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Legacies and DM Appeals

So a DM agency has identified that adding a legacy info tick box to direct mail appeals reduces the cash response rate (3rd Sector magazine 16th March). Big deal!

Of course anything you do to water down an appeal will reduce the response rate. The best results are always achieved by making it clear and direct, asking for one thing at a time, not by confusing the donor with a range of options. But then we knew that didn't we?

As a result of their findings, US based Pareto Fundraising claims that "Separate communications about legacies are much more effective than peripheral efforts such as tick boxes on appeal response forms." Again, this should be no surprise to anyone. But I'm still not convinced.

Firstly, a small reduction in response rates to cash appeals may well be a price worth paying to achieve more legacies, given that the average cash gifts quoted by Pareto were just £29.11 (with no legacy box) or £27.64 (with legacy option). When compared to the current UK average legacies (around £4,000 for cash gifts and £30,000 for shares of estates) the difference is paltry and in my book well worth a punt.

More importantly of course, we know that for most people, leaving a legacy is a big decision which they do not come to quickly. They often need to be gently reminded over time that keeping their will up to date and remembering a charity in it are good things to do. Few people will rush out to do so at the first mention. So as well as asking for legacies directly, drip feeding low key messages also makes a lot of sense, whether it is on response coupons, email footers, web banners, stationery etc. It all helps.

So as for me, I will keep advising my clients to give donors the legacy option, even if it may reduce their short term cash results slightly. It has to be a good investment for the future.

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