A recent poll on Moneysavingexpert.com found that 67% of respondents did not have a will[1]. When asked “why?” the most common reasons were “I’ve never got round to it”[2] and “I don’t really know where to start”[3].

For a document as important as your will, these statements are strikingly non-committal and apathetic. It’s not the cost, it’s not even our inherent reluctance to admit our own mortality (which achieved just 2% of the total vote), it’s just that people can’t be bothered – they think it’s going to be a drag, and the will-writing industry hasn’t done enough to convince them otherwise.

At Farewill we set out to try to change that. Using technology to make will writing more accessible and convenient, whilst maintaining a human element to demystify the process. In a crowded marketplace we differentiate ourselves by being friendly and approachable, with a smooth and reassuring product that helps people get writing their will ticked off their to-do lists.

Over the past 12 months our team of solicitors, designers, engineers, and will-specialists has helped thousands of people write their will, and over the coming year we are on track to raise £200M for charity. Here, I wanted to share some of our learnings:

Engage emotionally

For us writing your will is so much more than just who inherits your estate. From personal messages to funeral wishes, a huge part of our focus is the emotional side of will-writing.

To my daughter – about my gift of engagement ring: “Because since the moment I met you, I loved you more than life itself. You were the light of my life.”

When we first launched Farewill, we wanted to understand consumer will-writing behaviour, and how people approached the process.

Our own research found that less than 1% of wills contained any kind of personal message, and this was something we wanted to change.

Now, at Farewill, this figure is more than 70%. Our suspicion is that when you put people in an environment they feel comfortable with, surrounded by the things they care about, more often than not people relish the opportunity to reflect.

“I’d like my ashes to be put into a firework, to be shot up at a time and place agreed upon by my family.”

For legacy fundraisers this is interesting because our data demonstrates an obvious correlation between emotional engagement and an increase in charitable giving. For example, if someone includes funeral wishes in their Farewill will[4] they’re twice as likely to include a charitable bequest.

The power of the prompt

There is amazing untapped potential in the legacy market: Remember a Charity and the Behavioural Insights Team research showed that whilst 35% of people would like to leave a gift to charity, fewer than 7% of deaths actually result in one. If this potential was realised, the legacy market could swell from £2.9BN in 2017 (thanks Legacy Foresight) to as much as £14.4BN.

When designing our product, we decided that everyone would be asked the question “would you like to leave a gift to charity?”, and turned again to Remember a Charity and the Behavioural Insights Team’s research to frame the question with social proof.

“Many of our customers like to include a charity in their will. Are there any causes you’re passionate about?”

Across all our channels, we see 28% of wills including a gift to charity (2X industry standard), and the average charitable will includes 2.2 charities.

Impact of an online call-to-action

Legacy marketing is becoming increasingly digital and channels like Facebook are beginning to demonstrate their power. In 2017 we ran a Facebook campaign with St Mungo’s which saw 100% of wills including residuary gifts to the charity, and many other organisations are running successful legacy marketing campaigns online.

However, in a digital arena it’s even more important to capitalise on those fleeting moments of intent. As soon as you ask someone to pick up the phone or head offline, you’re giving them the opportunity to lose motivation.

By offering an online solution, we were able to write 7X the number of wills when compared to an offline offering – meaning we can make legacy marketing budgets work even harder. We also see what we call ‘day 0’ consumer behaviour. When offered a will via a charity, 60% of people of people complete their will on that same day (rather than weeks or months down the line). For legacy marketers this means faster feedback on campaign performance.

Test and learn

It’s difficult to know what works and what doesn’t without testing, and one of the merits of a digital product is the amount of insight we’re able to glean from the data we collect. For our charity partners we provide reporting dashboards which report on gifts pledged and donor demographics, helping them understand where to focus their efforts.

Some of our favourite learnings from 2017[5]:

Free vs discount? We saw 6X more money pledged to charities when they offer a free will vs a discounted will, a factor of more people taking up the offer and bigger gifts being left

  • When to email? Emails sent in the evening – around 6pm – saw the best engagement. Monday at 6pm was our most successful time for people clicking-through and registering on the website.
  • Day of the week? However Tuesday was overall the most popular day for people to complete their will.
  • Time to complete? 60% of charity supporters completed their will on the first day they visited the website, with the majority remaining completing within the month.
  • Older or younger? Younger legators on average were more generous, with both pecuniary[6] and residual[7] gift sizes in the 35-44 age range on average 2X the 65+ age range.
  • Gmail vs Hotmail? Gmail users 20% more likely to leave a charitable gift than Hotmail users. Yahoo users are the least charitable

We believe that digital can have a huge positive impact on the legacy market – by reducing the number of people that die without a will each year[8],  and providing data and insight to help legacy fundraisers forecast income and understand their audiences. By working closely with charities, we hope to create sustainable, predictable sources of income for many generations to come.

Farewill is a digital will-writing company that specialises in legacy fundraising.

Using their service consumers can complete a will on desktop, tablet, or mobile, 7 days a week. There is live support on the phone, and every will is checked by one of their specialists.

Farewill work with charities, at a national and local level, looking to increase legacy income and develop digital legacy fundraising skills.

If you’d like to find out more, please contact their Partnerships Manager, Megan Veronesi at megan@farewill.com 

[1] 6081 votes at time of writing (1st February 2018)
[2] 28% of respondents who said they did not have a will,
[3] 23% of respondents who said they did not have a will
[4]Based on 5,000 Farewill wills
[5] Based on 5,000 Farewill wills
[6] In terms of gift value
[7] In terms of the % of the residue
[8] Currently 40% according to the Law Commission