The changing world of legacy giving

8 August 2016

Legacy giving is changing in so many ways at the moment. It really is an exciting time, bringing new opportunities for an increasing range of charities. It’s not without its challenges though, so what better time to question what you really know about legacies…

Do you think you know your best prospects?

If you have interrogated your database to find out who has left legacies then you might think you know who your future prospects are. You might well be wrong.

The profile of legators is changing fast – no longer is it just the domain of the single older woman. Nowadays it is savvy baby boomers who are deeply inquisitive about your charity’s performance and effectiveness. This rule applies to most but not all causal areas – animal charities being a current exception.

If you are a small charity with little or no legacy income, then this shift in legacy giving could open up a world of possibilities for you. The past does not define the future.

Do you really know their journey with your charity?

Stop and think – at what age are your prospects MOST loyal to you? And will that loyalty be lifelong or temporary? Increasingly, as donor journeys fade into inactivity, often through mindless direct debits and a fading need or connection to a cause, an existing legacy is taken out of a Will and a new one put in which has more current relevance to that donor during retirement.

If you think your charity could be losing out in this way, then a creative cultivation and stewardship plan is essential.

Do you really know the best call to action?

Unlike other ways of giving, a legacy usually involves a legal document – a Will. A Will is probably not anyone’s favourite subject to discuss over breakfast. So, when planning your campaign, are you really thinking about what you are asking people to do?

‘Leave us a legacy’ is not an effective call to action, as it can be perceived as a decision which is complicated and tedious – one which can all too easily be left for another day. Introduce an easy action to get them talking to their financial adviser or a member of your charity’s staff, and your charity will be remembered.

Do you engage with prospects the way you want or the way prospects want?

Many donors of a ‘good age’ cannot easily get out and about to come to an event. Those that can love a legacy event, as long as it is well planned and inspirational rather than a ‘depressing pre-death party’ (mind you, it would be hard to hold a post death party!).

So, if trust and confidence is to be communicated, could a personal phone call or a mini annual review help a relationship to flourish?

Do you think your campaign stands out or is it boringly normal?

One of the biggest problems we have in this day and age is to get anyone to read and remember any communications. Only 4% of donors over 60 have looked at any charity website according to donors and volunteers I meet in focus groups. They all love the printed word but often forget what they have read!

For a campaign to really succeed we have to be daring and different. Stand up and stand out and be noticed. Forget a blasted legacy brochure and start thinking DVDs and cartoons and animations and bring a smile to their face – make their day with a grin not a grimace.

Do attitudes differ as you move around the UK?

Yes! Charities in the north of Scotland cannot run the same campaign as one run in Dorset. The more northerly the campaign the more private legacy giving becomes. The gender of ‘typical’ legators is different in the north of the UK to the South. And their profile even changes as you go up the M1!

Richard Radcliffe, FinstF Cert, Founder of Radcliffe Consulting

Have you read our latest blog on how research can help increase legacy giving?