$2.5 Million in Bequests Generated in One Year

The Progressive Multiplier Fund recently connected a national progressive non-profit organization with FreeWill, an online estate planning software platform where non-profits’ members can create a will and are encouraged to leave the non-profit a part of the estate. With a few emails, the organization generated nearly $2.5 million in bequest commitments in under 12 months.

FreeWill was founded by by Patrick Schmitt, former Campaign Director at MoveOn.org and Innovation Director at Change.org, and Jenny Xia, one of Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list in 2019. Since it’s inception, the company has generated $252 million in commitments to nonprofit causes. The average gift left to charities through FreeWill to date has been $70,000, about twice the national average.

Patrick and Jenny were drawn to create FreeWill by one simple fact: in the next 20 years, an estimated $30 trillion will be inherited in the United States. This is the largest wealth transfer in human history.

FreeWill solves a few important problems in planned giving:

First, under 25% of donors who leave a non-profit in their will alert the non-profit to this fact. With FreeWill, non-profits email and mail their current members, know immediately if their members made a commitment to that non-profit, and then the organization continue to build a lasting relationship with the people who’ve left the organization in their will.

Second, testing messages and techniques in planned giving is very difficult. Planned giving teams send mail to their low-dollar donors, donors include the organization in their will but don’t tell the organization, and seven years later a check may arrive. FreeWill enables non-profits to A/B test their messages in real time and know what is working in real time.

Many progressive organizations who serve low income communities assume that planned giving is not for their base. Our experience with planned giving is that the profile of a planned giving donor is someone who can afford to donate $10-20 per year to a charity, is on a fixed income, but owns a home or has some remaining retirement funds, enabling the person to leave a gift in the mid-$30,000s as a legacy to a non-profit that actually asked for the gift.

The Progressive Multiplier Fund has funds for eight non-profits to test FreeWill or similar planned giving tools. To Apply, click “Projects” in the Center of Excellence and then click “New" to create a Recoverable Grant application, and include your email list size. Feel free to use content from People’s Action’s grant application to keep it simple.

For more information on planned giving, search for Planned Giving in the search bar of the Center of Excellence.