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Creating a Legacy Culture

Legacy marketing can be a bit "us" and "them" can't it? We the charity ask them the supporters for a donation, using marketing techniques to overlay and crunch the data. We segment and target prospects that match the best profiles and have the greatest propensity to give. It can all seem a bit one way, impersonal and data driven. But there is a different way.

Some of the most effective legacy fundraising I have seen is based not so much on these techniques (although we cannot abandon them entirely), but on developing a strong legacy culture, in other words where leaving a legacy to a given cause is the normal, natural thing for supporters to do.

200 years agao, it was a very normal thing to leave a legacy to your local parish church. Look in many older church buildings and you will still see the plaques remembering these donors. They did it because it was expected and just "what you did". But we have got out of the habit, which is why charities invest so much in persuading people it is a good idea and why Remember a Charity has been seeking to normalise legacy giving again.

There are examples though of charities in recent years that have successfully established legacy giving as the norm, from trustees and major givers downwards. Take a look at the Acorns Childrens' Hospice campaign as a good example. This charity has massively increased its legacy income and also created a deep culture of legacies. The two are clearly connected. So what are the secrets to achieving this?

Firstly, leadership. From the top of the organisation it needs to be made clear that serious supporters are expected to leave a legacy. Trustees can take the lead here.

Secondly, openness. Successful legacy fundraising charities talk about legacies at every opportunity, in a natural and unforced way, whether this is in conversation, in literature, at events or on websites.

Thirdly, consistency. Legacies are not just promoted occasionally when the latest appeal is out of the way or fitted into a mailing schedule. Rather they are given priority and mentioned regularly, so that everyone in the community associated with the charity gets the message.

Fourthly, internal marketing supports the external. By making sure all your staff, trustees and volunteers "get" the importance of legacies, you are creating a large sales force of ambassadors that can extend its influence far beyond the reach of the fundraising team.

Creating a legacy culture is not a quick fix. It takes time and persistance, but for those charities that achieve it, the results are the holy grail of fundraising.

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