Michael O’Byrne from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home explains how you can generate vital legacy income for your charity
Generating income from legacies doesn’t reap immediate rewards. It can be frustrating for a fundraiser, used to producing fairly accurate net income and ROI forecasts – the only thing you can accurately say about your legacy income forecasting is that it will be wrong. However, it can be one of the most important streams of income for a charity, generating hundreds of millions for good causes every year.
1. Get support from your stakeholders
Firstly, you need to get your trustees and chief executive on board. This can be a challenge as you’ll need investment for a source of income that may not materialise for years. However, you should be able to build a case based on the medium- to long-term rewards that legacy marketing will bring.
2. Know your supporters
It’s your existing supporters who are likely to become your legacy pledgers. If you haven’t already done so, speak to them about why they support you – and what it is about the way you communicate with them that they like or dislike. This includes your volunteers who, along with your donors, are your major legacy prospects.
3. Do your research
Join legacy forums, attend seminars and look at what your direct competition and other charities in general are doing. People in this sector are usually generous with advice about what did or didn’t work well for them.
If you see a piece of direct mail or an advert you really like, pick up the phone and speak to the charity’s legacy manager and ask them how they felt it worked, who they worked with to develop their creative as well as any lessons they learned.
4. Tell your story
Your legacy marketing materials should tell potential legators what they need to put in their will to ensure that your organisation receives their legacy. While they need to know the correct wording and your registered charity number, they also need to know the difference they will make to the lives of the people or animals that your charity helps. Tell them that story and inspire them to give the most precious gift of all. Make your supporter know how, by showing the ultimate kindness and leaving a gift in their will,they can make a difference – and tell them how wonderful they are for doing that.
5. Have a conversation
Don’t be afraid to talk to your supporters about how important gifts in wills can be for your organisation. Your supporters should know you need their kindness to keep doing the work that you do. They are used to seeing adverts on TV and insertions in magazines, all asking for support in this way. So, for most of them, it won’t come as a shock.
You will be surprised by how open people are to talking about legacies. Yes, you may lose a supporter or two along the way. But tell me one sure-fire way of fundraising that won’t offend anyone. The gains of legacy fundraising far outweigh the losses.
A good way to start conversations is by including legacy messaging on as many communications and marketing materials as you can. Just a simple message, saying how important legacies or gifts in wills are, will start the process of normalising the subject.
Give people the opportunity to think about remembering you in their will and then make sure all your staff and volunteers are ready to answer any questions, or at least know who to point them to.
6. Don’t stop talking
Some organisations stop asking for donations from their legacy pledgers, the fear being that if someone has told them that they intend to leave the charity a gift in their will, asking for more money could be seen as ungrateful or greedy. But imagine how your supporter would feel if, after remembering you in their will, you stopped talking to them.
If they come to you out of the blue – and you’ll be surprised at how many legators don’t let you know of their intentions – you would probably want to find out how they would feel about receiving more information in the future.
But for the ones who you know, those who have come to this incredibly kind decision because of how you have nurtured them, just keep on doing what you were doing before. The only difference is to acknowledge their kindness in all communications with them. It can just be a simple line saying how much you appreciate them remembering your organisation in their will, and the incredible difference they will make to your cause in years to come.
Michael O’Byrne is direct marketing officer at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 33, September 2013