Legacy fundraising – the 3 challenges

We’ve recently been working with Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice as their creative agency for a legacy fundraising campaign and while there’s increasing evidence that people do consider leaving a legacy in their Will if asked to do so; legacy giving provides challenge after challenge for charities. When you think you’ve conquered one obstacle, you hit another. Primarily you’d think it was as simple as engaging with supporters and encouraging them to do more than just think about considering your Charity in their Will. But you’d be wrong.

Gifts in Wills form the foundation of most charities in the UK, with many depending highly on legacy giving, quite simply, without them they would not exist. In fact, while 74% of the UK population support a charity, only 7% currently leave a legacy to them when writing a Will, but as recent research shows, supporters will need even more convincing to commit.

More than 58% of the nation (approximately 28 million people) do not have a Will, and whilst this presents a gross opportunity for the third sector, it also illustrates the apathy behind this important task. Astonishingly, 11% of people say it’s never even occurred to them to write one. Writing a Will just isn’t high on the agenda of important tasks, in fact one in ten UK adults believe their estate will go to the right beneficiary automatically. So with this in mind we give you 3 challenges to consider when putting together your legacy fundraising strategy. 

1. Convincing your donors that they actually NEED a Will.

Before you can even start to discuss your fundraising proposition it’s important to highlight why your audience needs a Will. Nearly a third (32%) of over 55’s do not have a Will in place. Focusing on the importance of a Will is a good place to start. Perhaps utilise your wider environments influencing to do this, campaigns such as ‘write a Will week’ are a great place to start your communications. It’s absolutely essential to educate your audience on why a Will is important.

2. Convincing them to do something about it.

Realising a Will is something you actually need and doing something about it are two very different things. It’s quite likely that once this task diminishes in the minds of your educated audience, the urgency to do so will too. When planning your legacy fundraising strategy, what you need to ensure is that you create a prompt (call to action) connected to your educational messaging. One of the most effective prompts I have seen to date is Will Aid. A local solicitor writes an individuals Will, then instead of paying their fee you are invited to make a donation to Will Aid. The suggested donation is £90 for a basic single Will or £135 for a pair of basic mirror Wills. So, if you’re a small local charity, consider creating a relationship like this – it’s sure to result in great PR opportunities for both parties, as well as generating revenue for a good cause.

3. Convincing your donors to consider your Charity when pledging a legacy.

And finally, challenge 3 is to convince supporters to leave your Charity a gift in their Will. The potential to disappoint a relative when they find out their inheritance has gone to the local cat’s home is a conscience issue and one that isn’t easily overcome. The basic instinct to provide for your own before others is a hard one to adjust, even at lower levels of value.

The only way to do this is to create a single voice about legacy giving to create a ‘social norm’, a familiar behaviour associated with writing your Will. Remember a Charity is an organisation that realises the importance of legacy fundraising to UK charities. Currently worth almost £2 billion a year, they have an aspiration to pull together this need so they can grow the sector by just 4%, raising an extra £1 billion for UK charities.

It’s quite likely that regular donors ‘want what you want’ – what you need to do is reach them with a message that shows how their legacy can be a bigger part of that continued service.

It’s not about ‘convincing’ your supporter that you’re a worthy cause, and overcoming their conscience issue, it’s more crucial that charities understand their supporters’ motivations and use this insight effectively to create a satisfying proposition for them in support, rather than to make a ‘plea’. In doing so, you’ll create a passion which will not only result in an action but also to create a beneficial understanding within all parties – what’s more is it’s quite likely that the charity will benefit from continued support through the family chain. 


By Leah Marley

InsideOut Creative is a Derby Based Design Agency with an appetite for third sector marketing. Learn what our clients have to say about us.