Legacies and the arts and culture sectors and why they are exploding

Why promote legacy giving for supporters of the arts and culture sectors?

It’s quite simple really: if you make every one of your stakeholders know you need legacies you will get them. And this blog is going to give you some really easy stuff to do which will cost only a peanut or two.

But avoid legacies if you do not want your organisation flourish and fulfil many dreams. Legators are changing:  the first generation of baby boomers are dying. They are not the same as past generations of legators.  You need to grab hold of this unique moment.

Why are legacies to the arts and culture sectors growing?

Imagine for one moment you have just retired (and if you are reading this you are unlikely to be retired!)

You wake up in the morning and think “What shall I, or we, do today?”

Work life is left behind and each day you are looking forward to experiencing FUN and hopefully learning something too.  FUN is NOT leaping out of your bed to visit a solicitor. FUN is going out to a great exhibition in a museum or going to a highly reviewed, exhilarating, performance in a theatre or listening to an amazing concert.

You leave these experiences on a high.

You want to say thank you for the experience and hope the place continues to offer FUN, and learning, for future generations.


Why your arts and culture organisation might not be experiencing a legacy explosion?

Just to prove legacy giving to your sector is exploding, let’s look at Smee & Ford statistics:

 2007 – 2,838 legacies

2015 – 3,436 legacies

This is during a period when the number of legacies to medical research charities has not grown at all.

There are three reasons why your legacy income might not have grown:

  • ·         Your oldest members and friends might still be alive
  • ·         You never asked for them
  • ·         Nobody knows you need them because they think their membership, and the box office income, pays for everything you need to grow.


Informing ignorant stakeholders

I have worked with over 60 arts and culture bodies in recent years and not one of these lovely supporters understands (or even thinks about) your funding sources. Their view is in the short term “of having a fun experience”. They pay for their tickets, have drink and they think this pays for everything.

But once you have informed them – through every channel possible – the sources of funding and what each source typically pays for then they turn from being short sighed to long sighted.  All they then need is to be aware that gifts in Wills can fulfil your long term vision and the job is done.

Arts organisations are easy to touch and experience. The supporter journey flourishes at retirement when a Will is likely to be written or updated. Arts is the perfect legacy cause.

What to do

Every arts organisation has different stakeholder connections: a morning at an exhibition or an evening of dance is not quite the same. The former is a fun social day out and the latter a serious arts experience – and even that might not be as clear as I have expressed.

The common factor is that the engagement is led by fun and not focused on “a vision”. It is an act for today not a donation for instant solutions or the future (which applies to charities).

What you do therefore has to focus on informing stakeholders of the need without destroying their pleasure!

This means that their journey with you has to be fluent and fun – from the booking experience to the front doors, through to the café bar and into the loo and then into the performance or exhibition area and out again.

So we are really considering posters, ads, pop ups and various other promotional tools which inform visitors, members and friends of your “funding need” in very simple terms.

Once they have changed from presuming that their tickets and café/bar and sponsorship pay for everything you can then become more direct. By that I mean by communicating legacy specific articles in newsletters, advertising and then using direct mail.

Their journey must be gentle and logical: from having fun, to thinking “wow I never thought of this place needing more funds” to “wow what a vision” and finally to “I would love to keep this place growing and benefitting future generations”  to “I can afford to do this and it is so easy to do through a gift in my Will”

This journey will include the website/Facebook journey when booking tickets and running a series of facts on banners such as “Did you know only X % of our funds come from tickets and the bar, the rest is from voluntary income such as sponsorship, donations and gifts in Wills”. Such messages can also appear on all printed communications

It is worth pointing out that legacies are driven by:

Loyalty (so repeat bookers will see the above messages often)

Awareness of the need for funds

Trust and confidence (which they will be full of if they come frequently)

The loyalty issue is interesting because this means longstanding friends are great prospects but so are performers and other creative staff and retired staff. Ideally their role is to be a range of legacy voices which “prove the need for gifts in Wills” but never ask them (or anyone0 for a gift in a Will. All you are doing is running a campaign which informs them of the need and they then have the freedom of choice to do it. If you do not have legacy voices you do not have a campaign.   So please recruit these legacy ambassadors to shout from the rooftops on the amazing dream  you have for future generations.


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