Feb 15th 2017

Legacy and Major Donors Top Tips


With competition for funding becoming tougher, it’s essential that museum’s look at diversifying their income streams. Legacies and major donors can form an integral part of your overall fundraising strategy. These donors are pretty canny though, and are increasingly looking at where they will see the greatest impact for their gift. So if you’re thinking about legacies and major donor’s then here are our top tips for getting started:

1. Before you even start, ask yourself some serious questions –
‘Is our museum funding fit’?
Is this the right project for us, at the right time?
Do we have the capacity, skills and expertise?

2. Write a really compelling case for funding, what do you hope to achieve, why is it important and what will happen if you don’t succeed are all good points to consider.

3. Ensure that all members of your organisation are engaged with the process, and understand the part that they have to play in it. The role of trustees shouldn’t be underestimated, it is their networks in the community and links to high net worth individuals that can make or break a legacy or major donor programme. Ask the question – how many of the trustees have the museum in their wills? How many donate to the museum?

4. Legacies and major donor’s are a slow return, taking many years to come to fruition, so it’s important to think strategically –

Be realistic and pragmatic about the time and resources required.
Do your research – create target lists of people with the capacity and inclination to give.
Develop relationships over time.
Consider how you can get individuals to feel engaged with and a part of the museum eg newsletters, behind the scenes tours, meet the curator etc.. Is there something unique you can offer them?

5. Keep an up to date database, this will help you to keep a really good record of your museum’s relationships with individuals, helping you to avoid mistakes and work more effectively. Understanding someone’s personal motivations to give is a powerful tool.

6. Become a tax expert, there are excellent tax deductible reasons for people who are in higher tax brackets to donate to charities.

7. Marketing may seem a bit tasteless, particularly with legacies, but unless people know about what you do, what you need and how they can help, then how are they expected to remember you when they’re righting their wills.

Skills development: Making Legacy and Major Donor Work For you – Workshop, 25th April, Plymouth

Further Reading: AIM Success Guides – Successful Fundraising at Museums