Fundraising, Legacies

Five new year – and new decade – resolutions for legacy fundraisers

January 2020 marks the start of a new year and a new decade. It’s a good time to sit down and take stock of your legacy fundraising programme to ensure that it's as effective as can be for a new year, a new decade, and, of course, a rapidly changing supporter base.

Analyse your numbers

At the start of a new year, it’s a good idea to consider your legacy key performance indicators. How well are you performing? And, perhaps even more importantly, are you monitoring the right KPIs? For example, legacy income, whilst obviously extremely important to organisations, can fluctuate wildly in smaller organisations, depending on whether a small number of large gifts are received or not, so might not always be the best indicator of the success of your past communications. Similarly, in some organisations, income can appear to be growing (alongside house and share prices) but can mask a downward trend in the number of people actually leaving gifts. It’s worth taking some time to consider the most important KPIs both for your organisation, and to measure the value you’re providing for your legacy supporters.

Explore wider research

Over the last decade or so, research into legacy fundraising has really blossomed. We now understand far more about who is likely to leave legacies, and what the motivations are behind their gifts. The more we as fundraisers can incorporate insights from this research into our practice, the more we can create communications, and wider programmes, that meet our donors’ needs. The New Year is a good time to ensure that you’re up-to-date with the latest insights, and indeed, the DSC’s Legacy and In Memory fundraising book incorporates summaries of some of the key findings from the last decade.

Go digital

For a number of organisations, digital has been a somewhat tangential part of their legacy marketing approach. However, data shows that the baby boom generation are online in increasingly large numbers with recent internet use now at 83% amongst the 65-74 age group, and that boomers spend, on average, two hours more a week online than people aged 16-34. In the 2020s, it’s likely that digital will be an increasingly important part of a legacy fundraising approach, so, if you’re yet to experiment with digital channels, now is the time to start.

Review your stewardship

Data suggests that only around half of those who pledge a legacy (i.e. tell the charity about their decision) ultimately go on to leave a gift. Whilst it’s likely that some changes will be inevitable – due to changes in wealth or family circumstances – it’s also possible that people may deliberately change their minds about the charities they include, or even update their wills and forget about the charities they originally included all together. There’s an enormous opportunity for charities to increase their income by providing better stewardship to their legacy audiences – indeed, almost all charities in a recent Legacy Foresight study anticipated investing more in stewardship over forthcoming years. As, we move into the 2020s, with three charities being included on average per will, it’s likely that if you’re not providing your legacy supporters with a fantastic experience, your competitors soon will be!

Consider internal engagement

Many charities are encouraging staff and volunteers across the organisation to incorporate talking about legacies as part of their everyday practice. Whilst the trend is not new, the beginning of a new year is a good opportunity to consider how effective your approach in this area has been. Have you been able to inspire the rest of the organisation to talk about legacy giving? And if things aren’t working that effectively, what could you do about it? Could you reframe the message to enable people to see how legacy giving can help them to achieve their goals? Might you be able to take away some of the worry by breaking down conversations into a series of smaller steps? Could you provide talking points to help your colleagues to start conversations?

The recently published DSC Legacy and In Memory Fundraising book includes even more hints and tips that could be used to ensure that your legacy fundraising is optimised for the next decade. Why not use it as a starting point for ensuring that your programme is ready for the 2020s?

Read more about legacy fundraising in Legacy and In-Memory Fundraising.