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Help Sheet

Attracting Bequests

The idea of Australian community groups going out of their way to attract bequests is, in many ways, still in its infancy.

While a number of local organisations are growing the income they attract from bequests, Australian efforts are dwarfed by efforts of the American non-profit scene - where many cultural, educational and social traditions are firmly founded on bequests.

Groups thinking about going down this path should think about how they want to sit on the spectrum of bequest-related activities, running from low investment, low probability strategies to high investment, high workload planned giving campaigns.

The Basics

Some of the more basic ways you can start are:

Be ready

Make sure your group is ready - take your time and have your board think about what resources you might need, any professionals you might need to get in touch with for guidance, etc.

Tell people

The first, most important thing you need to do is to tell the people closest to your group that you are interested in bequests. People are unlikely to leave money in their will to a group or organisation that they didn't have respect for - or contact with - during their life.

Think about how many people have had contact with, benefited from or just enjoyed being a part of your organisation - they may like to give back. If they don't know they can give to your organisation through a bequest, then their money will go elsewhere.

Some of the ways you can get the word out include:

Tell them the difference the money could make

It is vital that you not only tell people that you value and welcome bequests, but also how those bequests can make a difference.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including:

Provide testimonials

Once your campaign has started rolling, ask those who have signed up to leave a bequest to your group to outline why and how they have done so (publicly is best but anonymous is OK too). Use this information to form the basis of articles and web content.


Yes, asking for bequests might not be easy; no-one likes talking about death, wills, estates and all those types of things.

But think of it as a way of allowing people to make a difference to a group or a cause they believe in. You're asking them for help, yes, but you're also offering them something in return.

Bequests for mental health consumer groups

There is little doubt that in the mental health area the most successful fundraising organisations also attract the majority of bequests.

If consumer groups want to 'break into this market' it will involve becoming a little more savvy about how to gain the necessary public profile.

This may be hard, particularly given the continuing discrimination against consumers, which includes both real and imagined beliefs that such groups may find it difficult to manage major donations such as bequests.

However, attracting bequests is still possible.