How Defenders of Wildlife raised $7M in new bequests in their first year with FreeWill

April 24, 2023
min read
How Defenders of Wildlife raised $7M in new bequests in their first year with FreeWill

The Opportunity

Conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife has a 
robust planned giving team. However, after years of successfully marketing planned gifts to their donor base, they felt that they had hit a wall. They were speaking to the same donors year after year and found that the returns on their surveys and marketing were diminishing over time. In order to broaden their reach and surpass their goal of 165 new commitments per year, the team wanted to find new and innovative ways to market planned gifts.

FreeWill has enabled us to reach out to people outside of our normal donor base. It’s helped us take our program to a new audience and created a new level of longterm commitments to Defenders

Jim Luerssen

Director of Planned Giving

The Solution

When FreeWill reached out to Defenders of Wildlife, the team was excited to learn how it could help them grow. With FreeWill’s help, they created messaging that reframed the donor conversation, and offered estate planning services as a gift to a broader segment of their supporters. In just one year, these efforts led to more than 300 new gifts, totaling $7 million, from a wider, more diverse audience than they had previously targeted. Plus, they now screen every new donor for immediate gift potential, growing the organization’s major and annual giving programs as well.


  • $7M new bequests in 1 year
  • $38.8M in primary bequest commitments across 1300+ gifts (as of April 2023)


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Lorem ipsum dolor sit

No items found.

Related stories

Trusted by the smartest minds in planned & major giving

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.

Valerie Trego
Senior Development Officer,
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