How the American Heart Association raises tax-smart gifts today and secures millions for the future with FreeWill

June 10, 2024
min read
How the American Heart Association raises tax-smart gifts today and secures millions for the future with FreeWill

The Challenge

The American Heart Association (AHA), a leading organization in the fight against heart disease and stroke, sought to grow their planned giving program and streamline their non-cash giving processes.

The AHA faced challenges in making non-cash giving more accessible and engaging, particularly in facilitating various types of gifts such as bequests and tax-smart gifts like Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) and stock donations. With a high volume of donors, their team also struggled with sharing tax acknowledgments in a timely manner.

“We didn't have an interactive way to take QCD requests from donors. The process was to have them do it themselves and tell us when they’re done, and that's not very donor-centered,” says Pamela Leonard, National Executive Lead of Charitable Estate Planning Program Advancement.

Before FreeWill, we were talking to donors about non-cash gifts, but our partnership let us move from education to action.

Pamela Leonard
National Executive Lead, Charitable Estate Planning Program Advancement

The Solution

In their efforts to grow planned giving, the AHA invested in a National Featureship, which showcases their name, logo, and mission to thousands of will-makers using the FreeWill site every day and continues to introduce new donors into their pipeline.

“The leads and gifts we receive through the National Featureship from donors who saw us on your site, and whom we may never have reached otherwise, are truly invaluable,” shares Kelley Riedy, National Executive Lead of Marketing Communications.

Their team is also actively promoting legacy giving to existing supporters by implementing the Planned Giving Suite, allowing the AHA to offer its audience the opportunity to create a legally valid will or trust.

The Smart Giving Suite allows us a kind of ease in marketing. You lead donors to one URL, one QR code, one call-to-action, and let them organically discover other ways to give when they're there on our page.

Kelley Riedy
National Executive Lead,
Marketing Communications, Donor Engagement

Through targeted outreach and planned giving appeals, the AHA provides a free resource to their audience that ensures donors’ intentions are properly documented and gives the team greater visibility into planned gifts committed to the organization.

After raising millions of dollars in bequest commitments with both tools, the AHA brought on the Smart Giving Suite to streamline the process of accepting non-cash gifts like QCDs, stocks, and Donor-Advised Funds.

FreeWill’s Smart Giving Suite provides a user-friendly way for their donors to take action, enhancing the donor experience and the AHA team’s efficiency. It also improved their ability to match donor information with received funds, addressing a significant challenge and allowing the AHA’s development team to effectively steward donors using FreeWill’s platform.

FreeWill has also empowered the AHA’s frontline fundraisers to more actively promote non-cash gifts by allowing them to drive donors to a centralized location to learn about non-cash giving vehicles and start the giftmaking process.

In 2023, their 5th year of partnership, the AHA raised $6.6 million in primary bequest commitments and $1.9 million in real-time gifts through FreeWill.


  • $644M+ in total legacy commitments
since 2018
  • $1.9M in real-time gifts since 2023


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It's not necessarily extra work, it’s just being smarter in the work we do. I think FreeWill has challenged us in that way. And our results since our FreeWill partnership have been tremendous. Having that relationship with your strategist to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your organization has paid off.

Don Cannada
Board Member
MPB Foundation

Not only are we booking bequests valued at over $1 million, we are getting full contact information for constituents that we only had email info for. The support offered by the FreeWill team from sales to implementation is top notch. This has been the best vendor experience I’ve had in my twenty plus year career.

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Susquehanna Health Foundation

I think you're putting your finger on the pulse of what charitable organizations want and need to promote. I think it's very smart. It's exciting, and I'm excited to be in this space with you. You're creating a whole new class of philanthropists.

Brian Peterson
Director, Legacy and Gift Planning
Human Rights Watch

Having FreeWill is like having a part-time planned giving officer. Our FreeWill strategist is there anytime I have questions, ideas, or comments. I trust their expertise, and all the support they provide means I can spend time on other priorities.

Les Fout
Senior Stewardship Advisor
Knox Area Rescue Mission

FreeWill is the missing piece of this puzzle. It starts a conversation and creates this almost audible buzz around the topic. Larger donors hear the buzz and want to be a part of it so they step forward and that's already proving to be so valuable. The excitement is real in our office on a Director level.

Jeff McCormick
Director of Development and Planned Giving
Saint Ignatius High School