantage of this unique funding opportunity . . .” Basically, it’s language you never see in this sort of mailing.

There’s another clever, logistical twist in all of this. Nowhere on the reply slip is there a reference to the size of the bequest that would actually qualify for an “immediate contribution to the Wildlands Campaign.” That means someone from NRDC will have to contact each of those who responds and ask, in so many words, “Okay, generous donor. How much are we really talking about here?” Otherwise, how would that NRDC Trustee know how much she needs to contribute as part of the matching grant?

Once again, this introduces an entirely new element into the planned giving process: knowing precisely how big a bequest is being made . . . but while the donor is still alive. And that, of course, gives those clever folks at NRDC the chance to stroke the donor accordingly, adding to their coffers before that fateful day comes.

To see this entire package, click here.

Copywriters Deborah Block and Paul Karps are partners in BK Kreative, 1010 Varsity Court, Mountain View CA 94040, phone (650) 962-9562, email


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