Hot issue: Do fundraising professionals know how to ask for legacies?

Legacies are charities' largest single source of unrestricted voluntary income, but doubts remain about whether fundraisers are tapping their full potential.





Jonathan Parris, director, Remember a Charity


Let's face it, legacy fundraising is not easy. Few people like confronting their own mortality. Many fundraisers are very good at asking for legacies, even though a legacy ask is rarely a quick win. You need tact, compassion and perhaps a good few years before the money will come in. But it is hugely worthwhile. From legacy fundraisers alone, charities bring in more than £1.6bn each year. Legacies are the largest single source of unrestricted voluntary income.

As it stands, some charities are fantastic at legacy fundraising; others have yet to ask for their first legacy donations. But no fundraising charity can afford to ignore the potential of legacies. Chief executives, trustees and senior managers need to prioritise this within their organisations and support legacies with adequate resources, in terms of both staff and finance.

The web is increasingly a potential donor's first port of call at a charity, so in that medium it must be made easy for them to donate quickly. In general, legacies must be clearly signposted and communicated appropriately across the whole organisation.





Hugh Stockhill, legacy specialist, Bluefrog


With a few notable exceptions, the sector really doesn't know how to pop the most important question of all. In the face of substantial evidence provided by Adrian Sargeant, professor of fundraising at Indiana University, and by research programme Legacy Foresight, we persist with methods that just don't square with the reality of the market.

Yes, most fundraisers have dragged themselves away from using will guides, which is just as well because the vast majority of donors have wills already. But in their place have come some very worthy and very glossy alternative publications that do little to make donors feel that we're treating them as individuals.

Online, the situation is even worse. Despite being a key destination for browsers, legacy pages are usually buried in the outer reaches of fundraising web resources. Few donors can summon the energy or the persistence to track them down.

It's time for a shift of focus away from our needs and towards those of our supporters. In the end, that is what is going to deliver a response.


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