‘Like’ legacies

21 April 2016

A rise in silver surfers is one of many factors changing the way that charities attract legacy donations. Louise Pavoni asks how charities can make best use of digital channels to engage their followers in legacy giving and reach out to new supporters.

Changing online demographics are prompting charities to turn to digital for new ways to engage supporters. Around one in seven over 65s now use social networking sites, according to the Office for National Statistics, and a third of over 75s are active internet users.

Digital channels are fast becoming one of the most effective ways for charities to encourage the public to consider writing a charity into their Will.

“People often assume that social media is a place to reach young people. In actual fact most of our followers on Facebook are over 40, and a good proportion of the most engaged are over 55,” says Rachel Peck, Digital Marketing Manager at Diabetes UK.

“If you understand the demographics of your audience, Facebook’s targeting can really help you reach your warmest audience.”

Similarly, WaterAid recognises that its work resonates with audiences with medical or engineering backgrounds. “So we targeted people working in those fields,” says the charity’s Senior Individual Giving Officer – Legacy, Dominique Abranson. “It worked brilliantly as we exceeded our target reach. 13,500 people saw our organic Facebook and Twitter posts whilst over 500,000 saw our paid content.”

With many of charities’ potential legacy donors being active online, on email and social media, charities must utilise social media channels and feature legacies prominently on their website.

Digital channels can level the playing field and enable smaller charities to speak with a louder voice

One of the biggest advantages is that digital channels don’t require a large spend, but can still have a significant impact.

More than eight in ten legacies left to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland come from women, so – with a small budget at its disposal – the charity targeted its social media activity for legacy promotion to a female audience, leading to an increase in web traffic.

“We’ve seen how digital and social media is key for other fundraising areas, where we’ve had success with LinkedIn as well as Facebook to reach new audiences, so we now use these to promote our legacy message,” says Vanessa Rhazali, Head of Individual Giving at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

“Creating a ‘Leave a gift in your Will’ button on our home page next to the ‘Give Now’ button has made a difference too, as people are taken straight to our legacy page.  We follow this through with all our printed materials which also promote this link.”

If you’re just starting out, test what messages and channels evoke the best response from your supporters. Get in the habit of planning, designing and scheduling your content for the week ahead, keep watching and find opportunities to respond. Give your followers content to share with their own social network.

To convert awareness into action, make it easy for supporters to find out the information they need before making a legacy donation or pledge, providing links to professional advisers.

A place to talk

The digital arena, particularly social media, is a relatively informal, friendly space that can help break down the barriers to legacy giving, providing opportunities for quirky anecdotes, personal stories and a genuine interaction with followers.

Speaking about death may be a taboo topic in some settings, but digital channels can help keep the message light, to focus on the impact of donations and the opportunities that supporters have to make a lasting impression through legacy giving.

What is more, if you can attract people with similar cares and concerns to your posts, it is a unique opportunity to see beneficiaries and supporters come together to share stories and experiences.

“Social media provides a great platform to talk to and engage with your target audience,” says Emily Wild, Cash Giving & Legacies Manager at Oxfam. “It doesn’t require massive investment and is flexible so you can try it out just for a week to test what works. Digitally we’re able to meet a particular need at a given moment and we spend a lot of time refining the online journey so that it is simple to use. We’re still learning and adapting all the time.”

Oxfam’s success with digital communications during Remember A Charity Week last year saw pay per click and social media lead to over 40,000 web visits. During their legacy push in September, the charity recorded 2,685 legacy enquiries and over 500 pledges.

Ensure that your posts encourage interaction, listen and learn from what supporters say and refine your messages in line with that feedback.


Storytelling is at the heart of many memorable legacy campaigns.  With the ability to post pictures, short stories and videos, social media is an easy and emotive way for charities of all shapes and sizes to tell their story, to enable followers to contribute their own stories and to share it all with their social networks. Don’t expect it all to go viral, but remember that every story has the potential to be carried far beyond your immediate reach.

Last year, an email from one of WaterAid’s supporters talking passionately about why he included a gift in his Will resulted in a 10% higher open rate than the charity’s average email.

Few channels can tell a story better than video. Donors and beneficiaries can be seen, their voices heard and the impact of a legacy demonstrated. And yet, for some charities, static images result in a higher click through rate than video.  Test what resonates best with your supporter base.

The online community is growing; supporters and potential donors are engaged, ready to talk, share and be moved.  Contrary to popular opinion, digital communications are one of the most loved ways for many older people to communicate, particularly in the 65-74 age bracket.

Tips on launching a digital legacy fundraising programme

  • Make sure that your legacy page is accessible from the charity’s homepage. It should explain the importance of legacies, answer questions on Will-writing and charitable gifts, signposting professional guidance and next steps
  • Collect case studies of legacy pledgers who can be filmed, quoted, photographed and write blogs for you. Their stories can inspire others
  • Post messages about legacies regularly, drip feeding your content. Share infographics, images, moving quotes and snippets from your videos
  • Inspire action with each post, whether this is getting in touch with your legacy team, contacting a solicitor or watching a film about a pledger
  • Generate discussion around legacies, addressing both the motivations and common barriers in your online communications.
  • Remember, social media is a safe place to be humorous, playful and show more personality than your traditional marketing methods
  • Measure results and keep on testing. Understanding what people respond to and the supporter journey enables you to mould and shape future campaigns
  • Diarise your legacy campaign to make it a priority for the organisation at that time and ensure you have internal buy-in, engagement and support. Get involved with Remember A Charity Week, 12-18 September 2016.

Louise Pavoni, campaigns officer at Remember A Charity