The importance of good relationships

21 September 2015

WaterAid joined Remember A Charity to support our strategy of making gifts in wills accessible to all supporters. The week makes talking about gifts in wills relevant but we needed our own story to tell if we were to get teams involved.

Building internal buy-in

We ran an internal campaign to find our ‘living legends’. This approach identified people who were of the right age and passionate about WaterAid. It also gave us a reason to talk about gifts in wills internally and get staff thinking about Remember A Charity Week.

The search for Extreme Will Writers

This meant that when we learned about the skydive, we had a list of potential supporters. We didn’t know if they had left WaterAid a gift in their will, but we felt if they were on board with the promotion they would be open to the idea.

Most names on the list were of volunteers who give talks about our work. I’ve always used every opportunity possible to meet these volunteers so I was able to make the calls myself. It was no surprise that the first supporter to say yes was a ‘WaterAid speaker’. It helped that we train speakers to promote gifts in wills during their talks, so they understood what a great opportunity this was for WaterAid.

Dave Shurlock, who was eventually picked to take part, is a brilliant supporter. Both he and his wife Linda talk for WaterAid, run a local group and are often the go-to supporters when we have something a bit different to get involved in. As a retired teacher I was hopeful he could help normalise gifts in wills for the national campaign, as everyone knows a teacher.

A unique relationship

Most water companies encourage their staff to volunteer for WaterAid. As a result we have some fabulous volunteers, many of whom have been a part of WaterAid longer than most staff. Several names on our list were retired water industry employees, who were still looked after by our Water Industry Partnership team.

I had a few conversations and the account managers had a few more, but it seemed jumping out of a plane wasn’t for everyone. However, this approach demonstrated that talking about gifts in wills was easier than they thought. We did get offers of support – as long as they could keep their feet on the ground!

We heard an initial ‘absolutely not’ from Meryl; we were already in her will, and if she could help others consider it then she would like to help, but she was nervous about the skydive. Thankfully, half of WaterAid seem to have flung themselves from a plane, so I had no shortage of volunteers willing to talk to her about their experience. I’m pleased to say that she soon agreed to join Dave for the challenge.

So much more than a week

Taking part in Remember A Charity Week gave us a reason to engage staff in gifts in wills from February. While searching for an extreme will writer we were also handed a wonderful opportunity to have conversations with key supporters, which I doubt would have happened otherwise. Many shared that WaterAid was in their will without us even asking!

The teams who manage these volunteers have become more confident about having conversations about gifts in wills. Having our own extreme will writers has also allowed us to expand our promotion plans and inspire more fundraising teams to share their story.

Sometimes ‘no’ can be good too

It’s worth remembering that ‘no’ doesn’t always mean bad news – in fact, each ‘no’ still helped us raise valuable awareness of gifts in wills. Sometimes these reactions were priceless – just take a read of Dave Padfield’s poem below!


“Skydiving… err… no thanks!”  

Thanks for the invite, you’re really so kind

But stunt aeronautics were not in my mind


I’ve done lots of things in the course of my life

But this one was met with concern from my wife!


There are some adventures from which I refrain

And one of them’s jumping from out of a plane


It’s not that I’m frightened of falling at speed

But Mary has spoken, I need to take heed


I hope you won’t judge me as being too rash

‘Cos others will jump and will raise loads of cash


They deserve lots of praise – a big hand all round

I know I’ll be happier – feet on the ground


I’ll stick to the hobbies that I really like…

…walking and swimming and riding my bike


I may not be brave, I may be quite shy…

…I know that God didn’t intend me to fly!


So thanks, but no thanks…

Dave Padfield


Dominique Abranson, Senior Individual Giving Officer – Legacy at WaterAid

Photo credit WaterAid/Matt Sills