Adam Buckles talks to Jenny Ramage about the challenges of coordinating a global legacy message, keeping pledgers engaged, and the potential impact of the FPS on legacy fundraising
You joined Amnesty International as new global legacy specialist in January, leaving your previous role as legacy programme manager at The Brooke. What challenges has moving to a larger, global organisation brought?
My task at Amnesty is to get the charity’s legacy message out on a global level, as opposed to just within the UK and the US as was the case in my previous role. Each of our countries have different infrastructures, laws and customs that have to be taken into account. But this is what makes it such a fun and exciting role; you’re not just doing a one-size-fits-all legacy strategy, you have to look at each one as an individual.
You've placed a strong focus on legacy stewardship in your new role, how are you planning to cultivate this?
Because of the time between someone pledging a gift in their will and your organisation receiving it, there is a real danger that legacy donors can be forgotten, or not seen as a priority. So we are currently focusing hard on the supporter journeys for each of our sections, and how our teams can use this to really go the extra mile.
Meanwhile we're spreading the legacy message internally, so that people understand not just the importance of legacies for Amnesty International as a whole, but also how to tell a legacy story. For example, our Australian team recently held a stewardship event for legacy pledgers where our crisis response director met and spoke to them about her first-hand experience of being on the front line, and the role that legacies play in brightening the future of human rights.
We’re also looking at appointing legacy ambassadors throughout the organisation who can reinforce the importance of legacies on a global level, and encourage a more collaborative approach both to legacy marketing and the stewardship that follows.
How do you achieve cut-through in such a large organisation?
It can be hard to make headway in an organisation this size, but it helps to have a director and manager who really support you and who are open to innovation. For example, I’m currently working on a project that will work both as an awareness-building piece internally for a number of our country sections, but that can also be used as a public campaign. So watch this space.
How might the current focus on improving fundraising practices impact on legacy fundraising?
I think the focus on greater transparency will drive the sector towards becoming more engaged with their supporters’ needs. If we don’t do this, then the challenge will be how we regain people’s trust for the future - and that’s what legacy fundraising is all about. Trust. How can we expect people to leave us money for the long term when they can’t see the benefit of what we’re doing with it now?
Also, the focus on the potential impact on individual giving will be something to watch, depending on what the FPS looks like in reality. If the worst case scenario happens and things start to see a decline, then the focus will obviously shift to other areas like legacies, major gifts etc. Most charities are waking up to the fact that they need to be more diverse with how they raise funds, and this may be the catalyst that we needed; just not in the way that we wanted.
What's your number one top tip for keeping legacy pledgers engaged?
This is a relationship, and of course it will have its ups and downs, but it’s about providing those little moments of magic that take people by surprise, and at the same time reinforce their original reason for supporting you. For example, a handwritten note on a photo from a member of staff in the field, or an update on a project that they mentioned in passing. It’s not hard working out what your donors/supporters want. You just have to listen.
Adam Buckles is global legacy specialist at Amnesty International