Time for a joint approach to promote charity legacies

Gail2Legacy donations – bequests left in a will – are often a sizeable chunk of a charity’s revenue but aren’t always given the attention they deserve.
According to research by Remember A Charity, more than a quarter (27%) of charity donors are preparing to leave a charitable legacy or have already done so (up from 23% in March 2009).
Meanwhile, the number of wills with a charitable bequest (charitable estates) has risen from just over 34,000 to more than 36,000 in the past decade, states Smee & Ford.
It’s a fact that the UK has an ageing population. For this reason – and because some organisations rely on bequests for up to half of their annual income – many charities are redoubling their efforts to sow the seeds of legacy giving.
Charities have recognised that over the last 30 years people have talked more freely about leaving donations in their will. Many organisations have increased their media spend to highlight legacies.
As the Baby Boomer generation gets older, charities have become alive to the benefits of broadcasting legacy messages. If charities can reach a person at the moments when they are considering making a will, or changes to it, there’s a greater chance a donation will be included. We also know that once a gift is written into a will it’s unlikely to be taken out.
We recently rolled out a comprehensive new campaign, A Memory Everlasting, for Surrey-based Princess Alice Hospice.
The initiative is ongoing and is based on the hospice’s research, which revealed a growing need for its services. This will only increase as the local population ages and will need to be supported by even greater donations.
We took a holistic view and looked at all the audiences the hospice interacts with: patients, families, donors, shop supporters and volunteers. Everyone should be a hospice ambassador.
The campaign creative links directly back to the hospice, based around the silver birch which adorn its garden. Our strategy is to sow the seeds of legacy to many and cultivate the small but important group of people who respond.
For Princess Alice Hospice, legacy giving is fundamental, and according to director of fundraising, marketing and communications Nigel Seymour is 37% of its overall income and the largest revenue stream, equating to £3.2m annually.
He explains that it is vital that everyone across the organisation understands what the charity is trying to achieve and how they can help the team reach as many people as possible with this campaign. The whole organisation, from the board down, believes in this as a long-term programme to protect the future, rather than a short-term investment.
A traditional approach of direct mail to Princess Alice’s warm audience has been fused with other activity including a retail strategy and face-to-face events explaining the value of legacy. The first event was well received. People wanted to find out more and we had some pledges on the day.
Seymour said: “Our 47 high-street stores are a key focus, too. Some 8,000 people cross our thresholds each week, so we need our volunteers and store staff engaged and talking about legacies in a way that allows the wider fundraising team to continue the conversation with supporters.”
He believes the campaign’s real value will be witnessed between five to ten years from now when legacy income picks up significantly.
Where once legacy departments were left relatively unattended and underfunded, I believe their time has come. There’s been a certain complacency about legacies across the charity sector which can’t go on. It’s a gift for the whole charity, so it’s vital to develop a message that everyone in the organisation can get behind.
Seymour insists there is a huge opportunity for all hospices to work together to consider and promote the value of legacy to the sector. It’s the primary income source for 99% of hospices. As Seymour said: “We joined Remember A Charity, and I’d encourage other hospices to do the same. It’s a great chance to collaborate for a small investment that will make a lasting difference.”

Gail Cookson is fundraising director at WPN Chameleon

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