Legacy Giving: A Vote of Confidence in Your Organisation

Legacy Giving: A Vote of Confidence in Your Organisation

Claire Routley | 4 May 2015

Election fever has well and truly hit the UK: much of our media coverage is dedicated to politics and the potential permutations of a closely fought race. On 7th May, we’ll need to make a choice about who we want to represent us in parliament. Given the dominant story of the day, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the similarities between choosing a political party to vote for and choosing a charity to remember in your will. And, given the similarities, what should we as charities include in our legacy ‘manifesto’ or case for support?

Values are a key issue when deciding between political parties: your deeply held values, for example, whether you believe in a society guided by individualism or community, are likely to heavily influence your choice of vote. And such values are particularly important when leaving a legacy. A legacy gift to a charity that shares your values helps ensure that those values live on into the future. Even though you might no longer be here, an important part of your character – your values – will continue on, helping your achieve a type of immortality.

So what does that mean for your legacy giving manifesto? Research shows the importance of sharing your charities’ values: expressing why rather than how you do what you do, and sharing those values that appeal to a donor’s sense of the person that they would like to be in the future.

Another key issue in choosing between parties is your perception of their competence. Firstly, will they deliver what they set out to do? And secondly, will they do it efficiently?

When I spoke to legacy donors as part of my own research project, they described how they had structured their legacy giving to have the greatest impact on the causes they cared about. Rather than feeling a strong association with any individual charity brand, they choose the charity or combination of charities that they associated most closely with that particular cause. In order to maximise your legacy income, therefore, your legacy manifesto and indeed, your overall brand positioning, should make the link to your particular causal area crystal clear.

Organisational factors are also important in legacy giving. Research amongst a number of charities shows that legacy supporters are more discerning than other categories of donor. They may not have paid much attention to your communications in the past, for example, but once they have made up their mind to leave a legacy they will pay close attention to everything you send them. They have to trust you to spend your income wisely, as once they are gone, they no longer control their gift. Your legacy manifesto will have to show that you are an effective steward of donated monies, and most importantly, of the legacy gifts you receive.

Ultimately, a legacy gift is a vote of confidence in your charity. By voting with their legacy gift, a donor is saying that they believe in your values, trust in your effectiveness and believe that you will spend their gift wisely. If we want to win such important votes, we have to carefully develop our manifestos to reflect the motivations of these most discerning supporters.  

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