Dying from boredom

4 February 2016

I am bored. Bored by so many legacy campaigns. Oh to be different in a way which creates a broad, effervescent smile in older people.

Charities should make people smile when thinking of a legacy. A smile is good, laughter is not. A laugh is a smile that bursts and crosses the boundary into dangerous territory. Loads of things make all of us smile but laughter is very personal.

Humour helps cope with difficult situations. It creates a moment of rest and helps express feelings and create warmth.

But how far can we go to make sure people notice, and then fall in love with, a legacy campaign?

“Hello I am Boring”

Studies into humour have been rampant since the mid 19th Century – my favourite being by Professor E Boring (yes, really) in 1957 – “a history of experimental psychology”. Can you imagine his presentation, “Hello I am Boring”. Hysterical!

My sense of humour is somewhere between fantastic and truly dreadful. But I like to challenge boundaries.

When you look at legacy campaigns there is a sense of sameness which really makes my eyelids feel heavy:

“a third of our income is from gifts in Wills” – who cares?

“1 in 3 of our successes are thanks to gifts in Wills” – better but boring

“1 in 3 of our patients/users/beneficiaries is funded thanks to gifts in Wills” – this creates the wonderful reaction of going round a hospice looking at patients to find out which one is funded by “a death time gift”. Such a statement can trigger a strange reaction.

There are also rumblings heard of statutory funders saying “well actually we pay for the basic care of ALL patients so what the hell are you saying?”

‘Getting from the Oooooh to the dooooo’

In my view, millions of people might consider putting a gift in their Will to their favourite charity. The problem is getting them to leap out of bed one morning with wild enthusiasm to DO IT.

Passion drives interest. Logic (for an up to date Will) drives ACTION. Boredom triggers a lack of attention – lethargy and total forgetfulness of a campaign.

It is ‘getting from the Oooooh to the dooooo’ syndrome. Then there is the issue of keeping the legacy in, which is increasingly rare.

Taking charity stakeholders and primary prospects for the best legacies, we know that most 50+ year olds will have a Will (over 90% in my focus groups) but 65% of their Wills (on average) are out of date.

So what are we asking them to do? Add a codicil? Add a Letter of Wishes? Give them the wording for a Will? Access a solicitor? Give them a reason for giving a legacy to YOUR charity?

An interesting conundrum.

Hokey cokey syndrome

With legacies going through the hokey cokey syndrome at the moment (in out and shaken all about) we know we have a sustainability problem, let alone an action problem, let alone overcoming lethargy…

The problem can be rooted in trust and confidence in this “future gift”. And at the moment trust and confidence is lacking. But so is the attention span.

So how do we get older people to take notice and then action? My favourite campaign is for the British Beekeepers Association, with the tagline “Bee a honey and leave us some money”. It is a smile and not a laugh.

Consider your words

Words are so important at the moment, especially when so many solicitors are insisting on NOT leaving a residuary legacy to a charity “because a charity residuary beneficiary intrudes on the family”.

I have even met supporters who feel that “Remember a charity” indicates “Forget the family” (which many people might want to do but that is another issue!)

So should we have a “dying to give” campaign or a “pay as you go” campaign? (The Vikings said death was “off on a boat” which would be perfect for the RNLI.) Or should the RSPB have a campaign “before you drop off your perch, leave us a gift in your Will?” Should the Rugby Football Union do a “have you got the balls to leave us a legacy” campaign?

Asthma UK ages ago (when it was the National Asthma Campaign) said in an in-mem campaign “Breathtaking literally” on a black page with a white, deathly looking lily. That was terrible but memorable.

I will never forget going to Heathrow and seeing the new Terminal 5 – “the Queen’s Terminal” – my question was “is she really?”

Think about how people will take in your words and images, and make them smile and take action.

Anita Roddick said “If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”

Richard Radcliffe FinstF Cert, founder of Radcliffe Consulting

Richard spends 2 out of 5 working days in focus groups, 2 out of 5 days developing strategies and 1 in 5 days training to make the ask. But who cares?