British Red Cross: Targeting the next generation of legacy givers

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British Red Cross: Targeting the next generation of legacy givers

The Red Cross’ recent legacy campaign targeted the next generation of givers – the baby boomers – with real success. Jonathan Jacques explains how


In October 2012 the British Red Cross launched its first ever multi-channel legacy advertising campaign. The aim was simple: to target a new generation of potential legacy pledgers – the baby boomers – and encourage them to consider leaving a gift in their will to the Red Cross and other charities.

Gifts in wills, or legacies, are the lifeblood of the Red Cross. Last year the charity received almost £20m – a quarter of its donated income – through gifts in wills. This income not only enables the Red Cross to respond immediately when a crisis strikes, it also allows the organisation to plan and prepare for future emergencies. 

Historically, many gifts left to the Red Cross in wills have been generation-specific, with a significant number coming from people who have been touched personally by our work delivering food parcels and care during the Second World War. However, it is the baby boomers – the post-war generation typically aged between 55 and 70 – who it is estimated own more than 70 per cent of UK wealth today. This generation is very different to their parents’ generation before them. They are not necessarily aware of the work the Red Cross does, especially in the UK and its relevance to them, and yet they hold many of the same humanitarian values as their parents and the Red Cross.

While notifications remain steady, with gifts in wills accounting for £1 in every £4 donated, it is vital that we engage this generation long term to ensure that the Red Cross’ life-saving work can continue. The challenge therefore is to ensure they recognise the importance and relevance of our work and in turn consider us – as well as other charities – in their will.

Traditionally, Red Cross legacy marketing has been driven through mail packs but the past three years have seen a step change, with a lot more of our budget focused on telemarketing. We adopted this approach as we wanted to facilitate a two-way conversation about the importance of gifts in wills to our work with our warm supporters. It has proven very valuable in identifying those supporters who tell us they have left a gift and those who would like us to send more information about it.

However, like many charities, we know that only around 50 per cent of those who leave gifts to us were previously ‘known’ to us through our fundraising database. So the challenge is how to get our legacy message to the wider group of supporters who we are unable to contact directly. 


Reaching out

We decided that a multi-channel legacy advertising campaign would be the most effective way of reaching those who might consider leaving us a gift in their will, who are not currently on our database, because of the different ways it enables us to reach people.

We particularly focused on baby-boomers, targeting media consumed by this demographic; recognising that they use different types of media and draw different things from them. Television is the most effective way of conveying an emotional message and inspiring an emotional reaction, while radio is a great way of deepening consideration among listeners. Press ads and digital marketing, meanwhile have proven a great way of converting emotional reactions in to action.

The campaign was linked closely to our wider brand campaign, which emphasised the work of the British Red Cross in the UK and featured the British Red Cross’ new end line, ‘Refusing to ignore people in crisis’.

Research conducted prior to this awareness campaign demonstrated that 90 per cent of the British public were not aware of the support provided by the Red Cross throughout the UK; despite the fact that 1.1m people in crisis used our services – which include emergency response teams and care in the home programmes as well as first aid provision – in the past 12 months alone.

We wanted to continue the message about our work in the UK in our legacy campaign, raising awareness of the personal relevance of the services we offer here in the UK and our continued work around the world, while demonstrating that this life-saving work is, in part, funded by gifts left in wills.

We also wanted to dispel a common misconception that leaving a legacy to charity means committing vast sums of money, which is simply not the case. After taking care of loved ones, even leaving a small percentage to the Red Cross can help make a real difference to people in crisis. The advert aimed to remove this barrier by asking people, when writing their wills, to consider leaving just one per cent to the British Red Cross.


What’s in the ad?

The advert features a man, sitting at home, pen in hand, describing what he is leaving in his will and to whom, with the end line: “In my will I leave a gift to the British Red Cross to help people in crisis, whoever they are in the UK or abroad, with the commitment that they will not be ignored.” The aim was to set an emotional tone that would resonate with the target audience and at the same time reflect the importance of leaving a gift to the Red Cross. 

The campaign launched on 22 October last year – with the advert first broadcast during ITV1’s prime time This Morning slot – and ran for six weeks until the end of November across channels including ITV1, Channel 4, Five, ITV3, Sky News, TCM and Yesterday.

As well as the television campaign, we broadcast radio adverts on Classic FM, online adverts on Facebook and press adverts in national newspapers as well as magazines widely read among baby boomers, like the Radio Times. Legacy champion Angela Rippon supported the campaign by recording the voiceover for the radio and TV ads, as well as launching the campaign with a series of radio interviews.

Research into our target audience allowed us to measure the campaign’s performance. We were delighted that a third of those we surveyed remembered the campaign. Within this group, there was a ten per cent increase in awareness that the Red Cross relies on gifts in wills in order to carry out its work. In addition, there was a ten per cent increase in consideration to support us in this special way.

The number of people who have been inspired to make or change an existing will in order to support our work has risen by seven per cent. Overall consideration of leaving a will to the Red Cross, or other charities generally, increased by fourteen per cent.

Typically, in any residuary will in which the Red Cross is a beneficiary, there are an additional six other charities mentioned. If the advert can inspire baby boomers to make or change their will to remember the Red Cross, then it is very likely that other charities will benefit as well.


Lessons learned

As with any campaign there have been some key learnings, which we plan to employ in our next wave of activity in the spring. For example, we will now be sending out an integrated mail pack about the importance of legacy giving to coincide with the next broadcast, in order to maximise the impact on potential pledgers. In addition we will build conversations about our television advert into our telemarketing scripts, using the campaign as a conversation starter with supporters.

Overall the campaign has been a great success, proving that leaving a legacy doesn’t have to be shrouded in sombre connotations of death; it’s about life, and ensuring that the things you really value in it continue long into the future. Gifts in wills enable charities to continue their good work – whether it be emergency response or researching cures for life-threatening diseases. In order to continue this vital work, charities such as the Red Cross need to inspire a new generation of potential pledgers, who can support charities in the same way as their parents before them.


Jonathan Jacques is direct marketing manager (legacies) at British Red Cross


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