Women and Planned Giving: Working With Widows | Sharpe Group
Posted June 2nd, 2021

Women and Planned Giving: Working With Widows

Women holding hands and pink balloons

By John Jensen, CFP®

In a recent Sharpe Group blog, “Women and Giving,” senior consultant Kristin Croone outlined some notable differences between charitable giving by men and women that should be kept in mind when communicating with your female donors.

  • Women live, on average, five years longer than men.
  • Women control the majority of personal wealth in the U.S.
  • Women are more apt to give smaller (or even no) gifts during their lifetime, then make a sizable bequest—frequently without informing the charity of their decision before they pass.
  • While the average man’s individual bequest is larger, the total value of bequests received from women is much greater than the total value of bequests from men.
  • Women volunteer at higher rates than men.
  • Women account for 70% of gifts through estates.
  • Childless women are significantly more apt to make a bequest than childless men.
  • Most gift annuities and other income-producing gift options are utilized by women.*

The widow’s might

In this article, we will focus on communicating with one of the most important segments of your gift planning prospects—widows.

Because women tend to live longer than men, when their spouse dies, many women find themselves in charge of the couple’s finances for the first time. Although as members of the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation pass away and those from the Boomer or later generations enter planned giving age, this dynamic is likely to evolve.

Many gift planners find it advantageous to have specific strategies for working with widows. Our experience, based on numerous studies, has shown segmented strategies can be very successful.

Ongoing stewardship is essential

Here are a few tips for working with widows:

  • Send letters of condolence to new widows and manage memorial gifts.
  • Recognize longevity and cumulative giving.
  • Be sensitive to levels of financial awareness.
  • Make sure widows continue to be invited to events (many widows are dropped from an organization’s events list after a spouse’s death).
  • Solicit for volunteer opportunities. Remember, overall women volunteer at higher rates than men. Those who give their time also give their money—because they better understand your mission.
  • Some organizations might consider a formal “widow relations” program, though we do not advise naming it as such.
  • Make every effort to discover bequest expectancies.

While we can craft more effective communications strategies based on general characteristics, the most important part of any fundraising program remains consistent with all donors—your relationship with them. Remember, when donors put your organization in their estate plans, they are essentially elevating you to the status of family. They should be treated as such.

*It is important to note that these statistics are for general marketing strategies. A successful donor relations program should be focused on individual characteristics and relationships. ■

John Jensen

John Jensen is a senior vice president and senior consultant with Sharpe Group and a Certified Financial Planner. He has worked with more than 100 nonprofits to improve their planned giving performance. He regularly conducts planned giving program audits and assessments, in addition to a wide range of gift planning consulting services.

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