We work with groups of charities to research issues of common interest, enabling them to share costs, information and experiences. These are often rolling programmes which evolve over time, each year building on the findings of the year before. 

A collaborative approach that cuts costs, save time and creates opportunities for joint campaigns

If your only lasting memento of Christmas is the occasional pine needle down the back of the sofa, spare a thought for your local hospice. From Porthpean to Inverness, hospice charities are still waist-deep in wash-ups of their seasonal fundraising activities.

Christmas is the spiritual heartland of the hospice calendar, with Light Up A Life firmly at its core. But how is this flagship campaign evolving – both in response to the pressures hospices are facing, and in the way supporters are choosing to remember loved ones?

We asked seven hospices – all of them members of the In-Memory Insight Learning Circle – to reflect on how they’d engaged with in-memory supporters over the period. Had they done anything differently this year? What had worked particularly well and what important lessons would they be taking forward into future planning? Our conversations reflected the huge variations in the way the basic campaign model is delivered – but the commonalities gave us real food for thought.

Let’s start with some challenges.

Who to invite?

  • Light Up A Life (LUAL) events are emblematic of hospices’ whole culture of care and, as such, questions around how (and how soon) they should talk to bereaved people about in-memory giving come to the fore. Some of our members have a deliberate policy not to contact service-users for a fixed period of time after they’ve lost a loved one. But where does this leave very recently bereaved people who might derive comfort and inspiration from LUAL?
  • Rowans Hospice in Portsmouth has conceived a low-key, alternative event – Tree of Lights – for people in just this situation. Its Bereavement team carefully hand-picks the invitees and hosts the event, without involvement from Fundraising. They still suspect though that there may be overlap with their main Lake of Lights event.
  • Elsewhere, there’s a sense that not informing bereaved families about in-memory giving might actually be doing them a disservice and that ‘support’ should include opening doors for people, albeit gently. One hospice described its supporter-focused approach with the mantra: “Make it easier by just being kind.”

  • Our members are struggling to attract new participants by engaging people beyond the immediate hospice family. Those trying to make their event sound ‘less like a hospice remembrance event’ include Birmingham St. Mary’s – where 70% of the hospice’s work is community-based. The need to reach wider into the community (especially where patients have experienced late diagnosis and intervention), is recognised as a critical step in the supporter pathway. As one fundraiser put it, “Wherever people die, we need to reach families and become a point of contact with them. We only have one opportunity to reach them.”

  • Wider promotion of LUAL is inevitably driven by resource. Some hospices had increased their paid social marketing this year as well as deploying their shops and general marketing channels to stretch their reach. One hospice had replaced its traditional outdoor billboard advertising with paid social but couldn’t be certain at this stage how this had affected its take-up.
  • 2018 brought with it an additional challenge in the form of new GDPR legislation. One hospice that had chosen to mail previous attendees based on opt-ins rather than legitimate interest had suffered an almost 50% drop in subsequent dedications. Another had deliberately excluded least responsive segments from its data to find that response had scarcely been affected.

Where on earth do we hold it?

  • A key challenge is deciding which location is best for an event of this nature. Focal church setting? Iconic, secular outdoor space? The hospice itself? Or a combination of each to suit all preferences? Venues have changed (and in some cases reverted) over time, based on organisers’ gut feel about what people want. There are clearly at least four types of in-memory supporter: those who enjoy paying tribute in church and those who definitely don’t; those who actively enjoy being back in the hospice grounds; and the (smaller) group that cannot bear to be. (We learned of one supporter who’d been unable to visit her husband’s Leaf dedication in person as this would have meant returning to his place of death).
  • Hospices had noticed new diversity in their catchments including the growth of Muslim and Hindu communities. This multi-faith dimension had created new impetus to secure venues and event formats that feel genuinely inclusive.
  • Choices of venue are likewise driven by capacity and demand. Backing fortuitously onto Selly Park, Birmingham St. Mary’s is able to accommodate up to 1,000 people across its three events – whereas most hospices are more limited in both their indoor and outdoor space. Meanwhile, the threat of bad weather is a constant headache for hospices, with Plan B contingencies thin on the ground.

What really matters to in-memory donors?

  • With the pre-event mailing carrying the main dedication ask, thought and energy had been put into making this communication work as hard as possible. Some hospices had moved away from unduly complex segmentation in favour of a more streamlined mailing, with onus on a beautifully-worded letter. Basic personalisation, e.g. the name of the donor’s loved one  and the value of their previous dedication, were still seen as critical for uplifting response.
  • Some hospices were taking personalisation to a whole other level. Sarah Smith, fundraiser at Hospiscare in Exeter, goes to impressive lengths to build relationships with in-memory donors on a one to one level before they’re ‘let fly’ (transferred to the stewardship of Events and other appropriate teams). Supporters are treated to a range of highly personalised communications, including a handwritten Christmas card with a bespoke message. Those who’ve lost a loved one at Christmas receive an update on what’s happening at the hospice during the season. Those unable to attend an event are sent photos of their dedication in situ. Sarah even uses details garnered about other annual Christmas rituals (aside from LUAL events) that are of personal importance to donors, (panto, for example, ) and refers to these in her contacts. Phoning every donor who’d made a donation of over £100 in response to its LUAL mailing had been a baptism of fire for Hospiscare, but invaluable in unearthing several legacy pledges. 
  • None of our members were systematically collecting donor feedback on LUAL events and some fundraisers felt their reliance on impressions and anecdotes fell short. As one fundraiser put it, “We need feedback from people who don’t come. People’s reasons for not coming are being missed.”

Balancing frenetic logistics with ‘slow’ donor care

  • A few people mentioned how personally challenging they had found pulling off an operationally demanding event while ensuring that visitors received the right kind of donor care, all within an atmosphere of calm reflection. Some service formats are quite simple but others involve frankly intimidating logistics. Rowans Hospice has a team of four volunteer scuba divers charged with ensuring that its 3,000 dedication candles (on lids, on rafts) are correctly positioned in the lake water – that’s before they plant the silent fireworks in the middle of the lake. Meanwhile, although most hospices have members of their Bereavement team on hand to support people, fundraisers expect to be drawn into emotional conversations without warning.
  • As Clare Kemsley of Wakefield Hospice put it, “It’s so important to remember that light on a tree and that name in a book is a person, and what that means. Sometimes you have to stop running around the cathedral and just stop and listen to someone”.
  • Derek Spinks in Birmingham had experienced conflicting feelings while overseeing his two long lines of supporters, patiently queuing to view a Book of Remembrance: “It’s about the supporter experience. People get so emotional when they see their dedication. There needs to be order, but for something so delicate and emotional, you almost want something that isn’t so orderly. [As an organiser] you can sometimes feel a bit helpless”.

Fireworks over lake

Rowan Hospice's Lake of Lights, image by Philippa Newman

What was done differently in 2018?

To sum up? Not a great deal. Mostly innovations were around new digital dimensions to the core campaign:

  • Birmingham had introduced an online Book of Remembrance for the first time. This had helped generate new donors and contributed £5,000 to its income (although it wasn’t yet clear how much of this was ‘new income’ and how much replaced dedication donations for its offline Books).  
  • Some hospices tried to join up their pre- and post-event messages by making people featured in case studies the message bearers throughout. Birmingham screened its new case study video on the day.

A family celebrates at a Birmingham St. Mary’s Hospice event, Christmas 2018

A family celebrates at a Birmingham St. Mary’s Hospice event, Christmas 2018

What had worked particularly well?

  • Every LUAL event is sprinkled with its own magic. The lights switch on and silent fireworks were described as ‘watershed’ moments for all involved. Some hospices felt it was ‘all about the Book’ for supporters and had channelled their energy into making the dedication experience the high point of emotional reward. Having staff host the Books had proved a great way of engaging supporters in conversations.
  • The benefit to supporters of coming together with others in an environment that felt ‘safe and secure’ could not be overstressed. One fundraiser found herself arriving earlier and earlier before the start of her services to accommodate the minglers.
  • Tried and tested formats are all well and good but supporters still appreciate something a little different – as St Elizabeth Hospice Ipswich found this year with its introduction of a donkey procession. Tethered outside the church, the donkeys proved more of a draw than the post-service refreshments, causing a slightly unexpected surge from the building!
  • Finally, it was heartening to hear positive evidence of cross-team working between Fundraising and hospice service teams, including Bereavement Support. This growing culture of mutual empathy and trust can only be good for the whole hospice family. Acceptance of the need to understand the contributions of other teams and their personal impact on family members sounded genuinely two-way. As one fundraiser put it, “It’s important that we understand what’s happening in their world.”

Is there anywhere left for LUAL to go?

  • It’s a genuine question, pointing to the prevailing uncertainty about what LUAL is really for. In terms of supporting bereaved donors, most hospices feel they have a fairly slick model in place that ensures a memorable and enriching experience. When it comes to keeping people within the hospice family, it’s hard to imagine a more effective product.
  • But if LUAL also has to be about attracting new donors from a wider area, then increasing the take-up of existing events that are either at, or near capacity, feels like a short-termist strategy. Rowans is one hospice having to consider a new approach. Its challenge is the waterside location for Lake of Lights – an inspirational and ideal setting in many ways but situated right on the edge of its catchment area. As their in-memory fundraiser put it, “We need to be taking [the event] out to the community. The community can’t get in to us.”
  • A few hospices were toying with the idea of creating new, satellite events in venues such as community halls, football clubs and clinic. Some were also looking into the viability of a mirror, flagship remembrance event for the summer months.
  • Princess Alice Hospice in Esher trialled an innovative approach this year to grow its network, spread awareness and create new donors. By teaming up with corporate partners and local businesses – including a large garden centre and doctors surgeries – it was able to place a number of Christmas trees on which the public could dedicate Dove decorations in return for a donation, using a simple collection mechanism. At very low cost, the garden centre collection alone added £4,000 to their LUAL total. They’d successfully tapped into the compassionate objectives of local companies. But most importantly, partnership support had done the job of taking their message out into the community for them.
  • In terms of generating cash, repeat attendance and support of LUAL events may be more of a trend than any significant change to overall event income, which appears generally static.
  • New income was reported from initiatives like sales of commemorative merchandise (e.g. glass angels and tree baubles) – but there was no real evidence about how sales income may have affected donations. Some hospices had ensured that airtime was given during their services to the continuation of care over Christmas. Wakefield felt that reaffirming its raison d’etre to a receptive audience had positively affected its exit collection. One hospice had pledged to make donations feel less about an invite to an event and more about the donor’s dedication to their loved one.
  • Measures were being taken to increase awareness of committed giving linked to annual LUAL dedications – likely to appeal to the most engaged repeat-participants who actually chase up their dedication invite with the hospice every Autumn.
  • Significantly, legacy promotion at LUAL events had been hardly visible beyond ambient display of leaflets within hospice settings. The notable exception was Hospiscare: at all twelve of its Christmas services a Trustee had delivered a message about gifts in wills funding the care of one in five of its patients and a prominent legacy message was featured at the back of every Order of Service. A member of the team was actually approached during a service by a would-be pledger for confirmation of the charity number, suggesting that these messages had resonated.
  • The incidence of highly-engaged supporters attending year after year, the popularity of the experience and the recognised connection between in-memory and legacy giving, all certainly suggest that LUAL supporters could be among hospices’ most receptive audiences for legacy consideration. Could this herald the next phase for LUAL?

Donkeys, doves or divers – however you want to cut it, let’s not forget what in-memory fundraising is really all about. The profound meaning of Light Up A Life for supporters is well summed up with a story from Sarah at Hospiscare. Last year, she finally got to meet an overseas supporter who’d been in email contact with the hospice for years and quietly made the trip over from Germany to Exeter each Christmas: 

“Every year, I spend an hour in the cathedral. I think… no, I don’t think about my Mum. I feel like she’s actually with me.”

Still fretting about those pine needles?


Kate Jenkinson is Head of In-Memory Consultancy at Legacy Foresight.

For more information on our In-Memory Consultancy service for charities and hospices, please click here or contact Kate direct: k.jenkinson@legacyforesight.co.uk

If you would like to find out more about joining the In-Memory Insight learning circle, please click here or contact Meg Abdy: m.abdy@legacyforesight.co.uk

For more like this from the Legacy Foresight team and industry peers, please sign up to our newsletter

The IOF’s Legacy and In-Memory Special Interest Group was delighted to welcome Dr Laura King as a speaker to its November meeting. Laura co-curates Remembrance, an interactive exhibition in partnership between the University of Leeds and Abbey House Museum.

Remembrance reflects on the things we do to remember loved ones and how these have changed since the Victorian era, inter-weaving contributions from residents of contemporary Leeds.

A fascinating aspect emerging has been the contributions left by the public. Visitors have been encouraged to write in a book of remembrance, answer the question ‘How do you remember?’ on a postcard, and submit a photo of a place that reminds them of someone they’ve lost. They’ve responded in huge numbers, leaving in the process their unique imprints of hundreds of treasured lives.

The highly personal content of these cards holds a mirror up to In-Memory Insight’s consumer research from the last few years and we were struck by the synergies:

  • Our research has suggested that bereaved people have a highly complex and diverse set of needs and motivations. While some people focus on looking back, others prefer to look forward. Some of us are driven by practical needs in the here and now, (keeping our loved ones physically closer with mementoes, or helping those in our immediate circle) – while others are moved more by spiritual and existential needs, drawing comfort from the prospect of creating a better world.
  • Response to this exhibition has shown clearly that people of all ages are captivated by the opportunity to tell the stories of people they’d loved and lost, showcasing their unique qualities and personalities.
  • It has demonstrated the many and varied, personal things that people do to remember. Common themes emerging have included music, food, learned skills (like gardening or baking), flowers and animals – often linking strongly to shared experiences and memories.
  • Remembrance has also provided a physical and ‘spiritual’ space for people to reach out to lost loved ones and continue to communicate with them directly – an opportunity that’s been grasped with appetite and enthusiasm. Children have been well represented, with many postcards written by young children, often to, or about, grandparents or pets. Smiley faces, kisses, hearts and drawings have added to the personal touches. Continuing bonds tends to emerge as a similarly strong theme in our focus groups among bereaved charity supporters and prospects. These findings fuel our belief that commemoration is as much about the person or people left behind as it is about the person being remembered.
  • Perhaps most striking of all has been the lack of content left on how people have died, compared to the detail offered on how they’ve lived – with the full set of their likes, dislikes, eccentricities and habits brought to life: a positive take-out for loved-in-life charities contemplating their in-memory offers to supporters.

For more information on the research of In-Memory Insight, please contact Meg Abdy.

Remembrance runs at the Abbey House Museum in Leeds until 3rd February 2019. For more information, visit the site here:

Funerals and funeral directors were the subject of our latest In-Memory Insight research which focused on the changes taking place in the UK funerals market, and the implications for charities.

Highlighting the rise in ‘direct cremations’, the rise of a new generation of young, often female undertakers, and Funeral Directors’ commitment to their local community, the research has revealed that the previously slow-moving funeral industry is changing in an unprecedented way.

Our publicly available briefing report draws on insights from the consumer research to focus on one particular area of our findings: funeral directors’ attitudes towards charities and their view of the relationship. Request your copy here.

As always, we are grateful to our Learning Circle members for agreeing to share these insights with the sector.

In June, Understanding Legacy Stewardship kicked off with a lively project workshop attended by most of our 29 member charities.  Through our charity case studies and consumer research we aim to highlight some great examples of effective stewardship, and to identify some creative new ways to engage and inspire legacy donors throughout their lives.  Our findings will be presented to the Consortium this December.

Our Baby Boomer Legacies project will swing into action this October and report in May 2019. 25 charities have  signed up for this fascinating project, which will update and deepen our understanding of this vital legacy audience.  This year’s research will delve into the behaviour and circumstances of two very distinct boomer groups: the ‘core boomers’ (now in their sixties) and the ‘shadow boomers’ (now in their fifties).  We will also explore the impact of topical issues such as Brexit, cuts in public services, the recent charity scandals and widening health and wealth divides.   We’ll use the research to update our predictions for legacy income and numbers over the next forty years.

Last but not least, the theme of this year’s In-Memory Insight research is the links between in-memory and legacy giving. What turns an in-memory donor into a legacy pledger?  And how do charity communications influence that decision?   This research will talk in depth to a cross-section of in-memory and legacy donors to understand their motivations and expectations. In-Memory Insight involves a learning circle of over 50 national and local charities. If you’d like to join them, please let us know by Monday 20th July latest. For more information contact Meg Abdy: m.abdy@legacyforesight.co.uk

We are now inviting new members to join In-Memory Insight. Now entering its eighth year, the programme explores the size, shape and scope of in-memory giving in the UK.

This year’s research will focus the links between in-memory and legacy giving. Unpicking the connections between in-memory giving and legacy giving has become a holy grail for fundraisers. But what actually turns an in-memory donor into a legacy pledger?

To find out more, you can request the project proposals here

We’re excited to reveal that we have two research projects planned for 2018, focusing on two areas vital to legacy fundraising. To give clients an informed choice, we have published our proposals for both projects together. Charities which sign up to both projects are being offered a discount on the combined cost.

Understanding legacy stewardship

Simply defined by Ashley Rowthorn (Legacy Link/Legacy Voice) legacy stewardship “is the actions we take to look after our donors and their gifts.

The focus of a recent Viewpoint article, legacy stewardship has always been a vital element of the fundraiser’s role. In the light of changing regulations, more sceptical donors, and ever stronger competition, the challenges of delivering effective and engaging legacy stewardship are now greater than ever.

We will be exploring the many issues surrounding legacy stewardship from both the charities’ and the donors’ point of view in a new consortium project kicking off this May. You can download a copy of the prospectus here – or for more information, contact Meg.

Baby boomer legacies

Due to their potential impact on legacy incomes over the next three decades, we have conducted extensive research into baby boomers and legacies since 2007. Our most recent project, Legacy Giving 2050 (2014), assessed the long-term outlook for legacy giving in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

This new project will update the desk and consumer research, exploring important new issues such as Brexit and the recent charity scandals. This time around we will compare the ‘core’ boomers (now in their sixties) with the ‘shadow’ boomers and the earliest Generation X (people now in their fifties). As well as providing valuable insight into the attitudes and expectations of these cohorts, we will use the findings to update our long-term market model.

This project will run from October 2018 to May 2019. Again, you can download a copy of the prospectus here – or for more information, contact Meg.

The Invisible Legator project set out to investigate the many charity legacies which apparently arrive out of the blue; whether from known supporters who had not disclosed their gift, or from people who cannot be traced on charities’ databases.

Our aim with this project was to quantify, profile and understand the motivations driving four types of legacy donation, which we defined as follows:

  • Disclosed bequests – already made known to the charity
  • Undisclosed bequests – from known supporters who have not told the charity
  • Unrecognised bequests – from those who consider themselves supporters but are not recognised as such by the charity and;
  • Unknown bequests – from those who have never had any relationship or contact, even though they respect the charity and/or feel an emotional connection.

Our research was in two phases. The first phase identified, quantified and profiled the four legacy donation groups, using a large scale online omnibus survey.  The survey questioned 1,021 legacy donors, who had included a total of 2,039 charitable bequests in their wills. The second phase explored the four legacy groups in more detail, using focus groups and depth interviews.

Here’s just a taste of what we discovered…

While the legacy groups vary, the reasons for choosing a charity do not

All legacy donors want their charity to have positive impact, all have empathy with the cause and all trust ‘their’ charity to use their gift well.

Disclosure is linked to regular and engaged relationships

Those disclosing their bequest have the most regular and frequent contact with their charity. They are also highly involved – they are the most likely to restrict their gift and to have researched the charity beforehand. Disclosed legacy donors feel particularly strongly about their charity and are more likely to be aware of, or engaged with, what the charity is doing.

Disclosed legacy donors have more touchpoints and chances to tell

Just under half of the disclosed legacy donors we surveyed had been approached on the subject – the rest chose to tell the charity spontaneously, often during uncontrived and emotionally-driven conversations, which are probably not picked up via official systems.

Some highly engaged ‘pledgers’ welcome dialogue

Building relationships with them can help in many ways – for example giving money now, volunteering, public speaking – not just legacies. Treated well, these people are fantastic ambassadors for your cause.

 … but many legacy donors regard ‘stewardship’ with bemusement and suspicion

They see it as a waste of funds, or a ploy to ask for more. Most people we spoke to did not want to be regarded differently by their charity, nor did they want it to spend money on unnecessary communication or treatment.

You cannot expect to uncover all your legacy donors

What is very clear from this research is that those disclosing legacies are the exception rather than the rule. The default position is not to tell the charity.  This means that your ‘pledgers’ are in many respects unusual and far from representative of the wider legacy donor base.

Truly unknown donors are a small group

Our quantitative research suggests that just 4% of the gifts in living people’s wills are from people who have never had contact or a relationship with your charity. However, although this group is small in numbers terms, they may be relatively significant in value terms, as they are far more likely to be childless and/or leave residual bequests.

Interested in learning more?

The Invisible Legator project took place between April and November 2017 and was funded by a consortium of 34 leading charities. They have kindly agreed to share some of the key findings with the wider sector in a summary report. You can request a copy of Legacy Briefing: Uncovering the Invisible Legator here.

Legacy Foresight is also launching two new legacy projects in 2018. For our proposals on the Legacy Stewardship and Baby Boomer Legacies research, click here.