Legacy giving and its possibilities

With non-legacy fundraising generating an incredible £172.5m for schools over the past two years and many reporting policies finding it difficult to account for legacy income, it is easy to assume that fundraising success is possible without an established legacy programme.

But with legacies contributing an average of £410,500 of additional income per school in the same time period, can you afford not to proactively embed legacy fundraising as a core part of your overall strategy? ‘Embed’ is the key word here, for successful legacy programmes go hand in hand with successful major gift and engagement strategies.

Does your legacy fundraising fall into one of these categories?

Legacy fundraising has traditionally fallen into two categories: an afterthought to extend relationships with fatigued lifetime giving donors, or a softer fundraising specialism that sits separate from core fundraising activity. The former can act as a security blanket for fundraisers that lack confidence in responding to donors who say no, whilst the latter suggests a mystery to legacy giving that is disconnected from an individual’s other connections to your organisation.

Rethink your philosophy: major gifts and legacy fundraising success are interconnected.

If you already have a successful major gifts strategy, incorporating legacies should be a natural extension of your existing programme. Successful legacy fundraising depends on the same critical success factors of combining focussed data insights with a bold long-term vision to create authentic and donor-centric engagement opportunities. If you already have an established legacies programme, consider what lessons it can offer to your major gifts strategy: does your success lie in a compelling and strategic stewardship programme, consistent multi-channel communications, or tailored and specific relationship management?

Where does the value of legacy societies lie?

After years of debates (and many an anecdote!) around the value of legacy societies, the data suggests that established legacy societies matter. But before you rush out to increase your events budget and create a new ‘brand’, consider what aspect of this activity inspires fundraising success. 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.

Lead decisions with your data. But how?

Data is king when it comes to transitioning your legacy activity away from reactive stewardship of the unexpected and towards strategic management of lifelong relationships. As a starting point, review your unsolicited legacy gifts: what patterns are there in donor profile and engagement history? What areas have attracted legacy gifts?

Make the most of it.

The key challenge with legacy reporting is the inability to predict when gifts will be fulfilled. Rather than see this as an excuse for avoiding a robust legacy programme, consider how the development of a data-driven strategy can position your organisation to make the most of every legacy opportunity. Instead of simply recording legacy pledges and income, could you track the conversion of legacy enquiries to confirmations? Or perhaps you could review changes to pledge value over time? Both of these KPIs could provide valuable insights to measure the impact of specific activity or strategies in creating a sustainable and successful legacy programme.

Victoria McAlpine is Senior Consultant at Graham-Pelton. Click here for more insights about the IDPE and Graham-Pelton Benchmarking Survey results, and the way your organisation may benefit from our findings.

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