This week is Remember A Charity Week, in which charities come together in one big campaign to encourage people to leave gifts in their wills to causes they care about. It’s also the tenth anniversary of Remember A Charity Week, and much has changed since 2009 in the world of legacy giving, in part thanks to digital.
"I remember sitting in the offices of a big, well-known charity 10 years ago and talking about the importance of digital in legacy fundraising – and there was absolutely no interest," says Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity. "In fact, they were actively against it because they said their audience just wasn’t using digital."
Fast forward 10 years and digital plays an active and even integral part in the marketing of legacy giving. Over the years, charities have become increasingly confident, sophisticated and targeted in how they use digital channels to reach the right people, in the right place at the right time.
Cope believes that digital offers charities the perfect opportunity to be disruptive. "People don’t want to talk about death and money," he explains.
"Historically, charities used TV and radio adverts or direct mail to talk to people about leaving gifts in wills, but the advent of social media has meant that charities can open up the conversation online and normalise conversations around legacies and talking about death.
Using digital to start conversations about legacy giving is something that works really well for Unicef UK. "It’s all about meeting your audience where they already are," says Jenny Kronbergs, head of gifts in wills at the charity.
Its personalised Timeline video allows people to share their favourite memories from childhood, using an online form. Then they receive personalised videos by email, which takes them for a stroll down memory lane, before encouraging them to consider how their legacies can continue through gifts in their wills to the charity.
Kronbergs says: "Digital testing works especially well for legacy fundraising because it’s a great space to be creative and try new ways of engaging with audiences. At Unicef UK, we aim to catch attention with fun, personal content and go on to encourage our audience to think about how their values can live on through gifts in their wills."
It’s the ability to test, adapt and learn that is crucial to legacy fundraising. Cope says that this year Remember A Charity tested 16 different types of content and messaging for its campaign. He says: "Digital offers the opportunity to test, learn and adapt and get real-time feedback, which didn’t exist before. How you frame the messaging around legacies is very important."
Years ago a direct-response TV advert to encourage legacy giving would have taken months of planning and a pretty big budget. Today, charities are creating videos in-house to share across their own channels and reaching thousands of people.
They’re able to be agile and respond quickly, as the RNLI did earlier this week by putting together video from meeting the former Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman at the launch of Remember A Charity Week and combining it with its own footage and a call to action.
Len Goodman had warm words for our volunteers when we met up with him for #RememberACharityWeek. He's supporting the cause that encourages people to leave a gift in their Will to their favourite charity. If you’d like to support our lifesaving work, visit https://t.co/RxGpnQIOC2. pic.twitter.com/dRwf31OWAd— RNLI (@RNLI) September 9, 2019
Digital has levelled the playing field over the years because it’s so accessible. Before it was the reserve of big charities that could afford TV, radio or print adverts or to send out direct mail. Now any charity can afford legacy marketing, whether that’s through joining Remember A Charity or running targeted Facebook adverts.
As Cope says: "Legacy donors often aren’t actually on your database, so reaching out beyond your database is incredibly important and critical. Facebook is incredibly powerful for reaching the right audience because you can target by demographics and interests."
Cope is keen to stress, though, that it’s not just about digital: "It has become so important for behaviour change and normalising conversations around death and giving. Digital helps deliver in a timely, relevant and efficient manner and is such an important ingredient in the mix of success."
It’s clear how much has changed over the past 10 years in terms of legacy giving when it comes to digital, but what do the next 10 years have in store? "The future is already with us, just in smaller pockets," says Cope.
In the next five to 10 years we’ll see more smaller charities actively promoting legacies through digital and more sophisticated targeting. "The market will continue to grow and the charities that succeed will be the ones that invest in it," says Cope.
"Historically, legacy giving struggled with a lack of data, but digital has helped charities make the case for investment because they have better ways of measuring return on investment."
It’s clear there’s no room for complacency.
Kirsty Marrins is a digital communications consultant