Sowing the seeds for someone else’s benefit

16 December 2014

As legacy fundraisers, we all aware that the marketing and promotion of legacies only shows a return many years thereafter. Many charities restrict wrongly their legacy marketing budget, preferring to see an instant return on fundraising investment, and thus legacies can often be overlooked.

With the London Charity job market showing that on average fundraisers only remain in an organisation for a few years, those who market legacies often don’t get to see the fruits of their labour. Yes, a campaign or appeal can show a number of new legacy enquirers and pledgers, but with the best will in the world this doesn’t constitute a full financial evaluation of a campaign.

I joined the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in October 2013, taking over from a previous Legacy Manager who retired and had been inn post for three years. Before this time, the organisation had conducted little or no legacy marketing. Last financial year, I was pleased to see our legacy income arrive at £1.7 million for the year, over our £825,000 forecast. Of course, as Legacy Manager, I am happy to take credit for this over financial achievement. The truth is, it’s the fruits of the labour of my predecessor, and all of those fundraisers from years gone by who have shown the charity and its future potential in a promising light, thus encouraging supporters to remember us with a gift in their will.

We are now one year into an exciting three year strategy, involving far more legacy marketing through a range of direct mail, social media, and face to face promotion, as well as our joining the Remember A Charity consortium. Our recent involvement in Remember A Charity week saw us generate more legacy enquiries than ever before, and we are now working hard to convert these through stewardship into new pledges. This is fantastic to see, and whilst our pledge form allows supporters the opportunity to advise us of the value of their gift, there is little science in predicting the financial outcome. Of course residuary gifts can’t be calculated accurately, supporters can re-write their wills, and pledge forms are not themselves legally binding. So for all of us legacy marketers, unless we stay in post for decades, we won’t see the financial return of our campaigns.  Nor is it likely our old employers will contact us many years after leaving to congratulate us for recruiting new legacy pledgers which have so many years later provided an income.

Someone running an individual giving appeal can remain motivated seeing the ratio of return on investment and life value of a donor: it’s not that simple in the legacy world. What keeps me motivated is supporting a cause which I firmly believe in, and knowing that I can make a difference. I very much hope to stay in post and see some of my work pay off, but I know that creating a legacy culture both internally and with our supporters will allow the organisation to continue to grow, develop, and ultimately one day allow us to beat cystic fibrosis for good. I know that those who have left gifts in the past have helped us, over the last fifty years, to invest in research which has in-part helped those with cystic fibrosis and have a happy healthier outlook – many now living into their 40’s and beyond. It’s no longer a childhood condition, and the impact on raising legacy income will one day mean that those with cystic fibrosis can lead a much longer, happy, and healthy life.

I know that the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s involvement in the Remember A Charity campaign will help us to drive forward our legacy marketing strategy, and with the other members, make including a gift in your will the social norm. This is a long term goal, but one that is echoed by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and our investment in joining the consortium this year will provide huge dividends in the future.

Find out more about how your legacy could help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust here.

Michael Clark, legacy and in-memory Manager at Cystic Fibrosis Trust