10 tips for great online legacy fundraising

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.

collage of various screenshots from sites discussed below

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.

WaterAid

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).

Save the Children UK

Use social proofing

Campaigns like Remember a Charity week help to promote legacy fundraising. Many charities reinforce this message in their copy. They show that remembering a charity is something 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.

Migraine Trust

Many charities talk about ‘thousands of people who leave a legacy’ or ‘thanks to people like you’. Use social proofing to validate someone’s decision.

Use video

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.

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.

RSPB

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.

Miscarriage Association

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.

BHF

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.

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 (see social proofing above).

NSPCC

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.

Mencap

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.

Be interesting

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.)

Unicef UK promoted tweet

 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.

 

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Charity content round-up

It’s been another bumper week for interesting charity content. Here’s my round-up.

In my previous post I looked at using rocur to share lived experience. This week the amazing @nhs Twitter account reached new heights by live tweeting an operation! It was a brilliant way of giving an insight into a hidden world and raising awareness about the teamwork of the NHS. You can see a selection of the tweets in their operation Moment.

@nhs live tweet a bowel cancer operation

The patient was clearly ok with the profile and a quote from him was tweeted the next day thanking everyone for their good wishes. Hopefully bowel cancer charities can use the event to raise awareness about the condition and to reassure others about to go through the same treatment.

There was some nice content around for Pancake Day including this brilliant video from the National Trust.

series of people flipping pancakes to each other in different NT settings

See more pancake content in this charity Pancake Day Moment.

A ‘highlight’ of every parents year is World Book Day. The Woodland Trust produced a helpful guide to wildlife related book costumes.

tweet with image of a cardboard Stick Man

If you are a parent of a young child, this new Gruffalo Spotter App from the Forestry Commission looks amazing.

On a different note, we are seeing more stories about hidden homelessness. Buzzfeed shared short stories from people sofa surfing or squatting. This BBC news video illustrates rural rough sleeping in Cornwall.

The Guardian have produced a guide on How you can help refugees and asylum seekers in Britain which gathers many organisations working in this area. One charity not included is Refuweegee, a new Glasgow-based charity who encourage their supporters to write welcome messages like this one. You can read about their start-up lessons on the Zurich Insurance charity blog.

welcome message to refugee arriving in Glasgow

Good reads / listens

What did you spot?

What were your content highlights or good reads of the week? Do share….

January’s charity content highlights

Come out from underneath your desk / duvet and catch up with some of the latest creative charity content.

L-R Dave the Parkinsons Worm, contactless giving Zurich Insurance post, Street Support video, National Lottery gif

Innovation

Cancer Research are continuing their trend of using World Cancer Day (this Saturday – 4 February) to launch new uses for contactless fundraising. Ten ‘smart benches’ across two London boroughs will take £2 donations.

Are you planning to look in to contactless fundraising in 2017? NSPCC recently announced impressive results of their contactless fundraising and many other organisations are using it too. I gathered some examples of contactless giving in my blog post for Zurich Insurance and spoke to Haven House Children’s Hospice who are running trials at the moment.

Not sure what the technical term for this is but the National Lottery did a very smart bit of Twittering by launching this 7second video and inviting people to RT it ‘for a surprise’. The surprise was a personalised video, with the RTers’ Twitter profile image in a gold frame, with the words ‘National Treasure’ underneath. Nice! This was similar to a thanks reply from Save the Children I got in December.

National Lottery video of interesting doors / walls

Today it is Time to Talk Day (#timetotalk). Why not use Time to Change’s template to make your own graphic?

Time to Change's interactive graphic maker

Good reads

If you get a moment, don’t forget to fill in the Charity Digital Skills Survey which is open until 17 February.

And follow #smex17 on Monday if you are not going to the Social Media Exchange in person.

Re-brands / new websites / charity content

Action for Children's error message - cheeky boy with magnifying glass

To brighten your day

Meme of badly drawn pictures 'pasted' on top of a video of Donald Trump's policy signings

What have you seen?

What have been your charity content highlights from January? Do share! I’d love to hear from you.

Nonprofit digital advent calendars – tips and examples

Digital advent calendars can be a great way to drive engagement during December. If you have 24 pieces of content, why not package them up? You don’t have to produce a slick clickable website, an image shared on social media is perfect. Think about how to use your existing digital assets and a theme to give your followers a treat every day. It’s been a hard year and we all need cheering up afterall.

Examples from WCHP, MS Society, Royal Marsden, New Mills Food Bank, Bliss, Bookstart, Family Holiday Association

If you are thinking about doing an online advent calendar, here are some questions you should ask.

Does an advent calendar fit with your brand?

How will your supporters respond to a daily offering? Do you get much interaction from your every-day communications? Look at your stats and find out what type of content works best. A daily treat could inspire interaction if there hasn’t been any or could attract new audiences. Or could do annoy people.

An advent calendar might be too flippant for your cause. This depends to some extent on your tone of voice. If you have a serious cause, it is possible. See this example from Bliss who are sharing stories via their calendar (see also #blissadvent on Twitter).

Can you sustain it?

24 days is a long time to do one thing.

How can you maintain momentum over 24 days? Avoid a slump in the middle by planning your content carefully. What existing content could you use and what would you need to produce from scratch? Can you link in with other big days in December?

Do you have the resources to publish and respond to comments over a whole month including weekends and into the holidays? You can schedule posts via publishing tools such as Hootsuite but will need to keep an eye on responses.

If you don’t the energy or resources to cover 24 days, you could scale down to use the 12 days of Christmas instead? See this from the Imperial War Museum.

Should you have a theme or goal?

It can be useful to have a theme to focus your activities. Themes nonprofits have used include:

  • inspirational quotes
  • thank you’s to supporters
  • competitions and special offers
  • fundraising stories and tips
  • successes over the year
  • awareness raising / messages / campaigns.

Think about what will be interesting to your supporters.

Museums, galleries and cultural organisations in particular make good use of digital advent calendars to share gems from their collections. Take a look at the Horniman Museum’s calendar on instagram or National Library of Scotland’s #cartogradvent.

Some council’s are doing calendars too. This comms2point0 post from Merton Council explains how they are using their collection.

How technical should you go?

A simple approach is to just share an image on each new day via social media. This method works well if you are an organisation who has beautiful or inspiring images or a collection to showcase. Or have used Canva or equivalent to illustrate quotes.

There have been many more gif-based calendars this year. See this example from Community Christmas.

Video-based calendars and interactive websites are rarer. Even more unusual is the offline calendar. See Folkstone’s Living Advent Calendar.

Top tips

To build traction over the period, include a short specific hashtag such as AbbreviationOfYourOrgNameXmas16 so #THxmas16 or #BlissAdvent as above. This means people can explore previous days as the month progresses.

Include a link so people can find out more or take an action. If not done, this creates a dead-end. The calendar becomes a nice-to-have thing rather than something which drives traffic or action. People are likely to share these types of images so you have the potential to reach new audiences who might not know about you.

Ideas for next year

Get some inspiration for next year. Take a look at my collections of beautiful nonprofit advent calendars – Storify from 2016 and Storify from Christmas 2015.

Your tips

Spotted any good nonprofit advent calendars? Have you run one yourself? Was it worth the effort? Do you have any top tips? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to UK Fundraising for featuring my Storify in their article about charities’ digital advent calendars 2016.