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Demystifying Legacy Fundraising

demystifying legacy fundraising

With such high average values, a fantastic ratio of return and with most gifts left as general funds, it is not hard to see why charities should be interested in legacies. But for many organisations, legacy fundraising is a mysterious art. Charities recognise the opportunity but think legacy campaigns are so different from other types of fundraising that they hesitate to tackle them and so they miss out. How then can we demystify legacies?

Firstly, as with any effective fundraising, raising legacies starts with careful consideration of the case for support. Yes, this will be different from the case the charity uses in cash appeals or to trusts or companies, but the principle is the same - why should anyone leave a legacy to your charity and what difference will it make? The focus of the case should be on the future and on the big picture, not on specific projects or costs (such as you would use in a cash appeal). It needs to be visionary and inspiring and, when you have drafted it, tested on a sample of people who are typical of the audiences you are aiming at. This is often done in a focus group.

Secondly, the choice of audiences will not always be very different from those at whom you aim your other fundraising messages. Think through and list all the different groups you can identify and put some numbers against them. These could include current and past donors, volunteers, clients, families and friends of clients, charity shop customers, merchandise buyers, website visitors, newsletter readers, people who live near your premises etc. if you add up the numbers you will probably be surprised at how many people you can reach. This is not rocket science, just simple common sense.

Thirdly, you will need to devise a plan for how you will communicate the case you have produced to the audiences you have identified. Start with the cheapest methods and the things that you were going to do anyway. In other words, integrate your legacy communications into your overall marketing and fundraising messaging, as this is more cost effective and also more likely to happen. This could include content on your website, in your newsletter, social media, direct mail, posters, displays and other communications used by your charity. Again, test the choice of communications in a focus group, to make sure you will reach people in the ways they will receive.

Once you have covered these three steps, pull it all together into a written campaign strategy, with objectives, a budget and an action plan. Don't be tempted to set targets for income - it is impossible to know what you will achieve or when in terms of cash, given the long timeframe for legacies. Instead, measure how many people you have reached with a legacy message, how much external publicity you have achieved (in newspapers, on websites, on the radio etc), how many enquiries you have received and so on. These are the KPI's that will drive future legacy income and are a good indicator that you are having an impact.

Above all, don't give up. Legacy fundraising is a long term game, a marathon not a sprint, so ensure you keep the message dripping steadily over time and you will see results. Legacy fundraising is an investment and should be part of most charities' fundraising strategy. If you need advice about developing or implementing a legacy campaign, there is further information here.

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