FreeWill raises $30M to help people leave something behind for charity
Mar 2, 2022
The two parts of the business often complement each other. FreeWill does not require that people leave money for charity in their will, but it does encourage it by integrating questions about giving into the process. "It turns out Americans are incredibly generous. If you make it easy for them to give to charity, they absolutely will," said Jenny Xia Spradling, co-founder and co-CEO of FreeWill. About one-fifth of the wills the website handles include charitable donations, she added. A pandemic awakening
Only 46% of Americans have a will, according to a Gallup poll released last June, with estate planning especially rare among people 50 years and younger. That should not come as a huge surprise—people try not to think much about death and young people are not especially anxious to plan for it. But living through a pandemic has changed the equation for many. "I think Covid finally made it OK for families to talk about death together," Spradling said. "This is a really scary topic generally. But it helped people engage in estate planning that is so important for individuals and families." FreeWill's hopes to expand the overall market for processing wills—competing with companies such as LegalZoom and Quicken. An online will won't work for everyone, as FreeWill acknowledges on its website. It offers to connect people with an attorney if they have questions beyond the software's capabilities. With the funding round, FreeWill is looking to expand tools that help charities accept donations, including from stock holdings. One of its more recent products helps charities accept crypto by converting it into U.S. dollars. As crypto becomes more popular, people are offering it to nonprofits—whether through their estate or otherwise. "But most nonprofits are under-resourced and do not have the ability to accept crypto," Spradling said. "You need a wallet to receive the gift and that process can be onerous." Iain Ware, a managing director at Bain, said in a statement that FreeWill is building the "future of philanthropy" by making it easier for nonprofits to raise money through planned and non-cash donations." Bain invested in FreeWill through its Impact Investment Fund, which is focused on mission-driven companies. As a registered public benefit corporation, FreeWill is for-profit but must equally balance social good with the interest of its shareholders. Spradling said she and her co-founder, Patrick Schmitt, were discouraged from pursuing the designation because it could make private funding harder to come by. But the market has indicated otherwise. Public benefit corporations, or the similar B. Corps, such as Lemonade, Warby Parker and Allbirds have raised venture big checks en route to public offerings in the past two years. Investors such as Bain and ICONIQ Growth, Spradling said, "100% believe that we can do well by doing good."