Focus on understanding donors' lives rather than sending them information, legacy fundraisers told

The advice comes from a paper summarising the findings of 160 research papers on how and why donors leave gifts to charity in their wills

Legacy fundraisers could be more successful if they focused on understanding donors' lives rather than bombarding them with information about their charities, according to the first literature review of legacy giving.

Everything We Know About Legacy Giving In 2018 summarises the findings of 160 published research papers on why and how donors leave gifts to charity in their wills.

The fundraising consultancy Legacy Voice commissioned Professor Adrian Sargeant and Claire Routley at the University of Plymouth Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy to carry out the review.

They studied papers on issues as diverse as fundraising, psychology, psychiatry and behavioural economics to find out what is most effective.

Some of the studies are available only to academics or behind pay walls.

"What we find is that legacy giving has little if nothing to do with our own organisations, but instead is a reflection of the lives of our donors," said Ashley Rowthorn, director of Legacy Voice.

Fundraisers, Rowthorn told Third Sector, needed to take time to understand their donors' values, life experiences and why they wanted to leave gifts, and work around these issues rather than send lots of information about their charities.

Legacy giving, he said, was completely different from lifetime giving.

"All too often we see charities applying lifetime-giving practices and expecting it to work in a legacy context," he said. "It just won’t."

Legacy gifts account for 13 per cent of UK charities' voluntary income, the paper says. 

The market rose by 5.1 per cent in 2017 and is expected to double in value by 2050 as the post-war baby-boomer generation dies.

Sargeant said: "Over the past decade, our knowledge about who gives gifts in wills and why has increased dramatically, and bringing this disparate information into a single, accessible resource will be extremely helpful for legacy fundraisers"

The 63-page review is available free of charge on the Legacy Voice website.

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