Legacy Fundraising for Arts & Culture Organisations

14 September 2018

In a recent blog on Arts Council, we shared five great tips on how to get started with legacy fundraising for arts and culture organisations.


Remember A Charity Week, 10-16 September, aims to shine a light on the importance of gifts in wills to good causes. Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, shares his five top tips on how you can grow your legacy income.

While legacy conversations need to be handled sensitively, we certainly shouldn’t be afraid of them.  We are a generous nation and there is still so much opportunity: 35% of the UK say they would be happy to leave a gift in their will, while just 6% currently do it. The reality is that legacies aren’t really about death, but an opportunity to shape the world beyond our lifetime.

The legacy market, now generating almost £3 billion a year for good causes, is also rapidly changing, with more donors choosing to support the arts and culture. To many organisations, legacies are still an unknown. But there’s really no time like the present to be loud about legacies. Here are my five top tips to grow legacy income for your organisation:

  1. Make everyone a legacy champion

Give everyone in your organisation the tools and confidence to talk about the difference that gifts in Wills could make. Integrate your legacy fundraising, drip-feeding your message in all communications. Put a case study in your newsletter or e-bulletin. Or talk about it on social media.

“Three years ago we had no current known legacy pledgers and a single webpage. It was a much missed opportunity for a much loved 120 years old venue,” admitted Rachael Magson, Birmingham Hippodrome Trust’s head of fundraising.

“Since then we have created a better web page and a new legacy pack, and worked with our Development Board to host our first charitable giving seminar. We’ve also discussed legacy giving with our staff, senior leadership and trustees – so everyone is committed and open to discussions around legacy giving.”

  1. Learn from other charities

While your organisation might be new to legacies, there are many very successful fundraising charities, large or small, that you can learn from.

Debbie Forwood, development and communications manager at National Youth Jazz Orchestra agrees. “Get out there and learn from other charities who are already doing it well.”

“There are some tremendously supportive peer networks on social media where people are very willing to share their experiences, so take every advantage!”

Photo © Verity Milligan. Birmingham Weekender, Birmingham Hippodrome.

  1. Make it personal

A gift in a will is an emotional connection with your work, often left as a thank you from a donor who has a long-term affinity with an organisation. A personal touch can therefore really make a difference, helping to build a long-term relationship with the donor.

“It’s all about the relationship,” says Simon Foulds, supporter communications manager at The National Holocaust Centre and Museum.

“A handwritten thank you card is better than a typed letter, which shows that you really mean ‘thank you’ – your supporter has probably just planned the largest gift they will ever give, writing a handwritten thank you card is probably the least you can do.”

  1. Family and friends first, then charity

Words matter when it comes to gifts in wills.

Inspire your supporters with a vision for the future. Paint a picture of the world you can create together. Leave the technical language to the solicitor. Use phrases like “gift in will”, not “legacy” or “bequest”.

Liz Orme, development officer at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, agrees: “Make sure potential supporters are aware that they can remember friends and family as well as a favourite charity when leaving a gift in their will; it doesn’t have to be just one or the other!”

  1. Thank your donors

“It is important to communicate that every gift in every will makes a difference – no matter how large or small,“ suggests Ellen Parkes, development manager at the Academy of Ancient Music.

“Legacies left to our charity by generous donors have always made a significant difference to the work we deliver year-on-year. Our donors make our music happen.”


And with that, I say thank you for reading – and thank you, for perhaps one day, considering giving a gift of your own to an organisation you care about.