FUNDRAISING NEWS: Handle legacy donors with care, says study

Charities could be wasting money by trying to build relationships with every supporter who pledges a legacy to them in their will, according to new research published last week.

Most legators are not motivated to give by communications from charities, according to a survey conducted by the Henley Management College Centre for Voluntary Sector Management and legacy consultant Smee and Ford. Their decisions tend to be based on personal choice or experience, and they are less likely to feel the need for a relationship.

Questions to 830 legacy pledgers from five national charities showed that only one third made their commitment because of a communication from the charity, and only 42 per cent notified the charity they had made a pledge to.

"It is entirely possible that legators do not want a relationship with charities at all," said Richard Radcliffe, chairman at Smee and Ford. "They want to know that the charity is efficient but do not want tons of information or even regular correspondence."

These findings go against current trends which have seen many charities pursuing 'relationship fundraising' to boost donations.

The research also shows that reciprocal mailing, where charities exchange databases of supporters' contact details, could damage legacy prospects.

"Many donors support nine or 10 charities, and if all of those charities reciprocate their mailing lists, they are likely to be getting a lot of direct mail," said report author Adrian Sargeant of Henley Management College. "There is a real risk of losing pledgers."


- Target service users for legacies as many legators are motivated by personal experience

- Allow legators to decide how much to pledge

- 7.6 per cent would give less because of a legacy approach

- Jewish donors and major donors are more likely to want a relationship with the charity

- Christians, unless evangelical, are unlikely to want recognition

- Wealthy legators are motivated by the idea that their donations will make a genuine difference.

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