About ten years ago, a charity asked me to conduct a mystery shopping exercise on their bequest programme. Although each branch had beautiful brochures, the result of phoning to ask for bequest information was patchy to say the least. The worst offender was the national office of the charity. I called the national office main phone number to ask to speak to someone about leaving a bequest. I was quickly put straight through to the fundraising office which I already knew would be unattended that day. The phone rang and rang until it was automatically disconnected. The receptionist had not asked for my contact details so theoretically, the opportunity was lost.

And this is not an isolated example of how hard it is to contact the right person. More recently a friend of mine reported that they had tried to get information about bequests from a large and very familiar organisation. Information gathered from the Charities Services register suggested that the “New Zealand” branch was in fact the national organisation. No, not correct! The “New Zealand” branch only services Auckland. The national representative body has a different title altogether. The receptionist at the “New Zealand” branch did not know who looked after bequests, and then confessed that she didn’t know what a bequest was.

With this in mind, put yourself in the shoes of an estate lawyer. The client walks in and says I want to leave some money to animal welfare. What questions do you think the lawyer is going to ask to drill down into this vague pronouncement. The lawyer might go to the Charities Services website and type in "animals". They might google "animal charities, nz". FYI - I just did that myself and got found some interesting results - not what I expected! Alternatively the lawyer might just happen to remember that they recently adopted an ex greyhound as a pet or a friend of theirs has a blind guide dog. 

If the lawyer does know the name of the charity and decides to google for the website - how many clicks is she or he going to have to make to find all the bequest information they might need. Is the charity number listed on the bequest page. How many pages deep is the bequest information?

I know all about the frustrations of the lawyer because for the last twenty years my husband Reg has been asking me (we share the same office building) to check the correct names of charities and provide clarification on geography and services. All he needs to know is official name, charity number, wording for the bequest and, perhaps, the purpose for which the bequest will be used (scholarships, endowment fund, operating income etc).


How easy or hard is it to make a bequest to your charity?

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