What does legacy REALLY mean?

What does legacy REALLY mean?

The concept of “legacy” is a key component of marketing and building any planned giving program. We often simply call it “legacy giving.” But what does legacy really mean? 

In a recent Psychology Today article, psychologist and TEDx speaker Deborah Heiser talks about the true meaning of legacy. She says “A legacy is quite literally something handed down from one person to another.” She goes on to offer the three ways we are able to leave one: 

  1. Volunteering – handing down time, skills and energy

  2. Mentoring – handing down time, skills and energy, plus the wisdom they have learned over the course of a lifetime  (You can watch her Ted Talk on this here!)

  3. Philanthropy – handing down wealth to another person or group 

Dr. Heiser includes a textbook example of legacy: Becky Bace, the “mama bear” of mentoring. And by the way, Bace’s life is a fine example of the hero’s journey we talked about in our last blog post!

Volunteers, mentors and donors are supporting the causes and values that matter to them the most. It’s easy to see, then, that anyone who has volunteered for, mentored on behalf of, or given to your nonprofit has already begun to hand down what they treasure most.  

When you’re looking for supporters who want to be involved in “legacy giving,” you won’t have to look far. They’ve already begun, and the dollar amounts are not the whole story. Even better, there are likely more potential legacy givers than you thought. 

Knowing that, you have a pretty good start on finding “who” wants to leave a legacy with your organization. But before you start talking about “how” they want to leave it (DAFs, CGAs, bequests, insurance policies, etc.), you need to learn the “why.” 

Rather than overwhelming them with information, start listening. Ask questions. Why do they care? Why are they entrusting your organization with their time, skills, wisdom and wealth?  

This is the key to deepening your relationships with them and helping them as they continue to build their legacies. You’ll never know unless you ask. We can help.