Having the last word

Third Sector Promotion BT MyDonate

Legacies can be life-saving for charities. We asked some influential charities and organisations for their top tips on talking to supporters about legacies

Talk the talk

Richard Radcliffe, the global legacy expert and head of Radcliffe Consulting, the leading worldwide legacy fundraising consultancy, says the language you use to talk to older potential legacy donors is vital. Positive language and challenging themes and images like "tribute", "be remembered" and "live on" makes the discussion more palatable. Avoid the words "fundraising", "lots of decisions" and "work out your wealth", as they all sound like arduous tasks.

"We must focus on making prospects happy," says Radcliffe. "Happy people have more self-esteem, sense of control and sense of purpose. They ask "how" whereas unhappy people ask "why should I?" Happy people donate more readily.

Think long-term

Jonathan Gocher, the senior legacy manager for The Children’s Society, conducted research when the charity considered its own legacy marketing in 2014. "We needed to be more powerful and emotive in our messaging, and our research showed that including ‘grittiness’ demonstrated need and urgency. My advice is take a long-term view, ensure your proposition has longevity, is solid, and able to flex across all touch-points."

Celebrate success

"Building good relationships with your internal stakeholders is a key element in a successful legacy marketing strategy," says Brenda Allanson, major partnerships manager, and Lesley Braden, the legacy officer from Friends of the Earth. Building an internal legacy culture was a key priority, starting with a cake event for teams outside fundraising to meet Allanson and Braden, find out more about legacy income and to thank staff for their help in putting gifts in wills – and keeping them there.  

Three years on, FoE staff have a much greater understanding of the importance of legacy income as the team still hold cake days and at team meetings give updates on notifications received. Several staff have subsequently confirmed gifts to FoE in their own wills. 

"A small budget does not mean you can’t do legacy marketing," is the team’s second tip and it has proved this in spades. Following a cut in its legacy marketing budget last year, it introduced low cost methods of promoting legacies. It produced 2,000 leaflets written and designed in house, updated its legacy advert in the supporter magazine, worked closely with the individual giving team to include the legacy message across its mailings and also the FoE supporter services team (known internally as triage) to promote gifts in wills to supporters, even those ringing to cancel gifts.

It introduced a legacy message as a PS in thank you letters sent by FoE, and use handwritten letters as often as possible. It has also begun a rolling mailing programme to key legacy prospects (with a pack produced and mailed in-house) which to date has resulted in a response rate of 5.69 per cent and a pledge rate of 3.64 per cent. And stewardship hasn’t been forgotten – legacies fall within FoE’s major partnerships team which enables them to piggy-back on exclusive major donor events and invite pledgers.

So if this has inspired you to boost your charity’s legacy marketing, what should you bear in mind?

1. Don’t be afraid to ask, but keep the requests positive.

2. For older donors, keep the calls to action focused on the donor’s lifelong passion, not their legacy

3. Positive, encouraging wording is effective, along with gritty images

4. Get your internal team on board so they are comfortable with talking about legacies

5. Remember to say thank you

It is sensitivity, understanding, tact and the right approach that produces results in legacy marketing, which puts it well within the reach of every charity, no matter how small.

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