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5 steps to getting your board behind your legacy strategy

It’s not always easy getting trustees actively involved in fundraising, and legacies can be even more of a challenge, but it’s crucial if you are to meet your legacy fundraising potential, says Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity.

Legacies are one of the sector’s biggest success stories and a top income driver for so many charities. So why is it that we are not seeing trustees getting involved in legacy fundraising and visibly demonstrating the importance of legacies for the organisation?

The truth is that many trustees (and others) still shy away from legacy fundraising, as they are worried about broaching sensitive topics of death and people’s estates, and afraid of bout causing offence. Yet the reality is that the focus of a good legacy conversation is one of the most positive, inspirational and engaging opportunities for charities. This is where we look at the impact of a legacy and how that individual could positively influence the world far beyond their own lifetime. These conversations are not to be feared, but embraced.

When I talk to charities that have made a real success with their legacy fundraising programme, time and again they tell me how important their CEO, fellow directors and trustees have been not only in having those conversations with potential supporters, but in getting the whole organisation behind legacies.

So, how can you get your board behind your legacy strategy?

1. Make sure your board understands the importance of legacies

This might sound like an obvious step, but it’s one that can be missed. Make sure your board understands why gifts in Wills really matter. What have they enabled your charity to do and what is their potential for the organisation? What would the charity’s future look like without legacies?

Be up front about what the challenges and opportunities are. Legacy fundraising isn’t always straightforward and the more your board understands what you’re doing and why, the more engaged they are likely to be and to contribute helpfully both to your strategy and on a practical level.

Dominique Abranson, WaterAid’s Legacy and In Memory Manager, reinforces this view: “Get the importance of legacies recognised by trustees and directors as they can influence teams to get involved.”

2. Nominate a legacy champion

Find someone on your board who is willing to champion legacy giving within the board, across the organisation, and with supporters and stakeholders too. This doesn’t mean that other trustees  won’t have a role in supporting your legacy programme, but a strong advocate at board level can be incredibly powerful and helps keep legacies front of mind and on the board agenda.

Legacies are important all year around, but it can help to choose a point in the year – perhaps during Remember A Charity Week or to fit your own campaign timeline – when your trustees and senior management team will visibly champion legacies both internally and externally.

3. Show trustees what they can do to help

Discus with your trustees what they could do to support your legacy programme. Be specific about what you’re looking for them to do and aim to leave the meeting with a clear list of actions for relevant board members. You might want trustees to reach out to their networks (associates, former trustees, alumni), to speak at events, to share their own story about why they have left a legacy and motivate others, or you may simply want them to inspire, motivate or congratulate staff.

Wherever you can, tailor your request to a trustee’s skills, expertise, networks or other strengths. If you are running an event for potential legacy supporters, you may want to ask one of your most passionate trustees to speak at the event. If writing to potential event attendees, ask your most well-connected or recognised trustee to sign his or her name on that letter. If you want to build engagement on social media, it makes sense to ask trustees with the highest number of followers.

4. Empower everyone to be a legacy fundraiser

So many great legacy campaigns have failed to gain internal traction, simply because they weren’t championed by the organisation as a whole. This can seem like a big ask, particularly if you don’t have a legacy team. But, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Most charities don’t have a specific legacy fundraiser, let alone a team. And yet, you can still get the whole organisation behind legacies. Imagine what a difference it could make if everyone in your organisation was a legacy fundraiser?

Ask your nominated trustee to lead an internal campaign that educates people across the charity about the importance of gifts in Wills. Offer training for trustees and employees alike about how to have legacy

conversations, giving them the knowledge, tools and confidence to broach the subject with supporters.
Katie Tennyson, Senior Individual Giving & Legacy Manager at the learning disability charity Hft, adds: “… we’ve made a lot of changes to try and make it the norm to talk about legacy giving to our supporters, and to engage people with the idea early on. This has included educating frontline staff to be legacy ambassadors, and working to help our trustees and board understand the need for legacies and legacy marketing.

“It was initially quite challenging to get everyone within our organisation to understand the importance of legacies and of getting supporters on the legacy journey early on… but once we got some of our trustees on board it became a lot easier to get others’ buy-in and consequently to get the budget we need.”

5. Make it easy

The large majority of trustees are already doing their role in a voluntary capacity, often alongside other professional and personal commitments. Make it as easy as possible for them to support your legacy fundraising drive. That makes highlighting what they can do and when and giving them access to resources that they can both reference and share with potential supporters. Make sure those materials communicate the impact of a legacy and show supporters where they can find out more.

Rob Cope is Director of the 200-strong charity consortium, Remember A Charity, which works to normalise legacy giving across the UK.

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