Words matter.\u00a0 Several popular internet memes highlight humorous results when English signs in non-English speaking locations almost get the message right.\u00a0 One sign warns customers, \u201cshoplifters will be shot 100 times the value of the stolen item.\u201d Another instructs those using a computer port to, \u201cplease insert furiously.\u201d\u00a0 Aside from these humorous miscommunications, words can matter in legacy marketing as well.\n\nDifferent words can put us in different frames of mind\n\nAt times, we might be in a market\/transactional frame of mind, looking to gain an advantage and get the most out of exchange.\u00a0 At other times, we might be in a social\/family frame of mind, looking to benefit and connect with important others.\n\nWe know from neuroimaging research that charitable giving involves social cognition regions of the brain.[i]\u00a0 When social connections are emphasized, charitable giving becomes more likely.\u00a0 In contrast, when the emphasis is on market, transactional, technical, or contract language, charitable giving becomes less likely.\n\n\u201cMake a gift\u201d\n\nIn an experiment in the U.S., adding the formal legal title to a description of a complex charitable giving arrangement involving a charitable estate gift substantially reduced interest in making such gifts.\u00a0 Similarly, describing a charitable transaction by starting with the phrase, \u201cMake a transfer of assets\u201d cut the share of interested donors in half as compared to an identical description starting with the phrase, \u201cMake a gift.\u201d\n\nIn another large survey, about 23% of people were interested now in \u201cMake a gift to charity in my Will,\u201d but only 12% were similarly interested in \u201cMake a bequest gift to charity.\u201d\u00a0 Consistently, the use of more technical, legal, or contract terms to describe a gift reduces interest in making that gift.\nLegacy giving is unique in that it involves issues of life and death\nReferencing these issues can also affect interest in such gifts.\u00a0 Most people, most of the time, respond to personal mortality reminders with some form of avoidance.\u00a0 Thus, increasing emphasis on death will tend to increase avoidance of the gift.\n\nFor example, people were significantly less interested in making \u201ca gift to charity in my last Will & testament\u201d when the ending phrase \u201cthat will take effect at my death\u201d was added to the description.\n\nIn contrast, references to connections with the person\u2019s life story increased interest in the gift.\u00a0 The life story is central to giving decisions.\u00a0 Neuroimaging research demonstrates that when people are considering a charitable bequest, they engage in \u201cvisualized autobiography.\u201d[ii]\u00a0 Research involving in-depth interviews of planned bequest donors also finds that a central issue in selection of the charities was a connection with the donor\u2019s life story.[iii]\n\nCorrespondingly, the greatest interest in making a legacy gift arose when people were asked about their willingness to \u201cmake a gift to charity in your Will to support causes that have been important in your life.\u201d[iv]\nThus, emphasizing life, rather than death, and a simple gift, rather than a complex legal transaction, can encourage donors to make a legacy gift.\nRussell James,\u00a0Professor & CH Foundation Chair in Personal Financial Planning and\u00a0Director of Graduate Studies in Charitable Planning at\u00a0Texas Tech University\n\n[i] Moll, J., Krueger, F., Zahn, R., Pardini, M., de Oliveira-Souza, R., & Grafman, J. (2006). Human fronto\u2013mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(42), 15623-15628.\n\n[ii] James III, R. N., & O\u2019Boyle, M. W. (2014). Charitable estate planning as visualized autobiography: An fMRI study of its neural correlates. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(2), 355-373.\n\n[iii] Routley C. J. (2011). Leaving a charitable legacy: Social influence, the self and symbolic immortality (doctoral dissertation). University of the West of England, Bristol, UK\n\n[iv] James III, R. N. (2016). Phrasing the charitable bequest inquiry. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(2), 998-1011.