Legacy Strategy Summit 2021 – Bouncing back into a brave new era?

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Legacy Strategy Summit 2021 – Bouncing back into a brave new era?

Legacy Strategy Summit 2021


Suzanne Watts







Suzanne Watts, Senior Producer of the LSS21 summit, gives her takeaways from the 17th of June online event.

Attracting over 430 delegates, this year’s Smee and Ford Legacy Strategy Summit gave the legacy sector the opportunity to really take stock of how the last 18 months and appreciate how far the sector has modernised and evolved.   

Led by chairperson Hannah Wallis from Guide Dogs UK - the audience enjoyed over 7 hours of live, online content, discussion, and insider viewpoints on the current state of the legacy sector. 


Optimism and energy
Whereas the 2020 summit, which took place just before the vaccine and just before the second lockdown, had a feeling of working through a crisis, the 2021 summit found the sector and the audience in a far more buoyant, and optimistic mood. There was a real sense of positivity and renewed energy from our audience of international delegates - with more questions, comments, and live interaction than at any of our previous virtual events. 

We opened the day with a moment of consideration and reflection – as Azizah Aziz eased us into the day with tips on sensitive stewardship and team wellbeing during challenging times.  Azizah asked legacy managers and heads of departments to consider what their teams have worked through and personally experienced during the last year. “Remember and anticipate the limitations of your team at this time – including when they are dealing with stewardship calls during this pandemic”.


Post-Pandemic Legacy Trends
With the significant increase in death rates since March 2020, our 'The post-pandemic legacy trends - a reality check' session examined the set of wills that have come through the system during the “Covid Era”, to see how they compared to a similar number from before the pandemic. 

Mark Pincher of Smee & Ford revealed that we are seeing a general increase in charitable bequests, and a change in the allocation of where people are leaving their legacies - with the “current” popular casual areas being health, research, and children’s charities.  Farewill highlighted the significance of younger age groups that have chosen to make wills over the last 12-18 months – and the continued uptick in people wanting stress free, low maintenance online wills that fit in with their expectations of user-friendly online transactions.

Finding your legacy ambassadors 
After the baby boomer generation has waxed and waned, where will legacy teams find their new pipeline of high-value legacy donors?  With the charity sector being somewhat renowned for internal silos amongst its fundraising departments, it was reassuring to find out that a significant 69% of our delegates felt they could approach the charities High Net Worth donors about legacy giving. Shalni Sood of Royal Society for Blind Children, who has a background in private banking, asked the audience not to expect too much too soon when approaching a potential major donor regarding a legacy gift.   “Don’t expect a legacy pledge on the “first date” – but prepare for a detailed and cautious stewardship process, where you get to understand the donor’s motivations, interests and even their financial planning priorities.”  The session underlined the danger of assuming “someone” has had the legacy discussion with the HNW prospect. “Never assume the Financial Advisor, Solicitor or bank is having “that” conversation about charitable legacies with the donor – you may need to make that first step – or find someone that can.”  However, a huge 83% of our delegates feel there wasn’t a senior level or high profile “Legacy Ambassador” at their charity who could confidently talk about legacies, should the opportunity arise.   

Staying connected with a remote donor audience.
Even the largest charities have had to seriously adapt their strategies and output during the last 18 months – with many charities having to abandon their usual legacy events for the duration of the pandemic.  With over £400million lost in live event revenue for UK charities, all fundraising departments have been forced to reinvent how they interact with their donors – and for many of them, this included a back-to-basics approach using “check-in” donor phone calls and personalised mail messages. Tish Ley’s charity, Guide Dog s had achieved around 4,300 in-depth 121 conversations with their donors since the start of the pandemic- proving that there will always be a place for the more traditional communication skills in donor relations and legacy fundraising.

Yet, rather than looking to the past, never has the legacy sector been more open to new technology and the latest methods of donor engagement. Save the Children UK – represented by regional legacy professionals - Katy Williamson and Rosy Dick – gave their experiences of setting up and running a successful series of virtual legacy events without the usual resources enjoyed by super-sized charities.  The pair highlighted how much can be done with a small, dedicated team, supporting each other in the various technical, editorial, and logistical roles needed for such events.  Keeping the same KPI targets and audience goals as their traditional face to face events, the series proved to be a winning way to capture new legacy pledgers – and widen their audiences to those donors who would not usually be able to attend face-to-face events. 


Time for something new?
The theme of livening up legacy campaigns was a central theme during the day - investigated in a panel session by Michelle Adelman of Battersea, Emma McCormack of the Royal School of Music, and legacy fundraising consultant Richard Radcliffe – with Richard launching the session by pleading with legacy teams to speak passionately about their legacy message - and to stay away from obvious over-used language and cliched legacy imagery.  

Michelle and Emma both used video clips – featuring upbeat and emotive music, eye-catching imagery and positive messaging – to give examples of non-traditional yet effective legacy fundraising campaigns. Possibly the most startling poll result of the day was around the delegates view of their own legacy campaigns.  A huge 75% of legacy campaigns were “not bursting with energy” according to delegates, with just 25% of attendees seeing their campaign as exciting and full of life
But with traditional campaigns still pulling in the £’s for so many charities – is it really the time to ditch the old message?

Launching a whole new legacy message during a pandemic may not seem like the obvious way forward during a global health crisis – but James Ireland and Rory Stamp of the RNLI revealed how they had found the perfect opportunity to shake up their long-standing campaign.  Taking the viewers step by step through their creative and consultative processes, the duo explained how their legacy message moved from safe and traditional, to bold and powerful.  With much of the design work for the rebrand done in house, the charity had worked closely with Consider Creative on the revamped messaging and imagery to ensure the proposition hit exactly the right note with their wide range of donors and volunteers. 

The legacy sector has been heavily relied upon to bring in vital income during the last couple of years and as chairperson Hannah Wallis said in her conclusion – the sector should feel proud, truly proud of working through this period and coming back with vitality and vigour to face the coming year. Thank you to all that attended and presented at the event. We very much hope to see you at the 2022 Legacy Strategy Summit. 

Excellence in Legacy Administration: Call for speakers, panellists, and cases studies –  please email suzanne.watts@wilmingtonplc.com for more details of agenda opportunities for the upcoming online event. 

Excellence in Legacy Administration 2021 event

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