Fundraising: Case study - NSPCC asks supporters for legacies

Francois Le Goff

Summary

The NSPCC sent out its third legacy mailing of the year in August. Early indications are that it will generate a return of £450,000. Most respondents have so far pledged to leave a share of their estate, called a residuary legacy, rather than a pecuniary legacy that would devalue over time.

Background

Legacies represent one-fifth of the NSPCC's revenue. In 2003, gifts made in wills accounted for almost £17m of income. The charity promotes legacies through telemarketing and direct mail, including three annual appeals and a newsletter that goes out in January.

Sally Roff, legacy manager at the NSPCC, explains that mailings about legacies do not work the same way as traditional direct mail because responses from recipients are never immediate: "They have to make an appointment to see a solicitor. It takes nine months on average between receiving a mailing and notifying the NSPCC of a will." She adds that although response rate is generally lower, donations are significantly higher, with an average £14,000.

In August, the NSPCC sent out a legacy appeal mail pack called 'Jeremy Legacy' to 100,000 committed donors, which followed others in January and March.

How it worked

The mail pack contained a letter signed by Sally Roff which started by thanking recipients for their support and introducing them to legacy fundraising.

In her letter, Roff explained that, contrary to what many people might think, making a legacy is not a complicated process. She invited recipients to read a two-page leaflet about Will Aid enclosed in the pack. Will Aid is a scheme run by nine charities, including the NSPCC, that puts people in touch with solicitors who draw up a basic will at no cost. Any money raised is then split between the charities, depending on how much they invested in the scheme at the outset.

The pack also included a form that recipients could fill in if they wanted to get in touch with their local NSPCC legacy manager, and an illustrated booklet about Jeremy, who suffered abuse by his father as a child and is now one of the charity's supporters.

On the last page, the charity reminded recipients that wills can be amended or re-written at any time, and listed different ways of contacting a solicitor, whether through friends and family, Will Aid or a bank adviser.

Results

So far, the response rate has been 0.06 per cent, which should amount to future income of £448,000. "It looks very promising," Roff says.

Some 81 per cent of respondents decided to leave a residuary legacy, which decreases less in value over time. At an average £29,300, residuary legacies are also worth more. The average pecuniary legacy has a value of £2,800.

"It looks like our message saying that leaving a share of an estate is better than making a pecuniary legacy is getting through," says Roff.

EXPERT VIEW

NICK COULDRY is creative director at ad agency Whitewater

The letter thanks me for my support (nice), introduces a true story to demonstrate the problem (still don't know what they're asking me to do), then asks me to consider remembering the NSPCC in my will (OK then ...).

I'm told that legacies account for one fifth of the NSPCC's income (crikey), and that in 2003 the charity got £17m this way (hang on a minute ... I was thinking of leaving around £500 or so - will that make much of a difference?) I liked the simple drawings that illustrated the story of Jeremy in the accompanying leaflet, and found the copy to be very moving. Perhaps if the letter had some more of this flavour, rather than only talking about big numbers, I would have been a tad more motivated.

The number to call the NSPCC's legacy department is there in the letter - so why does the response form ask for my phone number? I want to talk to the NSPCC when I'm ready to do so - not at the charity's convenience.

The Will Aid leaflet provides a list of solicitors prepared to draw up a will free of charge, and asking me to consider making a charitable bequest. But it was a bit confusing having this on a separate leaflet - maybe this should have been incorporated in the letter with details of the scheme available from the NSPCC if I was interested.

It feels like there's not much thought gone into this, with the disparate elements of the communication not working well together.

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