Mar 3rd 2017

Top 10 (ish) Tips for Legacy Fundraising


Legacies raise over £2bn every year for charities in the UK, that’s a fourfold increase since the 80’s, and it’s set to continue over the next 40 year years.

Here are our top tips for effective legacy fundraising:

  1. Research, research, and a bit more research. This is integral to a successful campaign. If you run a membership scheme, identify which members have been on the scheme for more than 5 years; do you have a record of who has donated to you before; if your un events do you have a group of people who are always engaged; and don’t forget your volunteers and trustees. In America they use the principle for their boards of “give, get (their friends), or get out” when it comes to fundraising.
  2. Have a great case for support. Explain clearly and passionately why your organisation needs a gift, what difference it will make, and what will happen without it. Tailor your message to the person you’re talking to – again, research and planning are essential.
  3. Start with a legacy campaign. Legacy fundraising should become a natural part of conversations with supporters, but this takes time to develop and can only be done successfully if the right message is embedded throughout your organisation. Start by adding a strapline to all newsletters, emails, websites, leaflets etc.. Something simple like “remember us with a gift in your will”. If you’re going to approach people directly it needs to be done in a strategic way and tactfully. A word of advice – if your museum has never been in touch with someone directly before, don’t make that first contact about asking for money. You can create leaflets specifically relating to legacy or run an event where you have the opportunity to talk face to face with potential donors.
  4. Start conversations. Research shows that talking to people face to face increases the likelihood of them leaving a gift. Invest in the time to properly train your volunteers and staff to identify appropriate times to have a legacy conversation, and how to introduce the topic.
  5. Careful stewardship reaps rewards. Some very simple actions can make a big difference: make sure you keep an accurate up to date record of who has expressed an interest in leaving a legacy, make sure you thank them – in writing from the Director or CEO, ensure they always receive the highest level of customer service, even a small annual event to thank people – behind the scenes tours, meet the curator etc… all help to engage people with the museum and it’s aims.
  6. Allow sufficient time. Legacy has a 40:1 return on investment, but it’s a long term investment, often over many years. Don’t expect quick returns and plan your strategy and resources to reflect this.
  7. Don’t include Legacy income in your annual budget.
  8. Measure what you do. If you don’t know which methods of communication have been successful how do you know what to focus your resources on in the future.
  9. Legacies are not ‘difficult asks’. Professor Russell James talks about legacies being a reflection of someone’s values and experiences. Asking people to consider giving to an organisation and a cause that they’re passionate about is something to be proud of.
  10. Remember – ‘people give to people’ – Eric Grounds.