Back in September I read a blog post by Jonathan Grapsas about the possible connection between gifts made in memory and Planned Giving expectancies. (The link between in memory and legacies?) He writes, “People are making a gift in memory of someone they care about. They are in that head space.”
I was delighted to discover that memorial gifts are identified with a code in our database, so in I went in search of a connection in our own data. I found that of any alum who has ever made a gift, only 2.1% have ever made a memorial gift. But of all current Planned Giving expectancies who are donors, 9.8% have done so.
Now, I haven’t dug deep: These could be gifts tied to the donor’s own planned gift and which came after the commitment was made. But what if this turns out to be a real difference in giving behaviour and a predictor for Planned Giving?
Up to this point, I haven’t thought of in-memory gifts as an indicator of affinity. The donor is motivated by the desire to honour a friend or loved one, not any identification with your mission or nostalgia for alma mater. In other words, it seems probable that the gift given in memory is typically not up for renewal. To discover that the behaviour may be associated with an especially elusive class of donor is exciting.
There is no need to simply accept the conventional wisdom that the best Planned Giving prospects are the ones who have consistently given small amounts to the annual fund over a long period of time. This behaviour is certainly a predictor for bequests, but it does not typify them.