How to train your staff in legacies

the fundraiser image

How to train your staff in legacies


Stephen George sets out his five top tips for making the legacy message stick.


Legacy fundraising is one of the oldest and most natural forms of fundraising. The drive to leave something of yourself for your family, your community and the world has makes a huge impact on all our lives.

However, legacy fundraising has changed from the days of remote direct marketing focused on a pledge, to a more balanced approach of influence and behaviour change. A key part of this movement is enabling every channel, person and activity to influence the leaving of a gift in a will by engaging people in, and normalising, legacies.

One of the big opportunities is normalising legacies for all staff, so they can have a legacy conversation – and this can be done through training. Here are five tips to engage staff in legacies:


Be a leader

Don’t expect others to do it – set an example and set a tone. Signal that it’s important, and that staff are expected to engage.

Before beginning any training, staff need to know the ‘why’ first – what’s the purpose? This is the first stage in helping them understand how big a difference legacy conversations make now, and can make in the future.

A top-down approach from senior staff and the board must meet with bottom-up staff engagement and acceptance. So get some KPIs in around legacy conversations. Training can signal a real investment in and desire to involve everyone.


Focus on conversations

Keep records of legacy conversations and their outcomes. But do remember, when having a conversation with a supporter about legacies, that it takes a while for people to understand, then commit, and then do.

With this in mind, training staff to overcome their fears so that they feel able to raise the subject and speak about legacies can make a huge difference. Focus on knowledge, tools and confidence in the training – and practice listening as much as speaking.


Create something to talk about

Legacy conversations should feel relational, not sales-y – so create subjects around legacies that your staff can talk about, both with each other and with supporters.

Whether you discuss a campaign, a recent gift, something in the news, or your goals, when you have something to talk about the subject can be more sensitively introduced and made to feel more normal. This in turn will help to make legacies more visible.


Get the language right

Legacy terminology can be dense and hard to follow, and this can put people off discussing it; so whether you’re discussing legacies internally or with donors, making sure you get the language right is crucial.

Simplify key terms: ‘gift in will’, ‘a share of your estate’, ‘a single gift’, ‘a will’, etc. The right language can make legacies feel simpler and more accessible.


Make it stick

Training staff should be a part of a wider drive to create a legacy culture and change behaviour – so make legacy training part of your strategy. And make sure you keep the legacy message alive: create internal campaigns, make it visible on walls and desks, create events and briefings and celebrate success. And get a legacy message into every event and newsletter.

Helping to get everyone working as legacy fundraisers is good for the charity, good for staff and can change attitudes and the culture. More importantly, it’s good for donors; so give them a chance to do something amazing.


Stephen George is a freelance fundraising and management contributor to the not-for-profit sector

Get the latest fundraising advice and insight

the fundraiser cover Sign me up