The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Opinion Legacies & In Memory Technology & Digital

Avoid wrong turns and dead ends

Finding the right direction of travel for online wills in your legacy strategy...

For a long time, charities had a clear choice when it came to free Will offers: would they fund a free Will written by a solicitor, or would they not.

For the consumer, it was a simple, clear customer journey which (given the expertise of a solicitor) would address all their needs, whatever they turned out to be. And solicitors did catch on to the importance of asking whether the consumer might consider a gift to charity, as evidenced by the steady rise in gifts in Wills.

Sure, the Will-writing process was slow and required the consumer to take time out of their life to set up and attend multiple meetings. But they didnít need to think too hard as thatís what the solicitor was for. Theyíd get there in the end.

New routes

Some charities have branched out to offer Will-writing solutions from non-solicitors, extending the choice of provider for the consumer and opening up new market segments to deliver their legacy marketing message.

Others have added telephone Will services, providing a new option of service delivery for the consumer and reaching potential supporters attracted by increasingly high-profile national legal brands.

Now there are online Wills; another route one can choose to make oneís Will and another tranche of providers who can potentially distribute charitiesí legacy marketing message, at scale.

Itís a solution that consumers of all ages and all walks of life clearly want and welcome Ė if in doubt, talk to us about our pilot statistics Ė and it can surely help more people make the Will they should have. And thatís in everyoneís interests.

However, adding online to the mix does add complexity to the Will-writing choice that consumers have and the strategic decisions a charity must make.

Wrong turns, dead ends

Those who know the legal market (e.g. the Legal Services Consumer Panel) will tell you consumers donít buy on the basis of how well a given service will meet their legal needs; they usually do not understand enough about the legal process to be able to develop an informed opinion.

They choose on the basis of a referral or recommendation, on ease and convenience, and then on price.The customer service they receive during the initial enquiry will seal the deal, or not. And that puts online Will-writing providers at a considerable advantage over traditional suppliers, which is why more and more consumers will choose online.

When a charity promotes a free or low-cost online Will-writing option on its site, supporters will consider it: the charityís offer is the recommendation, technology delivers ease and convenience and the Will is low-cost or free, with customer service automated and immediate.

The problem is that an online-only Will-writing solution rules out the potential of expert legal advice along the way that, to differing extents, forms part of the other routes available to a consumer.

What if the online solution cannot meet the consumerís legal needs? The consumer will come to an abrupt halt and must go back to the beginning and start over. At best itís inconvenient and theyíre irritated by the waste of time. At worst, theyíll simply give up and put off making their Will yet again. Neither is good for rates of pledges.

And what if the solution does not meet the consumerís legal needs but the consumer nonetheless ploughs on unaware? Well, thatís a route to inadequate provision, suboptimal estate planning and disappointed beneficiaries. And thatís not a road any charity wants to help a supporter down.

Clearer directions

Itís understandable that many charities eschew online altogether. The challenge is that consumers want online and if a charity does not offer it, then they will go somewhere that does. (Weíve argued elsewhere that charities have a duty to the Will-writing sector on which they rely so heavily to form part of the solution, not to abdicate responsibility.)

As with so many effective consumer propositions, the strategic solution is to stop treating online, telephone and face-to-face as separate user journeys; they require a consumer to choose which type of service they need without the understanding required to do so. For an effective legacy fundraising strategy, we think charities need to develop a unified Will-writing proposition around online.

Online should be used not only to meet the Will-writing needs of consumers who do have straightforward needs but also to help consumers identify needs where telephone or face-to-face legal advice will help and, to direct them seamlessly to the expert lawyers best placed to assist.

Ideal destination

That unified customer journey leads to an altogether better destination: more completed Wills, more informed decisions, more pledges safely generated.

It represents a single legacy marketing funnel for charities where drop-out can be reduced, rates of giving increased and from which data can be comprehensively and compliantly collected to generate actionable insight.

And surely thatís a strategic direction in which all charities will wish to travel.

Jonathan Brewer is Founder of online Will-writing service Bequeathed, this yearís headline sponsor of the Legacy Strategy Summit, taking place on 14 June. To find out more, visit

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