Legacy giving now – don’t miss the chance of a lifetime

OK, so everything changed in fundraising on 6th July when the Daily Mail hit out at fundraisers and the way they were treating donors.

In my view the ensuing tirade of criticism means this is the best opportunity to promote legacy giving in my lifetime.

In my view this is the best time to re-balance investment in the fundraising portfolio.

The time is ripe to stop acquisition in donors who are not that committed and to concentrate on the committed.

The time is ripe, mouth wateringly ripe, to say “OK let’s cut acquisition costs and invest in legacies”.

Legacies are an investment in the future decided with others – executors, family and solicitors.

Legacies are a serious decision to make a lasting impact.

Legacies cost nothing now – which is perfect for older donors with little cash but many assets.

The decision to leave a legacy is passionate and driven by personal experience. But action is triggered by the need for a new/amended Will.

We know that legacy income has almost invariably increased year on year for over 40 years thanks to the amazing statistics provided by Smee & Ford – the only source giving information on the whole charitable sector.

We know causes in Wills are changing with amazing speed: medical research is static in terms of numbers whilst more “trendy” causes (education and the arts/culture in particular) are exploding.

We know from my focus groups and loads of other research that 1 in 3 of your stakeholders are remembering their favourite charities in their Will. Why?

Because when trust in charities is at an all time low (48% when it was 73% a short time ago accoding to almost all sources of research) people are seriously looking at: how well you use their money (your money) and the impact you have. Charity Commission research last year (and other research around the world) showed that trust and confidence is driven, for almost 1 in 2 donors, by how much you use on administration and fundraising. The trust and confidence of only 1 in 4 donors is driven by the impact made by charities,

So in effect the decision to include a legacy is driven by logic not just passion. The need/action for an up to date Will is also logical: we never go to our solicitor because we want to leave a legacy to a charity. We pick up the phone to our professional adviser when we need a Will which reflects our current wishes.

Are you top of mind? Is your brand top of mind? Is your performance (financial and impact) top of mind? Do stakeholders know how you are funded and the difference a gift in their Will, however modest, cam make?

The answers to these questions define your legacy strategy.

Recently I have worked with charities where the penny in the £ which goes to the cause ranges from 66p to 89p. I know which I will leave my legacy to – and it is not the one where only 66p goes to the cause – a third of my legacy will be “wasted”. Of course this is not the best way to express or communicate outcomes but often the public think it is. And perceptions rule.

The best time to launch a new legacy campaign is when you can reassure donors you are a great long term investment in the long term.

The best time to launch a legacy campaign is when you openly announce your strengths, be 100% honest about your failures.   

The best time to launch a new legacy campaign is when there are doubts, frustrations, anger, irritation and downright annoyance with our sector. Wipe away those doubts, frustrations, anger and irritation you will raise a fortune in legacies.      

Richard Radcliffe FinstF Cert

Founder of Radcliffe Consulting


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