Legacy fundraising is becoming increasingly important to schools. Legacy gifts at 92 schools generated £28.6 million, or £311,000 on average per school, representing c. 20% of total philanthropic income received at these schools. Sixty-one schools are also expecting future legacies worth an additional £23.4 million.
The value of legacy societies
Schools with an established legacy society report an average of 10 legacies worth £246,000 per school. This is much higher than those without a society, where the average is two legacies worth £26,000 per school.
Legacy societies that have been established for less than a year attracted an average of 16 members, while those in existence for 1-3 years nearly doubled the number of members to 29. Although the rate of increase appears to moderate for societies 4-6 years old and 7-10 years old, by the time a legacy society has been established for more than 10 years, it has on average over 100 members.
While a legacy society will grow with time, the results show that legacies can be a lucrative proposition even for schools that are just beginning a legacy fundraising programme. Schools whose legacy societies have been running for less than a year secured an average of four legacy pledges worth £347,000 per school (median value: £27,500). For schools whose legacy societies have been running for 1-3 years, these schools secured an average of 14 pledges worth £654,000 per school (median value: £625,000). Major legacies can impact average figures, as can be seen in the schools with brand new legacy societies; yet in the case of schools with legacy societies of 1-3 years old, the mean and median figures are fairly close, which speaks to consistency of results. In this survey, 17 schools reported receiving legacy pledges totalling £500,000 or more. Of these, nine schools received legacy pledges worth more than £1 million, five of which were received by schools whose legacy societies are less than three years old.
The value in legacy societies lies not in glossy brochures, branded pin badges, or VIP access, but in successfully highlighting and celebrating the existence of a like-minded community that is united by a common interest in advancing a specific cause or mission. Legacy societies demonstrate to donors that a school takes their philanthropy seriously.
Direct mail or personal asks?
Among the different approaches used by schools to stimulate legacy giving – including direct mail, personal asks, advertising, events, the school’s website, and newsletters – direct mail remains the most popular. The 68 schools that use direct mail reported an average of 11 legacies worth £240,000 per school. Thirty-nine of these schools also used a personal ask strategy and performed better than the average, reporting an average of 14 legacies worth £269,000 per school. Schools relying on personal asks and no direct mail strategy performed better still, securing legacy pledges worth £373,000 from six legacies. The school securing the most in legacy pledges – £3 million during the two-year period – did so through personal asks alone.
This article is part of a series providing our analysis and key takeaways from the 2016-2018 Graham-Pelton/IDPE Benchmarking Report. Read other articles or sign-up for our email list to have the latest news on the benchmarking report and other fundraising tips sent straight to your inbox.