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Posted in Case Studies, How To Guides Legacies & In Memory

4 ways to build a successful legacy proposition

Historically, The Brain Tumour Charity has never asked our community to consider gift in Wills as way of giving. We were acutely aware of the sensitivities around our disease area; the prognosis is often poor, and we could easily offend or upset people if we didn’t get it right…

Let me take you back. It’s 2014 – playgrounds and living rooms are under invasion from loom bands, Pharrell’s “Happy” is taking over the world, and at The Brain Tumour Charity a bright eyed and bushy tailed team of fundraisers are taking their first exciting steps into the world of active legacy marketing.

After months of research, planning and testing, we launched a new campaign reminding people that “it’s the little things that can mean the most, and as little as 1% of your Will can make a difference.” It was a soft, traditional proposition using gentle language to ask for small gifts.

Now flash forward to 2019: we’ve totally transformed our campaign, inviting people to “Leave Nothing Undone”, with urgent messaging, bold imagery and even an interactive online portal where people can leave personal messages.

The two campaigns couldn’t be more different.

Organisationally we are in a very different position in 2019 compared to 2014, as is the sector generally, but both campaigns worked (or are working) well and align with who we are. So here are our top four tips for building a creative legacy proposition that suits your organisation, whatever stage you’re at.

1)     Find out what your community thinks

… Rather than what you think they think. Your first step must be understanding your audience’s views on gifts in Wills, the boundaries of acceptability and how they might expect to receive this information. We held focus groups with many of our supporters and the findings were vital in shaping our thinking. You can do this on a budget too, hosting these sessions in your office or using free online survey platforms to gather audience insights quickly.

It’s important to test along the way too. Gather feedback on your concepts, messaging and collateral to make sure you’re hitting the mark.

2)     Be brave

In 2014, we sent letters to 400 supporters to introduce the idea of legacy giving and ask them to consider supporting us in this way. We’d never done anything like this before and we were poised for complaints. But they never came.

In 2018, we launched a deeply emotive and interactive campaign, urging people to take action right now. Again, we waited anxiously for the complaints that never came.

The point is you can be bolder than you think so long as your proposition really means something to your community. Generic campaigns are safe, but they’re easy to dismiss and even easier to forget.

Measured risk is something you’ll need to take as it’s a sensitive topic and unfortunately, we won’t always get it right. But a complaint comes from someone who is connected to your cause, invested in your work, and deeply passionate. In other words, exactly the kind of person you want to be able to engage with. You just need to listen to them.

3)     Grow it from the inside out

Your legacy proposition is only as good as the people who’ll be sharing it. If the team at your organisation aren’t convinced by what you’re doing, they won’t feel comfortable having legacy conversations or sharing your message. Get people on board by testing your ideas and really listening to their feedback, host training to help people understand legacy giving, and take the time to meet with specific teams and make your campaign work for them. Invest in making it part of your culture and get people on board from their very first day at your organisation, so everyone knows how to talk about gifts in Wills.

4)     Be flexible

Even the best campaigns grow tired and it’s important to know when to shake things up. Our “little things” campaign served a vital purpose, introducing our community to the idea of legacy giving and reassuring people that gifts don’t need to be big. But organisationally, we are now using a much more dynamic tone of voice and we can afford to speak about gifts in Wills with a greater sense of urgency.

As well as the campaign itself, the way you work may need to change. Your infrastructure needs to be scalable and, while you have to maintain a personal service, you may need to adapt the way you supply people with information. You need to ensure robust systems are in place to keep things manageable for you administratively.

Our campaign results

During the two weeks of peak activity last September, our new campaign generated a 1,211% increase in unique page views of our Will writing guide request form, compared to the same period the year before, and we smashed our target for guide requests. We also received some truly beautiful messages of support and loving tributes through our online portal (, many of which have been written in memory of a loved one. We’re now thinking about how we can adapt the portal to better meet the needs of our community who are using it to pay tribute to someone they’ve lost.

We know things can change fast and our organisations have to keep up, and while there’s no secret recipe for building a memorable proposition with the longevity to take you forward, listening to your community, taking a chance and being prepared to adapt along the way is a very good place to start.

By Kelly Jack, Senior Gifts and In Memory Officer, The Brain Tumour Charity

Kelly will be speaking on how to build a legacy proposition case aligned with your charity mission at this year's Legacy Strategy Summit on 13 June 2019, London. To find out more or to book your place, visit 

Book your ticket for the Legacy Strategy Summit 2019 NOW!


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