In these divided and antagonistic times, the opportunity to pay our respects to fallen heroes feels ever more precious, a gift commanding our most conscientious guardianship.
But who are the real people we’re honouring? And are their identities fading or sharpening with time? Beyond the indelible imprint left by our own British Tommy, we’re starting to learn more about our less well-recognised communities of heroes – for example the two million Muslim soldiers and labourers around the globe who volunteered to fight in a European war that was not of their making.
The campaign Remember Together was set up last year – in a collaboration between the Royal British Legion and British Future – to bring together people from different backgrounds and to learn and commemorate our shared history. This year, its particular focus in schools and local communities will be on remembering how Britain and its allies in the Commonwealth, the US and the free armies of Europe fought side by side in the Second World War, many making the ultimate sacrifice.
Another organisation – The Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation – has managed to trace and identify more than 850,000 previously undiscovered, personal documents related to the Allied Muslim contingent that didn’t make it home. These include accounts of Muslim, Christian and Jewish soldiers fighting united, side-by-side; sharing their experiences and accommodating each other’s cultures, music, gastronomy and religious practices – regardless of unimaginable living conditions.
The Foundation draws attention to the honourable ways in which chaplains, priests, rabbis and imams went out of their way to learn Arabic, Hebrew, English and French so that they could accommodate religious burials of the dead on the battle front.
At last count, people of minority faiths accounted for more than 8% of the UK population – a figure that the American thinktank the Pew Research Center predicts will have doubled by 2050. So diversification of remembrance in today’s era is about more than just the pervasive waning of Christianity and the parallel growth of an alternative, personal spirituality. While the proportion of us claiming to have no religious affiliation continues to rise, so too does the percentage aligned to other faiths.
Legacy Foresight has recently conducted some fascinating research into the different rituals and traditions around bereavement and remembrance observed by these diverse groups. We highlighted that Hindu and Sikh funerals, for example, can be huge, with attendance by family, friends and acquaintances considered even more important than it is for weddings. For Jewish people – for whom honouring the dead and comforting the mourner are two important Commandments – funerals and mourning are simple and traditional, making collection envelopes inappropriate. But donations to honour loved ones are commonplace at later dates – including on the anniversary of their death (Yahrzeit), and accompanying memorial prayers on certain Jewish holidays (Yizkor).
For in-memory fundraisers, this should be another wake-up call about not taking the continuation of the long-established, broadly Christian, faith-based funeral for granted. Like kindness, camaraderie and humanity, the underlying motivations for giving in-memory are universal. But in reality, practices, awareness and ability to give vary enormously by community. For we all belong to many overlapping communities: communities of interest, of geography, of experience and of faith.
As charities we need actively to acknowledge the differences amongst our supporters, taking our time and starting from the point of genuine two-way engagement. It will be a great first step if we can abandon the idea of a cookie cutter approach to in-memory fundraising and acknowledge diversity in the same way that we acknowledge commonality.
As Hayyan Ayaz Bhabha, Executive Director of the Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation asks – if soldiers could accept and accommodate each other so profoundly amid the horror of the trenches, what’s stopping us from doing the same today?
If you would like to find out more about Legacy Foresight’s research into the different faith groups and their cultures of giving, as presented at this year’s Fundraising Convention, request a copy here.
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Legacy Monitor Netherlands has been analysing the Dutch legacy market since 2014, providing a wealth of insight and a framework for organisations to assess and benchmark their own performance against. The programme now involves 19 leading Dutch charities who agree to share performance data, ideas and experiences. Together, these organisations represent around 50% of the income of the top 100 legacy charities in the Netherlands Here, Programme Manager Arjen van Ketel, discusses the latest trends emerging from this year’s programme.
The good news is that legacy income continues to grow and is becoming an increasingly important source of funds for Dutch charitable organisations. The key factors impacting legacy growth are looking positive; economic growth, an ageing population, and the expected rise in the value of houses and shares. Although there are of course some potential dark clouds on the horizon not least Brexit, which could dampen economic growth rates in the Netherlands as well as the UK.
However, taking all this into account, Legacy Foresight’s forecasting model projects 3.6% average growth per year until 2027. This is slightly stronger growth than the 3.3% p.a. achieved in the years following the global recession, 2008-2017. This equates to the 100 largest legacy charities growing from €283 million now to €417 million in 2027.
The dominance of the largest fundraisers is decreasing slightly over time, and indeed these organisations are struggling to maintain their market share, as bequests are left to a broadening group of organisations. As in the UK, it is the younger and the medium-sized organisations which are growing the fastest.
In our consumer research into older Dutch people we found that that the number of new wills written has increased substantially in the last three years . Combining this with the growing death rate, we anticipate strong growth in charitable gifts over the next five years.
Boomers, in particular, are showing a greater interest in charities compared to the previous generation. While it is the older war baby generation who are now the major source of legacy income for charities, it is the baby boomers who are currently writing the most wills and from which we will benefit most over the next twenty years.
Remarkably, the benchmark data from our sample of 19 charities shows that the number of bequests received per 1,000 deaths has been decreasing slightly. This is striking, because in the UK we see a long term increase in this same measure. Possible explanations are that the number of beneficiaries per charitable will is being reduced (traditionally, Dutch legacy donors left to a large number of causes – 6 on average!) and/or that the number of organisations receiving inheritances is substantially broadening (with smaller charities outside our consortium group gaining ground). The fact that the ‘new’ sector of art and culture is growing so fast underlines this fact. Furthermore, larger organisations in particular, are struggling to grow the number of bequests compared to medium-sized and smaller organisations. The positive effect of more wills is therefore not yet reflected in the number of charitable gifts, possibly due to the lag effect in legacies.
Legacy marketing expenditure remains very low. Within the Legacy Monitor Netherlands consortium, legacies represent 27% of fundraising income but only 3.6% of fundraising spend. Fortunately, although the total fundraising budget fell by 10% in 2018 this has not impacted legacy spend levels, which remained similar to the previous year.
The number of staff seems to be a limiting factor for further growth, especially given the great importance attached to personal recruitment and contact strategies. Legacy marketers represent only 5% of dedicated fundraising staff. Staff capacity may struggle to cope with the growing number of supporters and pledgers.
The content of stewardship programmes should focus even more on involving pledgers and prospects. Research shows that the majority of donors and an even larger amount of people who are interested in legacies want to become more involved in their organisation. for example, by volunteering, or participating in visits and other events. This fits in with our image that the new baby boomers want to be more than ‘arms-length’ donors. All the more reason for future legacy donor acquisitions to be strengthened through a good stewardship programme.
In 2020 we want to grow the Legacy Monitor. With more participants, we can collect and benchmark data from a larger sample and make more comparisons between sectors or by charity age. We can also conduct more consumer research and explore important issues such as the growth of wills, the behaviour and perceptions of Dutch baby boomers and the “invisible” legacy donors who exist both inside and outside a charity’s database.
When will it happen? How will it happen? Will it EVER happen!? Add to this; the possibility of a snap general election, yet more permutations heap upon an already heady cocktail of uncertainty. But life goes on. It feels like we could all benefit from some positivity at the moment, so here goes…
1. Legacy income
It’s undeniable, that IF we leave without a deal, there will be a negative impact on the economy; property values, share prices and economic growth rates which underpin residual estate values will suffer, thus negatively affecting legacy values for the next five years or so.
Legacy Foresight’s central legacy market forecast assumes that we’ll reach a deal by late October. On this basis, average residual values will rise by 1.7% p.a. from 2019 to 2023 – considerably slower than the 2.7% p.a. seen from 2010 to 2018, but growth, nonetheless. When combined with the gradual increase in projected numbers of bequests, we predict that overall legacy incomes will grow by 3.3% p.a. over the next five years, increasing from £3.1bn in 2018 to £3.6bn in 2023. Over the five years 2019 to 2023, we estimate that cumulative UK legacy income will total £17bn. So, It’s not all doom and gloom, indeed, far from it. The current crisis has had virtually no impact on the number of legacies received by charities – although those are of course based on decisions made by legacy donors five, ten or even twenty years ago.
People still want to give and are giving more; the latest CAF giving report shows the total amount given to charity has increased to £10.3 billion, and some of our recent research has also revealed, that a higher number of causes are being included per will than ever before (more on this coming soon!).
In 2017/18 the top 1,000 charities (in terms of income) received £2.38bn in legacy income, accounting for 28% of total fundraised income and 14% of total income, therefore funding large proportions of causes and the excellent work that is done. Over the past five years, legacy income has grown by 6.7% p.a., outpacing both fundraised income (+5.3% p.a.) and total income (+4.5%). This is in no small part is down to the fantastic work of legacy staff and those driving the direction of legacy strategies. It’s great to see that in so many organisations, investment in legacy fundraising is increasing, while so many other areas of fundraising are saturated or stagnating, legacies continue to grow, and look set to do so in the many years ahead.
3. The people and organisations pushing legacy giving forward
Sector bodies play a hugely important role; actively campaigning to raise awareness of charitable will writing and to inspire people into actually making that legacy. This week it’s Remember a Charity Week, in Australia, it’s Include a Charity Week, where incidentally Meg Abdy is on a whirlwind tour of five cities in five days (more on this in October’s Viewpoint), so both here and abroad, awareness of legacy giving, and turning that into action, will continue to grow.
4. Generosity of spirit and collaboration
I couldn’t write this piece without mentioning the spirit of collaboration we witness and are proud to be part of, with all the charities and fundraisers we’ve worked with over the last 25 years.
For someone who used to work in individual giving, which I thought was collaborative at the time, legacy giving and its illustrious fundraisers, responsible for driving legacy strategies at their organisations, take this collaboration to a whole new level which is wonderful. From the special interest groups, which are always well-attended and engaging, full of inspiring and thought-provoking discussion, to our Legacy Monitor consortium sessions and latterly, Legacy Journey, there are many ways in which knowledge and ideas are shared, for the good of the sector with the supporter at its heart.
This level of collaboration plus sharing of real information; income, bequest numbers, response rates and creative executions, enables incredible levels of benchmarking and understanding into the broader sector and peer organisations; This wouldn’t happen in any other industry, and it should be applauded.
5. Greater (and improving) legacy stewardship
We have seen some fantastic stewardship through our Stewardship research; Guide Dogs Name a Puppy and RNIB’s events and gifts are standout. There have been some very emotive marketing campaigns launched; NSPCC’s leave footprints in the sand and leave a gift in your will and become a Marie Curie Legend to name a few. Importantly, many of the contributing charities said they were planning to invest more in stewardship over the coming years; more resource should be a good thing for legacy supporters, especially if it means that stewardship will get the priority it deserves by fundraising teams and senior management.
Brexit may or may not happen, there may be a deal or there may not. Nevertheless, this is mostly out of our control. What we can control is what we are doing now, what our charities and we will be doing in the future, which is, and will be excellent legacy fundraising.
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Bequests to churches and religious charities have long been central to legacy giving. Some of the stalwarts of today’s legacy sector – from the Salvation Army to Christian Aid to the Children’s Society – operate with an explicitly religious (i.e. Christian) ethos. But, in recent years, faith-based legacies’ share has been waning relative to contemporary, secular causes. So, is this the end for faith-based legacies, or just the start of a new phase?
According to Smee & Ford, there were over 17,000 bequests to British churches and other religious organisations in 2015 – that’s 15% of all gifts in wills. In value terms the share is somewhat lower; our latest estimates, based on charity accounts and data from the main church groups, suggest that in 2017/18 ‘faith-based’ legacies totalled £330m or 10% of all legacy income.
While religious bequests are significant in both volume and value terms, their growth has been slow relative to the legacy sector overall. Over the past ten years, faith-based legacy incomes have grown by just 2.7% p.a. compared to 4.4% p.a. for other (i.e. secular) charities.
So, who leaves to faith-based organisations? And what might that tell us about future trends? Our 2017 Invisible Legator research sheds some light here.
8% of the 1,000 legacy donors we surveyed had included at least one church or religious organisation in their will. In many respects, these donors are a legacy fundraiser’s dream. Compared to the average legacy donor, they appeared to be far more altruistic; over the previous three months half had given over £50 to charity (compared to an average of just 18%), and 81% had volunteered (versus an overall average of 46%). Perhaps reflecting this altruism, they also supported more charities in their will: 50% had included three or more charities compared to 38% across the board.
Significantly, the age profile of those faith-based donors was also older: 57% of them were aged 65+, compared to 42% across all the legacy donors surveyed. There may be two factors at play here. First, generational: younger donors are more secular than older groups. The latest census data confirms this: 23% of 50-somethings claim to have no religion, compared to just 9% of 75+s. Second, life stage: perhaps we discover – or rediscover – our faith in later life, turning to our church or faith-based charity when work and family commitments reduce and questions about mortality loom large.
I believe not – for two reasons. First, our society is coming more multicultural and multifaith. Again, from census data: just 3.5% of today’s 75+s belong to non-Christian faiths including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. Amongst today’s 50-somethings that figure rises to 6.3%. According to the highly regarded Pew Research Center, the percentage of the British population from minority faith groups will double over the next 30 years, from 8% to 16%.
Legacy giving among these faith groups is relatively rare at present, in part due to their age profile. However, as these populations age and become wealthier, we anticipate a significant increase in their gifts in wills, many of them to their places of worship and religious charities.
Second, because although engagement in organised religion may be dropping, a sense of ‘spirituality’ is still central for many people. During recent focus groups (Baby Boomer Legacies 2019) we heard numerous examples of a kind of personal spirituality – from the practice of less familiar religions (such as Taoism or Buddhism) to a burning belief in environmentalism, to a more generalised sense of ‘karma’ (the idea of getting back what you give out).
This qualitative evidence was borne out in quantitative surveys too. Just 28% of 50—59s considered themselves to be a religious person or guided by religious principles; 8% of them attended a place of worship regularly. At the same time, another 21% of those 50-somethings agreed that “I regard myself as a spiritual rather than a religious person”.
(In contrast, 41% of the 75+s questioned considered themselves to be religious or guided by religious principles, but just 12% regarded themselves as spiritual)
So, although the number of bequests left to churches and Christian charities may be on the wane, I believe that the desire to leave faith-driven legacies that reflect a fundamental belief in something bigger than oneself will continue to underpin legacy giving behaviour.
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To quote my friend and colleague Dr Claire Routley, I too have the privilege of being a full-time ‘legacy geek’.
A privilege because of the opportunity to work with an increasingly diverse range of charities, from all shapes, sizes, cause areas and even nations. And geek because it is an area that continues to surprise, fascinate and stretch me – full of weird and wonderful facts, inspirational stories and innovative ideas – that I continue to learn more about every year.
‘Legacies, a practical guide for charities’ published by the Directory of Social Change in 1983, is probably one of the first books ever written on legacy fundraising. Looking back at that legacy giving landscape almost 40 years ago, many things have changed. Legacy income has grown more than ten-fold – from £260m in 1981 to £3bn in 2018. It has grown in importance too contributing 10% of total charity income then, to around 15% today.
We also see a change in the types of charities that received legacy income – with legacy giving concentrated to a few large charities back in 1981, including the wonderfully named ‘The Distressed Gentlefolk’s Aid Association’ in the top 20. However, today we see real growth in small local organisations and growth in new cause areas such as arts, education and even local councils and football teams getting in on the action.
We also see a change in the fundraising tactics of charities, mostly focussed on advertising in legal journals back in the ‘80s, but today becoming increasingly sophisticated, multi-channel campaigns, embracing digital technology and mobilising the whole organisation in speaking about legacy giving.
Despite all the change, the problems of the legacy fundraiser 40 years ago feel painfully familiar today. Most notably, the issue around measuring and evaluating legacy marketing investment.
Back in 1983, Anthony Clay, Director of Fundraising at RSPB said: “It is very difficult to attribute our success directly to what we have done, as there are so many other factors which might have affected the situation”. However, there was a strong belief that “requests equal bequests”, demonstrated by both an increase in their investment and activity in legacy fundraising and growth in legacy income.
Anthony Clay’s quote could have been made by a legacy fundraiser working today. In fact, just last week at the IoF Fundraising Convention, fundraisers from some of our leading charities were debating questions such as “We’ve got so obsessed with measurement, we’ve forgotten our objective is to drive income (not to drive legacy pledges or get people to write Wills)” and “Legacy pledging is really about us – we just pretend it’s about the supporter”.
These questions are symptomatic of the fact that measuring and evaluating legacy fundraising is hard, and we have yet to find a simple, consistent way to measure success. To meet this need we often turn to tangible metrics to evaluate legacy fundraising success – requesting a guide, filling in a pledge card, downloading a booklet, or attending an event as an example.
But the same conference, the Donkey Sanctuary shared so eloquently their story about investing consistently in ‘softer’ metrics, such as donor care, building trust with donors, and strong legacy leadership, which they feel has paid dividends and has been critical to helping them raise over £20 million in legacy income each year.
The truth is, many variables come to play, and each of these variables needs to be measured over time to indicate legacy fundraising success.
Sharing performance and activity data across charities helps fundraising teams to see the bigger picture and allows individual charities to benchmark and evaluate their success relative to the sector overall. It is this need that led to the first legacy marketing benchmark project by Legacy Foresight in 2016, which was repeated in 2017 and is to run again this year. I have been closely involved in this analysis since the launch and am pleased to be working on it again this year.
Our last two benchmarking projects taught us a great deal about which data it is possible to collect and is meaningful to analyse. Based on this experience we have streamlined the levels of information in some areas and added some vital extra variables in others. In particular, we are going to be looking at legacy stewardship and will-writing initiatives in more detail; as our clients tell us these two areas are of significant attention and interest at present.
Collaboration has been a core value of the legacy sector over the decades, and we know that by working together and sharing our learnings, everyone benefits. We hope as many charities as possible join us in this year’s legacy marketing benchmark project, to provide the insights that will help us all more effectively evidence and evaluate our legacy fundraising spend.
The deadline for joining Legacy Marketing Benchmarks is 31st July. If you have any questions or would like to hear more it, get in touch.
Measuring the return on legacy marketing investment can be more (black) art than science. Most of us believe that legacy marketing does pay back, but this is usually based on anecdotal evidence. It’s easy to name charities who have invested heavily in legacy marketing and who are also seeing legacy incomes accelerate (Macmillan, BHF and Guide Dogs, to name a few). However, it’s hard to prove and quantify the link between the two.
Perhaps that’s why legacy marketing is often underinvested compared to other forms of fundraising. According to our last Legacy Marketing Benchmarking study, legacy income makes up on average 41% of fundraised income, but legacy marketing spend is only 3% of total fundraising spend!
The impact of legacy marketing is a particularly topical issue now, with GDPR rules meaning that many charities are having to test out alternative channels. Typically, charities have used warm marketing channels in the form of TM and DM, but now many are finding that they don’t have the volume of donors in their databases any more. Therefore, it becomes necessary to consider alternative – usually cold, above the line – forms of marketing. Adopting these new forms of marketing would be a lot less risky if there was some understanding of the likely payback.
One of the main reasons the effect of legacy marketing is so hard to measure is that it is challenging to quantify ‘response rates’. Charities typically measure the success of a legacy campaign by the numbers of new prospects or pledgers gained, but we know that this is only a small part of the story. Only a minority of bequests come from recognised pledgers or prospects, while most come from ‘invisible’ supporters who were unknown to the legacy team, or indeed the wider charity. These donors may well have seen and been influenced by your marketing campaigns, but they are never going to tell you; so how can you measure their impact?
Then there’s the issue of time lags; something fairly unique to legacies. Investment in legacy marketing is going to take a long time to pay back as most of the people you will be marketing to will be in their 60s or 70s today, so it will be many years before the gift in their will is realised. We estimate that this lag is on average 18 years – a long time to wait for a return on your investment and a very long time to keep reliable supporter records!
In the face of these challenges, we’ve created a methodology to evaluate legacy marketing investment. Using a series of assumptions about marketing response rates, conversion rates, average values, bequest mix and more, we can calculate the likely payback value of an investment. Then by applying an age distribution curve, we can calculate when this money will be seen.
Our approach can be invaluable to charities trying to set or justify their legacy marketing strategy. Having the tools to work out how much marketing investment is likely to payback and when that money will materialise is crucial to legacy fundraising teams; allowing them to demonstrate the value of their activities, evaluate the ‘return’ on the resources they invest and secure future – vital – budget.
Further to this, analysis relating to particular streams of activities allows teams to articulate and discuss their views with senior management on which approaches are most effective based on likely response rates and payback periods, enabling them to effectively shape their legacy marketing strategy. The data can also be used to test and plan for a series of alternative future scenarios taking into account not only hard numbers but organisational and brand implications too.
And while yes, it does take a long time – we believe it takes 40 years to see all of the return of an investment – it is worth the wait. Payback ratios tend to be very healthy compared with other sources of fundraising. Our last legacy marketing benchmarking project indicated that for every £1 spent on legacy income, charities see, on average, £33 back….eventually. It would take a significant amount of time to see this return so the £33 would need to be discounted to account for this
If you have any questions or would like to hear more about our legacy marketing evaluation service, get in touch with me here.
Dying Matters week, dedicated to raising our awareness of death, dying and bereavement, took place earlier this month. ‘Let’s talk about it’ invites the strapline. But as in-memory fundraisers, do we? On the frontline with our audience of recently bereaved supporters, why does this annual celebration of openness and expression still feel both liberating and nerve-racking?
At our In-Memory Insight Workshop last week, we discussed why so few charities promote gifts in wills as a way of supporting in memory. One of our members suggested that perhaps we should communicate the benefits of in-memory legacies differently – not as a way of supporting a charity, but of remembering a loved one. The collective assent and relief in the room was palpable.
It seems we’re at ease with the idea of remembrance being beneficial to our supporters. We can see how people can derive comfort from in-memory products and services that keep their loved ones close, physically and spiritually. Spaces for recording stories and details of loved ones are seized upon. When a charity can provide tangible memorials, supporters respond eagerly to having somewhere physical to visit. Tribute funds are popular for drawing people together at a difficult time, galvanizing friends and family and providing a positive focus for grief.
However, let’s be honest – haven’t we all secretly wished we could offer supporters these things without a financial ask? Wouldn’t they love us more if we could give without taking?
Legacy Foresight’s research has clearly shown how much bereavement changes people. Often it generates an overwhelming desire for good to come from bad. Although not an end in itself, supporting a charity is one way of channelling this altruistic impulse. Many of us don’t merely want to remember a special person. We want to do something lasting and amazing in their name. This goes beyond simply keeping their presence felt and their memory alive – it’s about creating a better world, where our actions and deeds shine glory on the person we loved.
This impulse is embodied by in-memory legacies, which our research has identified as having one foot firmly rooted in the past and the other in a (better) future. But, it’s not only legacy giving where we see this compelling urge to give.
Particularly when a life has been cut short, we’re driven to help others so they won’t suffer in the same way; This might mean helping other families through a similar situation, or raising funds to provide treatment for people going through similar illness. Or, it could just mean supporting others who’ve been left behind. We know we can no longer help the people we’ve lost, but we can help others in their place.
As in-memory fundraisers, we still have strides to make. From brief conversations with the charities in our Learning Circle, we know there are times when in-memory success stories are withheld from supporter newsletters that already feature legacy giving, ‘because we can only include one article about death’. Hospice fundraisers clash horns with clinical staff about the level of fundraising content on their websites. Resources for dying with dignity often fail to mention in-memory fundraising options, due to well-meaning protectiveness towards the families affected.
In reality, in-memory decisions are driven by what’s appropriate for the loved one and the emotional needs of the person left behind. We shouldn’t be afraid to open up dialogue, invite conversations, listen and ask questions. We should feel proud and confident about the achievement of our charities and how much these signify when supported in a loved one’s memory.
If we do hold back, perhaps we need to sense-check who it is we’re really protecting? As Vanessa Billy put it in her recent Guardian article, We need to talk about Death, ‘No-one can entirely relate to the sadness and the ache caused by the loss of a loved one. They are lonely experiences. But the pain should not be compounded by society’s inability to deal with someone’s mourning.’
If Dying Matters reminds us of one thing, it’s that it’s up to every individual to celebrate their loved one in their own way. To deny them options is to limit their choices – on our terms, not on theirs.
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In-Memory Insight is a rolling research programme; we work closely with a learning circle of leading charities – over seventy of them in the past eight years – who pool their budgets, experiences and data. We collect hard evidence to inform in-memory fundraising strategies and convince senior management of the value of in-memory giving. Our report, looking at the links between legacy and in-memory giving, will be released in June. If you’re interested in finding out more about In-Memory Insight 2019/20, please get in touch with Meg Abdy.
I was delighted to be involved with Legacy Foresight’s recent Legacy Stewardship research project. I believe we are at a critical time for stewarding our legacy supporters. Over recent years, charities have spent a lot of time and money inspiring supporters to consider a legacy gift. But, all that time and money is wasted if we then do not continue to move, excite and engage those supporters throughout their relationship with our causes. That is why I believe stewardship deserves far greater attention from fundraising teams. In particular, senior management needs to take legacy stewardship more seriously, so it receives the resource and priority it deserves.
In my opinion, two of the key lessons from the research which need far more consideration when planning stewardship programmes, are resource and skills.
Over the course of the project, we conducted case studies of eight charities – ranging from sending handwritten letters to taking pledgers overseas to see projects – using a wide variety of approaches and goals. Some of the best examples of stewardship we studied were extremely low cost. Charities are delivering full stewardship programmes for a few hundred, or a few thousand pounds. In fact, this low-cost activity seemed to be what supporters truly appreciated, offering authenticity and closeness to the cause without much overt expenditure.
Where many stewardship strategies fall short, is in not appreciating how much time and human resource good stewardship programmes need. To offer personal, bespoke and ‘behind the scene’ experiences requires enormous energy and commitment to have maximum impact. The recent Legacy Marketing Benchmark report backs this up with hard facts – overall, stewardship represented just 13% of legacy marketing budgets, but 31% of legacy fundraisers’ time!
In my experience of working with charities across a range of sectors and sizes, freeing team members up to undertake excellent stewardship doesn’t happen often enough, and lost legacies are the result. If your charity wishes to improve its stewardship, investing in staff resource to deliver the programmes is essential.
The second key lesson is something less obvious: good relationship managers have a set of ‘soft’ skills often not prioritised within fundraising teams. Some of the charities we spoke to went so far as to say that these ‘soft’ skills are innate and must be recruited for rather than trained.
Commonly, legacy fundraisers are undertaking a diverse range of marketing activities, even sometimes running other fundraising programmes too. This results in an unrealistic range of skills needed and, in many cases, the ‘soft’ skills – listening, empathy, responsiveness, creativity, for example, may be overshadowed by other ‘harder’ skills.
Our research demonstrated that acknowledging and prioritising these soft skills was critical to delivering magical and effective stewardship programmes. The feedback from the supporters we spoke to echoed this point – where they experienced personal ‘relationship management’ from fundraisers using these softer skills, their understanding of the cause, closeness to the charity and commitment was very high.
I began this blog by saying we are at a critical time for stewardship. We will never know the cost of lost legacies to our charities and the incredible work that could have been delivered if they had been received. To my mind, good stewardship is how we can contribute to reversing this. We ‘just’ need a little imagination, lots of time and to prioritise relationship building!
To access the ‘Understanding Legacy Stewardship’ briefing report, please click here.
Christine Reidy is a legacy fundraising consultant and Associate of Legacy Foresight. She has worked in a variety of fundraising roles, specialising in legacy giving since 2005. She holds an MSC in Charity Marketing and Fundraising and is a past Chair of IOF’s East Anglia Committee and the Legacy and In-Mem Marketing Special Interest Group.
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