Three reasons to acknowledge bequest donors during their lifetimes

We recently received notice from a donor couple through our denomination’s foundation that the ministry is named in their will.  How do we thank the couple? Is it appropriate to reach out to them? We certainly don’t want to hasten the day of their homecoming or have any appearance of that in the communication!  ( I say this tongue in cheek.)


This message from a regular reader of Generous Matters references a subject that’s touchy for a lot of fundraisers. It can seem indelicate to show too much enthusiasm for a promised end of life gift. Yet letting an intended bequest go unacknowledged doesn’t feel right either.

My answer to the reader’s question is this. It is completely appropriate to reach out to the couple. By including the organization in their will, these dear ones have shown amazing confidence in the future of the ministry — a future they want to help make possible even after their deaths. If that doesn’t warrant a hearty thank you, I don’t know what does.

The good news is that few folks take offense at a sincere word of appreciation. And should a thank you put someone off, better to offend in the direction of gratefulness than the alternative.


The benefits of acting on a tip that your ministry is included in a will are three-fold.

First, instead of sometime down the years thanking the executor of an estate for carrying out the intentions of another, you have the joy, in the present, of saying thank to the one(s) making the gift. And if as in my friend’s case there’s a foundation officer involved, also thank him or her for what s/he is doing to encourage generosity within the community of faith.

Nurturing donors toward their ultimate gift is almost always shared work.

Second, you have the opportunity to involve bequest donors in new ways (maybe even first ways) with the ministry. Doing so deepens their commitment to the mission and provides re-assurance of the wisdom of their ultimate giving goal.

At the least, you might consider a legacy society as a means of recognizing and keeping in touch with persons who’ve included the ministry in their estate planning.

Third, you have the opportunity to learn from people who love the ministry enough to make it a beneficiary of their estate planning. Encourage these devoted ones to tell the story behind their generosity. Listen to their hopes and prayers for the future of the work. And then ask permission to pass along what you learn from them.

When people are willing to let their plans be recognized publicly, it encourages others to think in the same way.

So back to the question of whether and how to say thank you to bequest donors. The answer is yes – promptly, sincerely, and often, until the day God calls them home.

For more on importance of thank you, see:

All God’s people should say thank you

Put the focus on thank you, please

What part of thank you don’t you understand?



  1. Burt Hamilton says:

    Failure to acknowledge the bequest may give the donors the idea that you really don’t care or need it, and they may take it elsewhere.

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