How to raise awareness of legacies
by Eifron Hopper, Head of Legacies, RNIB
Why should you invest the time to secure legacies?
Effective legacy marketing helps us avoid missed opportunities and create new avenues in. For example, we have recently followed up several leads that have turned into legacy pledges. As a result of our awareness campaign, the receptionist in our Edinburgh office knew who to pass callers to when they rang in about leaving a legacy.
When promoting our work in this area, we also refer to the Carlsberg effect. Legacy promotion is about getting appropriate messages out to the right markets as much as possible. Others in the organisation can help us reach the parts we couldn’t reach on our own.
The fact that our membership team gives us space for an article about legacies in its magazine means that we can get messages to our members (who would otherwise be out of reach to the legacy team) in a publication that they already know and trust.
Finally, legacy marketing is cheap. You don't need large resources – smaller charities can do it too. Creativity shouldn’t come at too high a cost.
Lead by example
I have been known to challenge trustees to leave a legacy so that we can use this in our internal and external marketing. It doesn't have to be a large amount – people will not ask for specifics as the gesture is enough in itself. Fortunately our chairman has left us a legacy and is very willing for me to refer to it in talks and articles, which encourages others to do the same.
Building a buzzIt is important to make some noise about legacies and to take every opportunity to get your message across. This is likely to be a long-term process rather that a one-off act and it may involve getting into the very un-British habit of blowing your own trumpet.
Most importantly, we share stories about interesting or unusual legacies. It doesn't feel appropriate to have whistles and bells celebrations such as those when other fundraising campaigns succeed, but we do celebrate the generosity of our legators and, where we can, provide information about the background to their gift.
Out and about
In my previous role at The Children's Society we received a legacy from someone who was visited twice a year by our local representative, who picked up the contents of her home collection box (no more than a few pounds) and told her about the work we were doing. This so impressed the donor in the years up to her death that she left us £250,000.
At RNIB we encourage the legacy team to be as visible as possible. This means taking part in cross-departmental work, volunteering to support our campaigning team and speaking up at meetings, as well as going along to staff leaving parties and celebrations.
For several years we have held legacy awareness weeks. These have given an annual focus to our ongoing internal PR campaign, and generated a great deal of interest throughout the organisation. In turn, this has created opportunities to work with colleagues to get legacy messages out to their stakeholder groups.
Has it worked?Ultimately, the true measure will be the legacies we receive in the future. In the meantime, we have devised simple methods to measure awareness levels, particularly before and after a legacy awareness week.
Legacies don't just grow on trees; they have to be worked for and legacy marketing is far too important to be left to fundraisers alone. We haven't yet done everything we would like to, but the work we have completed to date has already opened new doors and helped us to reach a much wider audience with our legacy promotion.
Running a legacy awareness week
1. Have a theme – it may range from simply telling people how important legacies are, to asking them to put their hands up and help. If you can make it an annual event, build on the themes from year to year;
2. Go to people – if at all possible, take some time off from your desk-based marketing and get out to some of the other offices and establishments in your organisation. It will be appreciated and it will convey a powerful message;
3. Provide feedback to those who have helped – and the organisation as a whole – on what has happened as a result. Pour encourager les autres;
4. Find a way of measuring what has worked so that you can build on your successes and learn from your failures; and
5. Make it fun and quirky – this doesn’t necessarily mean outrageous, but you do need to get people’s attention. We have used quizzes and competitions, including ‘Who wants to be a Willionnaire?’. I heard of one charity that used posters with a mirror on them, and a caption that read something like ‘you are now looking at a legacy fundraiser’. One director of fundraising I worked for was kind enough to comment that the series of quiz competitions we ran got the legacy message across far better than any number of formal memos would have done.
This article was originally published in Issue 6 of The Fundraiser.