Legacy income really is a mirror to our economy – during phases of growth it rapidly uplifts and when the economy stagnates legacy income responds accordingly. Even with global financial crises, house price crashes and, of course, years of austerity, legacy income has remained resilient. We mustn’t forget that during the pandemic many charities found themselves dependent on legacies as other income streams stalled completely.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say investment in giving in wills is vital. Perhaps you have secured new or additional legacy budget or are in the throes of legacy strategising. So where to start?

Well, your strategy should be both accessible to, and deliverable by, the team in situ. It should be based on what is known to work best for charities across the UK but scaled to what your organisation can consistently deliver. And, of course, designed to fit the budget. Ensure you have the following firmly in place as the bones of your strategy and planning:

  • Consolidation of a strong legacy proposition and case for support
  • Development of an annual legacy campaign with clear objectives and key performance indicators
  • Development of targeted marketing plans
  • Development of donor cultivation and stewardship activities
  • Monitoring and evaluation (financial, administration and overall trends)

So far, so straightforward. Some other (less obvious?) considerations the Pebblebeach Team would endorse are data management and analysis, motivations, team training and, a personal favourite, admin processes.

Data Management and Analysis
Data analysis is paramount to understand, as much as is possible, who your legacy donors are. Excellent data capture is therefore essential. Key data includes contact details, address, age, communications with the donor and any links or relationships within the database. For legacy notifications, date of when will was made, information contained in the will and value are important. Gathering information on legacy donors will help you begin to build a demographic profile. Data analysis will also help to provide insights on who currently leaves a legacy and shape future legacy targeting.

Effective legacy fundraising must prioritise the need of the supporter rather than the organisation’s need for legacy income. Get to know your legacy pledgers and intenders that little bit better to discover what their motivations and interests are. Know that it will take time to build this level of knowledge of your supporters – and that’s okay. But it must start with being proactive and taking the opportunity to communicate effectively at every touchpoint – be that a phone call, direct-mail campaign or cultivation event. The more knowledge you have, the better you can relate to them and build a relationship based on loyalty, trust and understanding. Defining motivations will really help when creating inspiring campaign materials.

Team training
To drive the legacy strategy through the whole organisation, training is vital. It is not enough to drip feed the key legacy messages through materials and communications. It is crucial that all staff (or as many as possible and external facing staff most importantly) are trained to feel comfortable talking about and expressing the need for legacies. There needs to be true understanding of legacy fundraising across the organisation and embedded within the culture of the governance board. You’d also want your Chief Executive to be a powerful champion and promoter of giving in wills. Expressing the need for legacies is something that should be effectively communicated at every appropriate opportunity.

Admin processes
It is recommended that legacy processes are reviewed to ensure that fundraising and finance are approaching legacy administration and communication to solicitors and executors in a consistent, integrated way. And all too often, this just isn’t the case. Time should be spent mapping out legacy activity across all teams that are impacted, together. Data needs and requirements should be centralised and accessible to key players – your fundraising database could provide a solution if used effectively, and training rolled out.

Whatever your charity has or hasn’t done historically regarding legacy fundraising, draw a line. Your opportunity starts today and the potential for increasing legacy income will depend on what is done over the next few years. Put simply – now is the time to make your legacy fundraising as inspirational and accessible as possible.

It’s worth remembering too, this is a long-term fundraising activity that requires consistent investment over many years to see the return – a return which can be transformative for the charity. It’s not about one-off campaigns. It’s about building and sustaining engagement over the whole of the supporter journey; helping people to feel inspired, connected and able to trust your charity with their legacy gift, enabling positive change for years and generations to come.

If your legacy fundraising could do with an overhaul or your charity is starting out on its giving-in-wills journey, we’d love to lend a hand. Email us today, we’d be overjoyed to discuss it with you.

Elley Martin
client partnerships director