In part it is a numbers game and the more people who know about your wonderful work then the greater the chances that you will be remembered in their wills, but there is a way to maximize your potential for being the beneficiary of an estate:
Make a Difference
The shelter or sanctuary has probably figured out that the public loves a good rescue story and will line up around the block to donate to a starving cat, or to get an abused lion or tiger out of the circus. In the case of exotic cats there are tens of thousands in need of rescue, and in the case of domestic cats, there are millions who need help.
This creates a "buyers market" for those who want the instant gratification of donating to an organization that will rush in to the aid of the animal. Because there are so many "feel good" opportunities, that donor base can be quite fickle and if you are behaving in a responsible manner and not over crowding or over loading your resources, you will soon find that donors have moved on to someone who will.
In the end though, as a person reflects back over their life, and asks themselves what they did with it, matters come into sharper focus when thrill seeking is no longer the objective. They start to think about the good they have done and how the world will be a better place. They may discover, over time, that the places they funded did finally implode under the weight of taking on too many animals. That leaves them questioning what lasting good they did.
If there are organizations they gave to, who used the money wisely, rescued when they could and said, "no," when they had to, those are the ones who will be considered further. There may have been several such groups, some animal related and others perhaps human oriented, so the further investigation reveals who did the most with what they had?
Did the non profit cure cancer, end hunger, stop the deaths of animals in shelters, put an end to the use of wild animals in circuses, end the feline fur trade, save wild places for wild animals or stop the exploitation of wild cats in captivity? If not, how successful were they and would this final gift be the boost to get them across that finish line?
That's what donors want to know in their final hours.
Howard Baskin, CFO of Big Cat Rescue recently reported that, "the estate left to the sanctuary is over $300,000. from a person who had only donated $50. during their lifetime." This non profit sanctuary in Tampa never courted this donor and the only contact with her was likely to have been a thank you note for her modest donation and a quarterly newsletter called The Big Cat Times. There were others in her will, but none given more than Big Cat Rescue, so it's clear that she knew her money would be well spent.
What sets Big Cat Rescue apart from most other sanctuaries is that it is the leading sanctuary voice against keeping big cats in cages. Their mission is: Caring for cats - Ending the trade. This donor, and several other very generous donors, have committed in their final hours to being a part of that mission.
That mission makes Big Cat Rescue a target for harassment and smear campaigns by those who abuse big cats for profit or ego, but donors understand that if the bad guys don't hate you, then you aren't doing anything important.
Shelters and sanctuaries often shrink from advocacy to end abuse because they fear retaliation from those evil enough to abuse animals or they say they don't want to be "political" but the real money ends up going to those who are putting themselves on the line to make a difference.
That money makes a difference, and making a difference is what most of us want in the end.