Legacy fundraising can be a tough job… along with the difficulties colleagues, including other fundraisers, often have in really understanding how this area of fundraising works, there can be the constant pressure to measure KPIs in-line with other departments, and the sometimes isolated nature of the role – meaning it is often a sole person’s responsibility to internally promote legacy fundraising and gain the support of the rest of the organisation (most importantly senior management and the board).
All of the above is, of course, additional to understanding the donor base, creating stand-out and entirely appropriate creative materials, being a great relationship fundraiser and developing and delivering a winning marketing strategy.
Now all that remains is to ensure the charity you are asking people to leave a gift in their will to has a good name – a solid reputation. An honest and trustworthy brand is vital to all areas of fundraising, in-fact all aspects of a charity’s work, however this is especially true when asking for legacies.
Channels such as direct mail, street fundraising, DRTV and telemarketing delivered to large numbers of individuals can be high-profile and sometimes controversial (a claim that can occasionally be made of legacy marketing too!) Legacy fundraisers play an integral part in creating and maintaining a charity’s good reputation and respected brand, however, their efforts are often overshadowed by other, larger fundraising teams. Legacy fundraisers are reliant on all other departments in their charity to communicate a trustworthy and transparent organisation, in order to allow them to do their job well!
Legacy marketing will often achieve the best ROI of all income streams, with very low staff resource required, low costs and often large, although unpredictable incomes, however this area of fundraising is an art, and a sensitive one at that.
In order for an individual to write a charity into their will – ideally as a residuary gift (when the remainder of an estate after other bequests and specific legacies have been taken care of) – they need to not only have enough trust that the charity will use their money wisely but also truly believe in the brand and what the charity stands for. The charity then needs to maintain their good name and reputation in order that gifts in wills remain in until they are realised.
The tangibility of the good work delivered by the charity is a very important ingredient in successful legacy fundraising (and all other areas too). This helps to ensure a transparent and trusted brand (if you can see or experience the good work first-hand it is far easier to understand and be inspired) something it could be argued is more difficult for international charities to achieve.
If we look at animal charities for a moment, country-based organisations such as the ASPCA in the US, Cats Protection, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the RSPCA in the UK, a large part of what they will do will involve rescuing or re-homing animals locally. They are all well-known, long established (and often much-loved) institutions and many supporters or legacy pledgers will have had first hand experience of their work. A very large part of this type of charity’s income is raised through legacy donations.
The RSPCA in the UK offers a “…free service, giving pet owners peace of mind. It means we will do all we can to find a new, loving home for your pet if you should pass away” Called ‘Home for Life’ (www.homeforlife.org.uk) it also emphasises the importance of gifts in wills to the charity and provides sample wording for individuals to leave a legacy, along with the sample wording to have a pet looked after via the Home for Life scheme. An excellent way of providing a valuable service effectively in exchange for a legacy donation, and also for targeting potential legacy pledgers who may not already be known to the charity (animal lovers at the stage of life when considering their pets may outlive them.)
There can often be a sense that legacy pledgers want to give something back closer to home, although genuine passion for and belief in a charity’s work no matter where it is delivered can override this, and there was an interesting case in the UK earlier this year. A former nurse who died aged 90 left her £520,000 estate to the government to spend ‘as they may think fit’. The gift was initially treated as a party donation by the coalition government but later given to the country in general, via HM Treasury. You can read more about the case here.
It is not uncommon for individuals to leave a bequest to the nation and was historically a common way of giving back – especially if there was no surviving family to be taken care of. This is an area dominated by charities in current times, with the apparent lack of integrity and transparency shown by political parties demonstrating how important it is for charities to get this right.
An important aspect in communicating a message of trust and transparency is consistency of message and brand. Many charities are far better at achieving this in campaigns, communications and even fundraising across a number of channels (though this is understandably a challenge when offices encompass many languages and cultures) – however legacy marketing can often fall short of this goal, and is something legacy fundraisers have a responsibility to change – with committed support from our senior management and board of trustees.
The nature of our organisation’s work is something we fundraisers have very little (if any) ability to change. We do, however, have the ability – and responsibility – to ensure we and our colleagues represent the organisation well and are true to brand at all times. Here is where the pressure falls on legacy fundraisers – often a lone individual in the organisation – to be excellent internal influencers. No matter what type of charity you work for, if legacy fundraising is well understood and all staff members, but especially those in public-facing roles, are able to confidently provide information and handle or pass on enquiries, you will be a way along the road to delivering successful legacy campaigns within a trusted an transparent organisation.
If you are interested in exploring the nature of legacy fundraising from a global perspective then don’t miss the session “Truly Global Legacies – perspectives and best practice from around the world” at the IFC in the Netherlands. Juan Hendrawan and myself will be exploring global perspectives of legacy, or bequest, marketing from WWF and WSPA’s fundraising teams around the world.
Emma is the seventh IFC speaker to contribute to the IFC Series 2013.
Check out HERE where you can see Emma present at the IFC.
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