The Stolen Recipe for a Legacy Event

This is my second blog post for 101 Fundraising and, just like my first blog, the inspiration was coming from a presentation that I attended late last year.  [Yes, I steal ideas from others! Don’t judge!].

My job in WWF is to build a knowledge system for WWF’s legacy fundraisers. One of them is to organise a virtual presentation about legacy fundraising. This presentation was one of them and it’s about the recipe of success for legacy event. It was presented by Sarah Cunningham who is legacy marketing manager for WWF UK. [I already have permission from Sarah to use her presentation as my blog sources. Thanks Sarah!]

So, let’s get cracking! Sarah presented how she prepared the legacy events as if she cooked a recipe for dinner. I like the idea of it since a legacy event is not a fast-food standardized product, but more likely to be a customized and adaptable dish. It needs to be personal.

Only few WWF offices are doing legacy event and WWF UK has been organising legacy events since 2009 with more than 600 attendees in total, and more than 1,200 cups of tea and coffee had been served!

First of all, Sarah’s first two ingredients are OBJECTIVES and DESIRED OUTCOMES of the event. What do you want to achieve in your event? Do you want to develop your relationship with your supporters? One to one relationship will gain their trust and understand their needs and an event is one way to do it. Do you want your supporters to engage with your cause and work? To justify why they should leave legacy to your organisation. Make a clear objective so you know what you need to prepare and to give your donors/guests a right message. Be clear! If it’s a legacy event, tell your donors in advance about it. Avoid being vague about the purpose of the event.

And the outcomes, I am sure you want the donors to keep your organisation in their will and even better if  they increase the value of the legacy! For those who don’t have a will yet, you want them to include your organisation in their will or add your organisation into their existing will.

If you get those things done, now start to prepare the fun part. After you grilled your objectives and outcomes, you add a LOCATION, or what I called a venue, to make a good package to your dish. Remember that your guests will be mainly 60+ years old so location is the key. You need to know where your supporters are, the travel time, the venue’s appeal to your supporters, and your shopping list requirements for the venue (for example: accessible for disable, public transport access, etc).

The atmosphere of the venue will play an important role on the mood of your event. Although, I think the weather is also playing a significant role too. [Start praying if you have your event in rainy place such as Holland!]. However, we cannot really pinpoint what makes a venue appealing for your donors. For WWF, a venue that related with wildlife can be appealing, such as a zoo, the wetland centre, a botanic garden, etc. But also a beautiful estate with historic touch can be appealing to donors (older people love history!). Pay attention to details. A funny yet useful advice from Richard Radcliffe is to make sure you have toilets nearby in the same floor.

Now after you grilled your objective, your desired outcome, and added your venue. What else do you need to make the dish ready? You need the PROGRAM as the filling and topping for your dish! You need to have some speakers and relevant content (for WWF is conservation projects) to achieve the objective and get the result. The speakers can be a member of senior management and (or) a field officer. Plus, you need other staff members to be part of the “welcome committee” and make the supporters feel loved. So, plan your event in advance and propose it to the program officers and senior management as early as possible to match their schedule [nowadays, everybody is busy!]. The program officer is important since there will be many smart-difficult questions and the supporters want to hear the “first-hand” experience.

Who should come to the legacy event? Pledgers, prospects, suspects (they just look like and in the same category as pledgers and prospects) and guests (friend, child, grandchild, or spouse). I think a mixed audience will work the best.

Don’t forget to ask the attendees to fill-in an EVALUATION form in the end of the event.  Feedback survey can help you to find out the reason they leave a legacy to your organisation, the status of their will, and how satisfy they are with the speakers and venues. It’s a way to improve your service to donors too!

Then you can start the finishing touch to your dish, it’s the FOLLOW-UP. Sarah is sending immediate thank-you letter and pledger stewardship program for pledgers and intenders.

For the enquirers, more likely to be prompted by invitation so if they cannot come but want to have more information, we put them as enquirers. And also put legacy information in the goody bag for those who can come.

Considerers are the biggest challenge. It’s a pretty small group so it’s difficult to have them for direct mail. So, how about telemarketing/personal call? They don’t expect the call and if we put a telephone opt-out in the feedback form, none will thick the box. Any ideas what to do? Please share it with me by posting a comment or send me an email. [Yes, I am trying to steal ideas again].

I think there is no right or wrong here. Maybe Sarah’s recipe above is not for your organisation and perhaps your donors need more or different ingredients. Just try and do a test and be creative! I don’t think you should be afraid to try something new. Because in the end, I think, legacy fundraising is about human relations and human is not a mechanical product.

One last thought from the presentation: a quote from Alan Lakein, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Good luck planning your next event!

‘Till my next spoils!

For further reading, Richard Radcliffe’s article about legacy event is available on about how to run a legacy pledge event.

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