How to Talk Legacy Giving With Volunteers (and Why It’s Important)

How do you think about your nonprofit’s volunteers?

Of course you know what they do, how important they are. But perhaps your thoughts go more toward tangible, task-oriented support, as in, “We’ve got 20 volunteers to help us with emergency food distribution tomorrow.”

While volunteers might not help regularly in planned giving, or even be familiar with what you do, they can be full of promise when it comes to legacy giving.

Think about it. Generally speaking, volunteers possess the qualities that make them not only wonderful human beings but also promising legacy giving prospects.

They earnestly desire to help their communities.

They care—and do—for others.

They take initiative to get things done.

They’re humble in spirit.

No surprise, they’re inclined to want to give. It’s in their very nature. Right now, they may dedicate time and energy to charitable causes that are important to them, but stats support they’re more apt to give financially too.

  • A Fidelity Charitable study found that 87% of volunteers say there’s an overlap between their volunteer and financial support.
  • 50% of volunteers also said that they give more financial support because they volunteer.
  • Stelter research shows that personal experience with a charity is by far the most influential determinant in motivating donors to donate.

For volunteers, giving is holistic, intertwined. Volunteering helps further the mission they care so much about day-to-day, while a legacy gift provides the needed security for your nonprofit to continue building missional outreach and improving impact.


1. Empower volunteers by first showing them how easy it is to complete a gift.

Bequests and beneficiary designations lead in simplicity. And, according to Giving USA, these types of planned gifts are the most popular amongst donors, with 68.1% of their respondents saying they are most likely to make a bequest, followed by a beneficiary of a retirement plan (29.7%).

Idea: Start softly. (Avoid the hard sell of give, give, give.) Offer helpful suggestions that get volunteers thinking in that direction. One tip: Remind volunteers to review their wills annually to account for life changes including birth, adoption, divorce or death. Encourage them to do it every new year when the focus is on organization and new beginnings.

Resource: Read “5 Gifts That Will Have the Greatest Appeal in 2021 & Why” to review gift vehicles that may benefit donors most this year based on the state of the economy, the stock market and donors’ mindsets.

2. Remind volunteers that you’re here to help.

For many, estate planning feels overwhelming. Help them break it down into a manageable journey and provide the resources to take them step by step. Consistently reach back out and offer access to experts who can help too.

3. Lead with how the gift benefits volunteers, not how it benefits your nonprofit.

Let’s be honest. The genesis of most gifts begins with a heart connection. A legacy gift ensures that what they love about your nonprofit today rolls into their tomorrow hopes, that their efforts and your mission live on.

Strategy: You might feel like a broken record, but continually repeat the “today” advantages of making certain types of planned gifts, like charitable tax deductions or producing a reliable, steady stream of income.

Another reminder: If volunteers don’t have an estate plan, state law will decide how their property is distributed. Those they care about could wind up with only some—or none—of their assets.

4. Similarly, frame the conversation about leaving a legacy.

You’re simply connecting the dots of giving—and helping further your nonprofit’s impact—today and for future generations. “A legacy gift is a way to ensure your work and dedication to saving animals lives on forever.”

5. Respect and admire their giving nature.

A fine line runs between volunteers who feel like they’re invested versus feeling used only for their time or money. No one likes to feel that way, yet we can all say we’ve been in those shoes. Harness that memory to influence how you proceed with volunteers in talking about legacy giving.


Some volunteers may feel like they already give so much of their time, why should they give more, especially assets, which feel so permanent. “What if my commitment changes?” or “Can I change what I put in my will,” they may wonder.  

Their feelings and perspectives are absolutely valid—and ones you must think through before talking to volunteers.

Again, lead and talk softly. Your mantra should be “stewarding people, not gifts.”

Focus on language that inspires security, protection and pride in a lifetime of accomplishments. Consider phrases like:

  • Your Planned Gift Helps Us Prepare for the Future
  • Protect Your Family and Your Passions
  • Protect Those Who Matter Most to You

We also have short scripts that can help you address donor hesitations about making a gift. For example, if a volunteer says they don’t have enough assets or worry that making a gift might cause a family conflict, we offer solutions to respond here.

Another Approach: Ask volunteers to remember a time when someone did something nice for them and how it made them feel. Did they feel more helpful and hopeful? Did it put a smile on their face? Research shows that receiving help increases the likelihood someone will want to help others, even strangers.


Tell us, do you see your nonprofits’ volunteers for the valued legacy holders that they can be? How do you talk to them about legacy giving? Feel free to share any notable stories or tactics.

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