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Hack No. 3: Testimonials are really important in gifts in wills communications

— Written by Miriam Raphael

During my time at Marlin, I’ve worked on plenty of Gift in Will (GIW) programs as a copywriter and I feel this is some of the most special work we create – it speaks from a place of deep relevance for the charity and the person considering leaving a gift in their Will. 

In this series, I share what I’ve learnt about developing Gift In Will creative and offer some tips that you can incorporate into your own communications. 

HACK 3: Testimonials are so important

Testimonials are important. As fundraising and leadership coach Stephen George in the UK has said many times – “stories are the currency of legacy giving.”

And while the gift itself is the final part of the donor’s story, we know that storytelling, especially telling stories of other donors that are leaving gifts in their wills, has a significant influence in growing legacy giving.  

In a follow-on study, Professor Russell James tested the influence of donor stories in encouraging people to include a gift in their will. 

They found that the more stories we tell, and the more the story reflects the life story of the reader, the more likely people are to consider a gift in will themselves.

But often the testimonial is an afterthought. “Quick, we’ll find someone for social proof and get a quote for our booklet” 

But my tip is to focus on collecting a bank of stories that you can use for your communications. 

As GIW fundraisers, you have the benefit of having a more personal relationship with supporters – so use those conversations you’re having to get your confirmed GIW donors to open up and share their story of how they came to the decision to leave a gift in their will. 

And while you’re at it, definitely get some good quality images from them – or even better organise a photographer to do a shoot… now that’s a way to make someone feel special!

I like to approach testimonials in creative ways, and I’ve included some examples here.

The Smith Family, 2017

The Smith Family, 2017

This is from a Smith Family pack where the testimonial was inspired by a letter Jakki Travers – the GIW program manager – had received from the brother of a confirmed bequestor. I like this different perspective from a family member. It’s an interesting and fresh spin on the testimonial, and it’s definitely worth seeking these out.

The Wilderness Society, Enquirer Pack, 2019

The Wilderness Society, Enquirer Pack, 2019

Depending on your organisation, you might want to consider getting testimonials from younger bequestors too, many of whom have made Wills when they have their children. I loved hearing the story of Kirstan and why she was so passionate about protecting the bush for her baby girl.

Dementia Australia, Enquirer Pack, 2020

Dementia Australia, Enquirer Pack, 2020

This is a page from a testimonial letter for Dementia Australia. I interviewed Gary, who’s wife Dorothy had died a few years before and he has since left a gift in his Will to the organisation. 

In his interview we talked a lot about Dorothy – not just about the decision to leave a gift, and his hopes for his legacy. We talked about her, and their kids, and what happened when she got ill, and the support Gary received from Dementia Australia, all of which I have tried to capture in this letter to supporters, many of whom would have similar experiences.

Here’s an extract from another page of the letter:

Dorothy used to say I was a perfectionist. I don’t know about that, but my instinct is to give everything my best shot. And that was my outlook on looking after Dorothy.

I wanted to get the best out of myself, because I loved her so much, and Dementia Australia helped me do that. I know that if our roles had been reversed, she would have done the same for me.

That’s why it was an obvious decision for me to leave a gift in my Will to Dementia Australia. Nothing can prepare you for a diagnosis with no cure, particularly a disease as devastating as dementia. 

Having the care and support of an organisation like Dementia Australia is vital for this new and challenging journey.

I couldn’t have done it without them, and I want to make sure no other family has to either. As I wrote earlier, Dorothy was a team leader. She would always push me to try and make a difference in this world. That’s why I’ve left a gift in my Will and I hope you’ll think about doing it too.


Keep following this series on GIW creative. Check in soon for the next installment. If you want to chat to Marlin about how you can update your GIW program, send us an enquiry today.