My daughter recently came to the realisation that one day she would die. Sheer terror hit her, and she was inconsolable for several hours. Then, somehow, she forgot about it.
For a self-conscious species, we have evolved to be very good at avoiding thinking about death. This serves the purpose of allowing us to function in our day-to-day lives. It also poses several challenges when it comes to legacy fundraising:
- Fundraisers and leadership can feel uncomfortable asking for legacies, fearing conversations about death.
- Our prospects put off writing their Wills because they don’t want to think about death.
- When they can avoid thinking about death no longer, our prospective legators write their Wills in one rushed sitting, asking the Solicitor ‘what do people normally do?’ and forgetting to include charities that they have supported throughout their lives.
As fundraisers, we need to remember that we are doing two amazing things for the people we work with: we are allowing their values to live on forever, and we are remembering them.
If your current legacy offering is a formal, sombre-looking A4 pack with a codicil form and vague mentions of tax effectiveness gathering dust in the corner of the office, it might be time to think about how this is going to make your legacy audience feel. Will it make them think about living on, or about dying?
Solicitors can tell your donors how to include your charity in their Wills. Our job as fundraisers is to tell our donors why.
We can only do this when we acknowledge a legacy as more than just a donation. It represents the culmination of an individual’s life, values, and dreams for the future.
To get the most out of your legacy programme, it needs to:
- Be personal and tailored
- Align with your donors’ values
- Build trust
- Ensure legacy donations are used in impactful ways
- Normalise legacy giving through storytelling about the impact of realised legacies and case studies on the motivations of living legacy pledgers
- Acknowledge the symbolic enormity of a legacy gift; this person is using your charity as the vessel through which they will make their mark on the world
- Reassure donors that your charity will remember them
- Include consistent and empowering legacy messaging across your fundraising media
We know that in the long term, good legacy programmes bring in substantial, transformative income. What we can forget is that investing here can also make an impact in the short term while your pledgers are still alive.
A well-managed legacy relationship will not make your legacy donor feel uncomfortable; it will actually help them to feel more at peace with the prospect of their death.