Legacy fundraising can be an effective way of raising considerable donations for your charity, but it’s also a very sensitive issue that’s often difficult to navigate.
In this article, we’ve outlined the best way to talk about these kinds of donations with supporters, and how to put together a legacy fundraising strategy.
What is legacy fundraising?
Legacy fundraising is a practice where individuals are asked to include a charity in their will, leaving them some money.
It’s an important way for charities to raise money — these kinds of donations account for around 14% of charities’ voluntary income in the UK, and this is expected to rise over the coming years.
However, despite the amount that is donated, the number of people that actually leave gifts in their wills is relatively low.
How does legacy fundraising work?
If someone wants to leave money to a charity after their death, they need to do it formally — it’s not enough to tell someone that they want to leave a gift to charity.
Any donation that someone wishes to leave to a charity needs to be included in their will. In the will it needs to cover the type of gift or amount and the names of the specific charities that they wish to leave money to.
Donations to charity offer some tax benefits. The amount that’s been left to charity is taken off the value of someone’s estate before Inheritance Tax is calculated. And if more than 10% of an estate is left to charity, it can also reduce the rate of Inheritance Tax.
Legacy fundraising best practice
Legacy fundraising is often a difficult subject, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid discussing and promoting it. It’s a key way to raise funds for your charity, and other charities will also be doing it, so it’s not something to shy away from.
However, it’s important to handle it sensitively, so here are some best practice tips for legacy fundraising.
Promote legacy fundraising as a positive idea
When you’re talking about legacy gifts, focus on the huge positive impact they can have on the charity.
Talk about it as a great reflection of someone’s life and the values that they believe in — it’s their opportunity to make a real difference, even after they’ve gone. You don’t need to focus on the fact that someone has died or even the legal aspects of writing a will — promote the positives and the amazing gift they are giving.
Use a ‘family first’ message
One of the difficult areas when it comes to charity legacy fundraising is that for children, family members and other beneficiaries, it might seem like they are missing out on their inheritance if money is left to charity.
Be careful when you’re promoting legacy fundraising to use a ‘family first’ approach. Talk about how people can leave enough to provide for their family, and then anything that might be leftover could be donated to the charity. This way it doesn’t seem like you are trying to take money away from family members.
Normalise legacy fundraising
As much as you need to be careful about how you approach the topic, it’s also important to try and normalise legacy fundraising. Don’t treat it like it’s something that’s secretive or shouldn’t be mentioned.
Include it in your regular fundraising conversations and marketing, and encourage people to just think about it and consider what they could do to help. You want people to start thinking of leaving something to charity in their will as a normal, common thing to do.
Talk about ‘gifts’ not ‘legacies’
Consider the language you use to discuss legacy fundraising.
For many people, the term ‘legacy’ will be interpreted as a big donation from someone who has a large estate to be distributed after they’re gone. But donations of all sizes are important, so don’t put potential donors off because they don’t feel like they have a large sum to leave behind. Refer to ‘gifts in wills’ instead so that it seems more accessible for everyone.
Make all the details easily accessible
When someone is considering making a donation to your charity in their will, make it really easy for them to find out information. Create a specific page on your website that covers everything they need to know about leaving a legacy and make it simple to find in your site’s navigation.
If you have a frequently asked questions page, add in a question about legacies and wills so that people can find an answer that directs them to the right page.
Explain the specific value of a legacy donation
When you’re promoting the idea of legacy donations or talking to people, get specific about the difference it can make.
Don’t just talk about why it’s a good thing to do — explain your charity’s goals and aims for the future, and how potential donations are going to help achieve those. Keep in mind some examples of donations that have helped the charity to achieve certain goals in the past (you can use these when you talk to people), and the importance of continuing to do that in the future.
Keep supporters up to date with your work
For most supporters, the only insight they have into the work that a charity does is through their communications.
Over the years, supporters want to understand what the charity is doing, the progress they’ve made, and for that to be communicated on a regular basis in an appropriate manner. This will help to persuade them that leaving a gift in their will is a worthwhile thing to do, and that money won’t go to waste.
Build relationships with supporters
Try to build up an individual connection with donors that have been supporting your charity for a while. Train all members of staff and volunteers to be able to talk about the benefits and value of legacy donations whenever there’s an opportunity to.
This way, when it comes to writing a will, they’ll be aware of the possibilities of leaving a donation behind that helps continue the meaningful work they’ve been supporting so far.
Create a long term legacy fundraising strategy
Taking all of these legacy fundraising best practices into account, it’s a good idea to put together a long-term legacy fundraising strategy. But how do you do this?
Start identifying your target audience, which is likely to be long-term donors and supporters. Understand their motivations and how you can effectively engage with them.
Come up with a strategy that outlines how you talk about legacy donations, the language you use, and when to discuss it. It’s important that everyone involved with your charity (who may talk to your supporters) is aware of legacy fundraising and the appropriate way to discuss it — you want a consistent and appropriate message.
Consider highlighting legacy fundraising on a regular basis in your communications with supporters, whether that’s via email or post. Emphasise the importance and impact it can have through the charity’s other marketing channels, such as social media and blog posts. Don’t forget to direct supporters and anyone that’s interested towards your website page for more details too — or try to set up conversations with them to discuss leaving a gift.
Legacy fundraising should be something that’s consistently discussed, so that donors are aware of the value and regularly reminded of the option, so that they take action and create or update their will.
Examples of strong legacy fundraising pages
Not sure exactly what a legacy fundraising page should look like on your website?
Here are a few great examples of charities that have put together extremely effective legacy fundraising pages.
Save the Children
Save the Children uses its legacy fundraising page to talk directly about the impact that a gift in someone’s will can have. They outline the different actions that have been taken as a result of legacy donations.
It’s short and to the point, and directs visitors to get in touch with a dedicated team who can answer questions or provide more details. This is a great way to get potential legacy donors into a conversation, which can encourage and support them through the process appropriately.
The RSPB’s legacy fundraising page covers everything that someone interested in leaving a gift in their will might need to know.
The page starts off with a strong heading that focuses on the future, and below there is a booklet for more details, an overview of other people’s gifts, and an FAQ page. The page includes bright images of nature, highlighting the habitats and creatures that the donation is going to be protecting.
WaterAid’s legacy fundraising page talks about leaving the ‘gift’ of clean water. It offers the opportunity to order a free guide in the post, and clearly directs you to different sections that cover anything you might want to know.
Further down the page, it highlights key figures that demonstrate how the organisation has made a difference in the last year. It then covers the details you need to know to add WaterAid to your will, FAQs, and useful links to Citizens Advice, HMRC, and government pages on how to create a will.
WaterAid has created a really effective page here which includes everything you need to know about leaving a gift in your will.
Legacy fundraising is an important channel for raising money as a charity, but it’s crucial that you approach it in the right manner and talk about it sensitively.
Follow these tips, and ensure that your legacy fundraising strategy is effective at encouraging your donors to remember your charity in their will.