In 2013 I wrote about online legacy fundraising content. Although well written persuasive copy is still key, digital trends move on. So four years later it is time to see whether the web pages about legacy fundraising have improved and what has changed.
I looked at a random sample of over 50 large, medium and small charities. In most cases the pages were pretty dull, especially from smaller charities. It is hard to write warm, engaging copy about legacies as we often fall over ourselves trying to be sensitive. But the charities who get it right have a confidence and a clear sense of themselves and their audience.
Here are ten ingredients for emotive and effective online legacy fundraising.
Be clear and persuasive
WaterAid’s legacy site stood out as the go-to example of a persuasive and well designed site. The page starts with a clear call to action – leave the world with water – which sets the tone. They use eye catching and engaging links and headings (leave your mark / what would you like to pass on?) which include and challenge the reader. Images are positive and inspiring. They also include a photograph and name of a person to contact as well as a legacy promise which are both reassuring and clear.
Save the Children UK also use clear and inspiring headings (write a child’s smile into your will) and use bold to highlight important words. They use beautiful pictures of smiling children to reinforce their words. Their writing is confident, concise and persuasive (make a lasting difference, your kindness).
Use social proofing to normalise the action
Many charities talk about ‘thousands of people who leave a legacy’ or ‘thanks to people like you’. This social proofing is refecting and reinforcing the decision that the reader is almost ready to make.
Events like Remember a Charity week help to promote legacy fundraising. Many charities use the event to reinforce their ask, showing that remembering a charity is a normal action that everyone can do.
The Migraine Trust makes a clear statement which makes leaving a legacy accessible – “a gift of just 1% will make a real difference to supporting our charitable work”. This is a clearer way of what they were saying in 2013 (see below).
Since 2013, many more legacy pages include videos. Take a look at this personal message from a supporter on Prisoners Abroad. Or this slick video from ActionAid showing Mrs Harben’s legacy. Or this simple beautiful video from RSPB. Or this speaking from the heart story from Glenys who supports the Alzheimer’s Society.
Talk about impact
What difference will someone’s gift make? Talk big picture about your vision / mission or about specific services. More charities are making big statements about what a legacy means to them.
RSPB’s opening statement is clear and bold: Your legacy is nature’s future.
Refugee Action’s Leave a legacy page goes into more detail. It is beautifully written using storytelling and sense of urgency. It frames the problem and talks about what they can do with a legacy gift. The page is short, concise and powerful. A great example of a small charity getting it right.
East Lancashire Hospice talk about leaving a legacy of love and explain that last year, legacy gifts paid for three months of care.
If your organisation is all about solving a problem or finding a cure, talking about legacies could be difficult. How do you frame the ask when you might not be around or needed in the same way in 20 / 50 years? Don’t avoid the issue – think about how you can present it effectively.
Macmillan Cancer‘s legacy page says: “In the future, doctors and nurses are going to get much better at diagnosing cancer earlier, and treating it.” But stresses that half of us will get cancer at some point so Macmillan will still be needed.
Say please and thank you
Choosing to leave a legacy to a charity is a big deal. The fact that someone is reading your page about this is a good sign. Keep them with you by recognising this. Say please and thank you in the right places. If you come across as kind and thoughtful at the asking stage, it will reassure people that you will behave in the same way when you are processing their gift.
Think about motivation
Why do you think someone might have reached your page? What are they thinking. This page by the Miscarriage Association is written really warmly and in a gentle tone of voice. The quote perfectly positions the ask.
Include appropriate images
Brighten up a serious subject with colourful or inspiring images. Reward visitors to this page and make them want to stay. A collection of several images may work better than a single one. For example, this landing page for the British Heart Foundation includes images of family, medical research as well as a big thank you.
Many organisations seem to rely on stock images of grey-haired couples on their legacy pages. Remember to use images which reflect the demographics of your readers. Also people often write their will triggered by big life events such as getting married or having children. Your audience isn’t just people in later stages of their lives. Make sure you are using images which reflect their own image back at them.
Take a look at NSPCC’s page which includes quotes and images from supporters at different stages of their lives. Their stories may chime with readers, validating their own idea to leave a legacy to NSPCC (another example of social proofing).
Think about a hook
What could make your legacy fundraising stand out? What stories do you have to tell? Has a legacy gift allowed you to do something special or unusual? Is there someone you could write about or feature to make your ask come to life?
Mencap’s gifts in wills page is based around the inspiring story of Lord Brian Rix. The page says that he “helped change the future for people with a learning disability. With a gift in your Will to Mencap you can too.” It uses beautiful images from their archive and talks about what he achieved in his lifetime. It says that although lots has changed, people with learning disabilities still face challenges so by leaving a gift in your will, you can help change the future too.
Similarly, Leonard Cheshire, marking its centenary say “Leonard’s legacy became our legacy. It could be your legacy too.”
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity includes information about JM Barrie’s legacy gift in their pages. Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity talks about your final chapter and how to write your own ending.
Include practical information
Make it as easy as possible for someone to actually get the legal stuff right. So include:
- information about different types of gifts (see this handy guide to the types of legacies by Demelza Hospice)
- your official name (and any previous names) and charity number
- suggested wording
- information to help someone work out the detail of their estate
- information for executors
- contact details so a potential donor can get in touch.
A promise can offer reassurance about how a legacy will be dealt with when the time comes. A few charities included these – see WaterAid’s promise, RNLI and Breast Cancer Now.
There were a few examples of charities who’d produced interesting supporting content. For example:
- Blue Cross reminds readers to think about their digital assets (passwords, data, photos, social media etc)
- Cancer Research’s campaign with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Two Thirds of a Spring reflects the vital impact that one third of funding has on their life-saving work
- Alzheimer’s Society has an online book of remembrance
- visitors are invited to make a personalised video with Unicef UK. (NB Unicef UK have been running a campaign of promoted tweets about this recently, the only social media content I spotted about legacy fundraising during the research for this post.)
Get the navigation and terminology right
Think about where your legacy pages sit. How easy are they to find within navigation or search? Be your own mystery customer and check.
Don’t bury your pages – make them prominent, especially if legacies make up a sizeable proportion of your income. Don’t just stick them under ‘Other ways to give’.
Check where they appear in your content rankings on your Google Analytics. Are you using the right terminology for your audience? Test whether the word legacy or will works best. Many charities use both.
See my previous post on legacy fundraising (persuasive and engaging writing in online legacy fundraising) for some tips on terminology and placing of legacy pages. Also how to talk about legacies on social media.
How do you measure up?
Is your online legacy fundraising content strong enough or is it dull and unconvincing? Give your copy a facelift before Remember a Charity week in September. If you are not sure how well it comes across, get your mum to read it or do a page swap with someone else from another charity. Get some feedback and think about how you could bring your content to life.
Share your examples
Have you seen (or written) any good or bad examples of digital legacy fundraising? Please do share them here.
My top five online legacy fundraising sites are listed in a JustGiving blog post. I’d love to hear what yours are.