Four steps to great legacy fundraising
We are at a critical moment for charity legacy giving. As the once-in-a-lifetime intergenerational transfer of the baby boomer wealth begins to take place, we have a choice as to whether we are going to be good or great at legacy fundraising.
With more donors leaving more money to more charities than ever before, there’s a huge opportunity. But, there are some major problems we need to overcome.
Connect more people with the joy of legacy giving
Despite charities becoming more proactive and vocal around the need for legacy gifts, the fact remains that it is still a minority sport. Eighty per-cent of people who say they would consider a legacy gift, never get around to it, and just six per cent of people die with a charitable gift in their will.
This is a problem on so many levels. Yes, of course because so much charitable giving is missed, and the difference that could make to the visions and missions of countless good causes. But it is deeper than that – more personal.
We know that legacy giving matters to people on an emotional level. It gives peace of mind; it provides renewed meaning later in life; it provides hope at the end of life. Legacy giving makes people feel happier.
Legacy giving is primarily about people, with every gift having a story behind it. So many people are missing out on the joy that legacy giving brings, and the true value of legacy giving is yet to be properly realised.
For years we have been under-investing in this opportunity, and while legacy giving generates 40 per cent of voluntary income, we estimate that just three per cent of fundraising investment is in this area. In recent years, organisations of all shapes and sizes have been finding their voice and having conversations with their supporters about gifts in wills – many for the first time, which is good news. And with legacy giving continuing to grow – reaching almost £3 billion in 2017 – investment in this area is starting to follow suit.
We can and should work harder to make the case for investment in legacy giving. But we need to make sure that we invest this well.
There is a danger that as we become more active as legacy fundraising organisations, we focus too much energy and investment in tactical marketing; we jump straight to will writing initiatives to grow the volume of future gifts in wills. But we need to remember that we are fundraisers first and foremost. Our job is to inspire and influence. Do that well, and of course a tactical conversation to help our donors update or make a will can have value. But forgo the emotional engagement and we will drive low value gifts at best. That short changes both our organisations and our donors – who are seeking long-lasting impact for the causes that have mattered to them most in life.
Keep a long-term view
There is also a risk that short-term decisions may be made in the coming years that could pull investment back, as the uncertainty surrounding our economy unfolds and growth in legacy giving dampens. One per cent year on year real growth (after inflation) in legacy giving income is what we expect over the next five years.
We need to make sure that our boards are well-educated and supported to see legacy giving as a truly long-term and sustainable area of investment, not a short-term quick win.
Because in the short-term, the value of legacy giving is driven primarily by the strength of our economy. And that is something we have little immediate control over. But the underlying trends are strong – more people than ever before are leaving gifts to charity in their wills, and the overall proportion of estate income going to charity is rising.
Those organisations that focus on long-term, donor-centred fundraising are the ones that will win out.
A key part of this is the need to see a continued shift in focusing on building long-term relationships with our donors. Instead of constantly seeking for more and more donors, we must get better at helping realise the potential of every gift through effective stewardship.
The 10-year attrition rate for legacy giving is 50 per cent – that is something we surely need to address.
So over the next five years, as we continue to see the emergence of a new generation of legacy donors, we must ask ourselves how we can better engage, inspire and steward supporters to allow the full potential of legacy giving – and the positive impact for donors, fundraisers and charity beneficiaries – to be realised.
Ashley Rowthorn, Managing Director at Legacy Voice
Ashley together with Meg Abdy, Development Director at Legacy Foresight, will cover the main legacy trends and priorities for your organisation and provide insight into some emerging concerns in a session at the IoF Legacy Fundraising Conference on Monday 8 October.