Katie Tennyson, Senior Individual Giving & Legacy Manager at Hft talks about how the charity has rejoined Remember A Charity after winning more support for legacies and legacy marketing within the organisation and amongst supporters by finding new ways of communicating the benefits.

Legacy income helps us provide people with a life, rather than just an existence.”

When and why did you join Remember A Charity?

As a small charity focused on learning disabilities, it can be difficult to engage people, so we felt it would be beneficial to join a bigger organisation because it has a much wider reach than we could achieve on our own.

We’ve actually been members twice – first in 2008-2009, and then we have just rejoined Remember A Charity this year. The first time around we weren’t really equipped to take on big campaigns or to participate with everything. Now however we are in a better position to be able to do so with our own in-house PR team too so hope to be able to play a bigger part.

How important are legacies to charities?

They’re vital. Legacies are a major income source for a lot of charities and many would be stuck without them.  For learning disability charities, legacies are very important. We get fees from local authorities for the people they support but what they cover is very basic. Legacy income helps us provide people with a life, rather than just an existence.

What has been your organisation’s experience of legacies?

We used to accept that legacies just came in and so didn’t do any active legacy marketing. Over the past eight years however we’ve made a lot of changes to try and make it the norm to talk about legacy giving to our supporters, and to engage people with the idea early on. This has also included educating frontline staff to be legacy ambassadors, and working to help our trustees and board understand the need for legacies and legacy marketing.

It was initially quite challenging to get everyone within our organisation to understand the importance of legacies and of getting supporters on the legacy journey early on – essentially if you don’t ask them someone else will ­– but once we got some of our trustees on board it became a lot easier to get others’ buy-in and consequently to get the budget we need.

What are the main challenges with legacies?

People often feel that they can’t leave enough so then don’t leave anything, so one challenge is getting supporters to understand that a legacy doesn’t have to be a massive gift or a whole property. We’re trying to get the message across that any gift is gratefully received.

There’s also the issue of sensitivity: people haven’t liked to talk about legacies and charities haven’t liked to ask, but it’s becoming a less sensitive issue. Legacies are talked about much more these days: by families, as well as charities.

How do you address these challenges within your fundraising strategy?

A couple of years ago we came up with the idea of demonstrating to families just how we use legacy income to show the huge and tangible difference it makes. We put a percentage of it into a pot and encourage staff to apply to this for funds for something specific to help the person they support. This has also really engaged staff with legacies because they know that legacy income can provide them with money for special projects and items that they otherwise couldn’t afford.

We also run dedicated campaigns to encourage people to leave us a gift in their Will. This year’s campaign is called ‘Will you say yes?’ and all of our communications will revolve around it, including our activity around Remember A Charity Week.

Has anything about legacy fundraising surprised you?

One of the biggest surprises has been fellow fundraisers’ opinions of legacy fundraising. Quite a few still think that it’s a subject you can’t broach with supporters but actually it’s something they want to hear about.

What are the benefits of getting involved with Remember A Charity?

For smaller charities with limited budgets, joining Remember A Charity gives you the ability to reach a much wider audience than would otherwise be possible and helps you build brand awareness. It provides you with a bigger voice with every organisation in the consortium saying as one that leaving a gift in your Will is a good thing to do.

There are also a lot of tools provided by Remember A Charity to help with legacy fundraising activity that smaller charities might not otherwise be able to afford. And, through the consortium you have access to other charity members that you can talk to, share your experiences of legacies and legacy fundraising with, and learn from, which is very valuable.

Do you have any tips to pass on to fellow fundraisers?

– Get legacies in wherever you can. Mention them as often as possible – on the backs of envelopes, and in your email sign offs for example.

– Calling legacies gifts in Wills can be a friendlier term to start off with when first broaching the subject with supporters.

Find out more about Hft.