Legacy Administrators can be left feeling demotivated at best and significantly under-resourced at worst. Adam West, Legacy and In Memory Manager, MS Society, and speaker at the Excellence in Legacy Administration conference 2018, reveals his top 4 tips towards combatting the key problem areas faced by legacy professionals...
Some of the greatest challenges facing Legacy Administration teams include internal buy-in, visibility and investment. We can often exist within a deficit of organisational knowledge with regards to both the centrality and importance of high-quality Legacy Administration.
However, there are ways to combat these problem areas at all levels of seniority across Legacy Administration. In this article I lay out a few principles, which I believe can be successful both in theory and in practice. It must be noted that I write not as an expert who has solved this riddle, but as a legacy manager who has had varying degrees of success in an ongoing attempt to embed these principles within an organisation.
1) Forecasting and modelling
A recurring assumption regarding legacies is that “you can’t predict future legacy income”. Whilst it is admittedly tricky to forecast legacy income with pinpoint accuracy, you can perform robust forecasting and modelling which can make life easier for your finance director. Perform 5-year trend analysis for income, analyse trends in notifications, break down the performance of different ‘types’ of legacies. All of these things can help you build a ‘model’ for both in year or next year performance.
At the MS Society we have been able to build legacy income modelling for forthcoming financial years which has been accurate to within 5% for the last 3 years. Insights like these can be very beneficial to your finance department and can help give you an answer other than “we don’t know” for when your finance director asks “how much are we going to get from legacies this year?”. This will help you build organisational rapport and trust with a key internal ally, which filters up to Executive Group/Trustee level.
2) Acknowledge achievements in Legacy Administration
Another recurring assumption can be that “legacies just come in without you needing to do anything”. This is an assumption that needs to be firmly challenged across any organisation – it can often inform lack of investment in legacy budgets and staffing. It is incumbent upon all legacy managers to highlight excellent work done by officers and case managers, much in the same way that other fundraisers’ efforts are highlighted.
Legacy professionals are fundraisers! They add financial value to cases through diligent management, they increase entitlements by challenging legal professionals, they secure discretionary payments by good communication with solicitors and lay executors. Always record all added value and always report this upwards, for instance in team meetings, in internal communications, in annual performance reviews. This will make senior management more aware of the value that legacy professionals add to an organisation and can help convince them to invest in staff and resources.
3) Make senior management aware of legacy professionals
It is common for legacy officers and case managers to operate somewhat at a distance from fundraising teams. Often when complex cases are at hand, for instance, they are discussed between managers and senior managers. This often means there is little dialogue between senior management and legacy officer/case manager level, and it is important that we all work to flatten this structure.
Legacy professionals are experts! They are often highly trained and highly experienced. Encourage legacy officers to take the lead on communicating and reporting on contentious matters to senior management and ensure that they lead in meetings when these matters are discussed. Also, try to ensure that senior finance staff have a clear line of communication directly with case managers on specific high value cases and their progress – these can often be the difference in hitting year-end targets. These behaviours will allow legacy officers’ expertise to shine, and can again evidence the importance of investment in staff and resources at this level.
4) Use the sector
Finally, remember that the legacy sector is a very collaborative and conversational one. If you are seeking buy in for activities – check in with your peers at the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM)/Institute of Fundraising LMG to see how they have approached it. Use legacy foresight learnings for future trends and forecasts. Senior management are always receptive to ideas and principles that are already successful and embedded across the sector.
Adam will be speaking on how to get internal buy-in, support and recognition for legacy administration at the upcoming Excellence in Legacy Administration conference in London on 4 December 2018. To find out more and to book your place, click here.