Richard Radcliffe explains why carefully communicating your charity’s unique legacy proposition to your supporters and understanding today’s Will-making patterns is essential for a successful legacy strategy.
To define your charity’s unique legacy proposition, you need to consider the following things:
- What are your charity’s ambitions in 30 years’ time?
- Are they tangible enough to make prospects feel they can touch the difference they will make through a legacy?
- Are they credible enough to invest in?
- Are they fundable or beyond the reach of individuals?
- Are they unique?
- Are they brilliantly inspirational so that every prospect leaps out of bed on a Monday morning and contacts their solicitor?
The problem presented by the first question is how to accurately predict where your charity will be going in 30 years. For example, a charity for homeless people is unlikely to be able to get every homeless person off the street and in independent living. Similarly, eradicating poverty would be impossible in 30 years. However, a cancer charity could aim to find a cure or treatment for all cancers as this is increasingly likely. The target must be tangible and credible.
But it is more difficult to predict how much any of these kinds of ambitions might cost as there are many variables over a 30-year period influencing that.
Influencing Will writing
Even once your legacy proposition has been defined, prospects usually do nothing until they need to make or change their Will. Will-writing is 99% of the time driven by a need to protect personal inheritors, rather than charities. And although many prospect’s hearts can be wildly enthusiastic about the legacy proposition, their head is saying ‘The Will can wait... let’s book a holiday instead’. A heart and head proposition is essential – without this combination your legacy programme will be relatively ineffective.
To add to these challenges, 50% of 50-years-olds already have a Will – and 80% of 80-year-old prospects already have a Will – so, you need to define what exactly you are asking them to do when promoting legacy giving. The message will not be to write your Will, but to amend it to be instrumental in achieving your charity’s ambitions.
Will-making patterns should be considered in your strategy: those without family seem to update their Will more regularly. This is due to more time to do it and knowing they are entirely in charge of their own destiny. Those with families are usually too busy to act, although their concerns are bubbling beneath the surface, but it is easier to delay Will decisions until another day.
Retired prospects are in a right old quandary. Care costs, university fees, children getting divorced or changing partners and helping children and/or grandchildren onto the property ladder are all circumstances that change frequently. That is why so many legators are putting conditional legacies into their Will. Some research shows that around 30% of pledgers are ‘conditional legators’, which means you only get the legacy if the entire family is wiped out. These days, more legacies are not in a Will, they are in a Letter of Wishes.
For the wealthy, their Will changes are often driven by their professional advisers to make the most of tax changes. This might involve distributing some wealth before death – at least seven years before death if things work out. They might set up a Trust to live on after they have gone.
Proving use of funds
But one thing is for sure, with the change in legator profiles over the last 30 years, particularly given that men and women are now generally just as likely to leave a legacy, legators are far more inquisitive and in need of information to prove prudent use of funds.
To quote one focus group member last week “I look at the [charity’s] accounts and if they spend more than 20% on fundraising and admin then they are out [of the Will]”. This decision in my opinion is (excuse my English) just stupid. Donors are not aware of why each charity has different funding sources, which result in highly differing ROIs. And trying to correct this attitude is impossible.
Richard Radcliffe is Founder of Radcliffe Consulting