December is a good month to reflect (if we have the time!).

To look back on the year that is coming to a close, recollect the new things learnt, what we’ve achieved – and what’s not quite there yet – and to set a path for the year ahead.

With this in mind, we’ve asked the Legacy Foresight team and key voices from the sector to share the most important thing they’ve learnt this year in legacy and in-memory, and to ponder on the implications for fundraisers in 2020.

1. Nostalgia is powerful

I was intrigued to learn that nostalgia can be a forward-looking emotion, helping people to link together past, present and future. Rather than a negative longing for the past, it can also help people to increase their sense of drive, optimism, inspiration and boosts prosocial behaviour, whilst depressing fear of death.

As legacy fundraisers, we need to understand what triggers nostalgic feelings for our donors and tap into those to encourage our donors to think about the future they’d like to create for the next generation.

Dr Claire Routley – Consultant, Legacy Fundraising

2. In-memory giving forges strong connections to legacies

Two out of every five people with a legacy in their will have at least one in-memory legacy. Supporters with a known in-memory connection also leave larger legacies, whether pecuniary or residuary. In-memory legacies are special and heartfelt due to their association with loved ones. Because of this, they are likely to stay protected within wills.

Fundraisers need to recognise the considerable potential of in-memory donors. Apart from their in-memory support, they also have the potential to be important legacy donors if nurtured in the right way.

Sue Pedley – Head of Donor Research, Legacy Foresight

3. Collaboration is key

2019 has been a bumpy road for legacies, with a perfect storm of probate backlog delays; a threatened probate fee hike; a review of the current notification service; and a review of the IHT rate. This has created uncertainty and – in some cases – significantly restricted investment in frontline charitable services.

But we have made great progress as a sector on many of these key issues, which was only possible through collaboration. I expect many of these issues to re-emerge, which is why fundraisers must continue to collaborate in 2020.

Rob Cope – Director, Remember a Charity

4. One size does not fit all

The first year of Legacy Journey has highlighted how differently charities communicate with their legacy supporters. Some keep the programme pared-back and communicate infrequently. Others send out a lot more communications from across the organisation; campaigns, trading, raffles and surveys, very similar to an individual giving supporter journey.

Which is the most effective way to engage supporters? If you are measuring how these touchpoints affect the relationship and optimising accordingly, then clearly, you’re doing the right thing; but it does prove that one size does not fit all.

Richard Hill – Programme Manager, Legacy Foresight

5. High-value bequests are growing in importance

On average across our Legacy Monitor consortium – 80 leading charities, representing over half of all UK legacy income – more than a third of legacy income now comes from just 5% of bequests. In our forecasting work, we repeatedly see the impact this can have on individual charities performance, with peaks and troughs driven by high-value gifts.

High-value bequests are challenging to predict and create significant volatility in legacy income. Our advice would not to get carried away with results in any one year but look at the underlying trends for your organisation over longer periods of time.

Jon Franklin – Economist, Legacy Foresight

6. Donors are on their own ‘hero’s journey’

According to the hugely insightful Professor Russell James, we can learn a lot from storytelling of old, and particularly Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. Every great hero story follows the same pattern, which is also reflected in the life and actions of every legacy donor.

As fundraisers, we have a critical role in this story – that of the mentor (think Gandalf to Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Morpheus to Neo in the Matrix). Russell encourages us, legacy fundraisers, to channel our inner Obi-Wan Kenobi and guide our legacy donors towards their goals, and with it, the sense of symbolic immortality they are searching for.

Ashley Rowthorn, Director, Legacy Voice

7. Having the right people is essential

The stewardship research that I worked on with Legacy Foresight demonstrated that to be good relationship fundraisers, we must have excellent listening, empathy, responsiveness and creativity skills.
In more generalist marketing roles, it can be easy to forget about these ‘soft skills’, particularly when recruiting. The supporters we spoke to illustrated how much they valued these skills, and the relationships these skills created, which can only be good for the charity too.

Christine Reidy, Legacy Consultant

8. We need to be in it together

In-Memory Health Checks this year have underlined the importance of winning buy-in for in-memory beyond the sanctuary of the immediate team. In-memory fundraisers can’t function in a vacuum. It’s amazing how often there’s one key team, or even a single individual within a charity, that can make or break a programme.

How to cut through an impasse? Understand and respect that reservations are grounded – like yours – in wanting to do the best by every donor. Give examples from your own experience of how in-memory giving can transform people’s lives for the better. Above all, keep talking.

Kate Jenkinson, Head of In-Memory Consultancy, Legacy Foresight

The coming years will bring huge – and as yet largely untapped – potential for growth in the legacy and in-memory sectors. Legacy Foresight is proud to have been at the forefront of the UK legacy and in-memory markets for 25 years. We look forward to continuing to monitor, understand and shape this vital sector alongside our many valued clients over the next 25 years and beyond.

Every year we make an annual donation to two client charities. This year the charities selected by our two newest team members are Stroke Association and The Woodland Trust.

Thank you to all of our charity clients, friends and colleagues for your hard work, year in, year out.

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