Why should legacies be part of a small charity’s fundraising programme?

18 June 2015

Throughout the year the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) run regular training events where I often teach a room full of our small charity members about how and why to put together a legacy fundraising programme.  At the beginning of the day I always ask people why they have come to the course and what they are hoping to learn from it.

The answer I consistently get is that their organisations have received one or more significant legacy gifts, are not sure how or why this happened but want to introduce a programme as it had made a huge difference to their organisation.

The donations they have received have often had a transformative effect on the organisation, enabling them to redevelop or even buy new buildings. Or they can run an entirely new project or ensure they have sufficient reserves to preserve their future and the work they do for their beneficiaries.

Small charities are often under huge pressures to continue their vital services and to quickly bring in the funds to enable this. Therefore, legacy fundraising may not be top of their list of priorities but I believe it is an important element to a well-rounded and successful fundraising strategy.

Importantly for small charities, starting a legacy fundraising programme doesn’t need to be too expensive. Small charities are already talking to their supporters in a variety of ways; through Gear News newsletters, e-mails, at events, via social media and on their website. These are the places they should start to place their legacy messages and information about what difference legacies can make to their organisation.

They don’t need to start sending out special mailings, just let people know about this way of giving when you are already talking to them. Drip those messages into your regular communications so your supporters start to recognise this as a way to support you.

Another great thing about this form of fundraising is the potential for a huge return on any investment you make (up to 50:1!). So whilst it will not be a quick solution when the funds do come in they are often significant.

Small charities do not have legacy departments and are often not used to talking to people about legacies or their will. They are worried it will be an awkward conversation but with more and more people considering giving in this way, they are often happy to have these conversations and know that they can continue to support the causes which are important to them.

To make this easier for you think about the key messaging you would like to get across in advance and make sure that all staff members or volunteers having these conversations are using the same key messages so there’s consistency in how your organisation is talking about legacies.

To maximise your legacy programme also think about what events or activities are taking place externally that might support you to get your message out. 15th-20th June is Small Charity Week which was set up by the FSI to raise the profile and celebrate the work of small charities across the UK.  The Friday of the week is Fundraising Day so it’s a good opportunity to remind your supporters about how they can help you. Don’t forget that September brings Remember A Charity Week which promotes the option to leave a legacy gift to the public.

If you’re a small charity with a turnover under £1.5 million I would urge you to keep an eye on the FSI’s website for our next legacy fundraising course where we discuss how to start fundraising in this way.

Find out how membership of Remember A Charity could benefit your small charity.  

Alex Hayes, Learning Manager at the FSI