Digital legacy fundraising in 2022

I have been writing about digital legacy fundraising since 2013. Back then, legacy web content was pretty basic, functional, sometimes apologetic. By 2017 when I looked at 50 charity websites, things had moved on. Legacy content was bolder, more inspiring though smaller charities were further behind.

Where are we now? Analysis shows that legacy giving is booming. The market is growing but is becoming crowded. Charities need to do much more to stand out.

pretty picture of some wooden painted birds against a blue wall.

For the past two years I have been involved in Legacy Foresight’s Legacy Fundraising 2.0 programme looking at the role of digital in legacy fundraising. The pandemic has propelled this area of fundraising (as with all others) into a digital-first world of paid social media, virtual events, digital stewardship, analytics and user journeys. It has been a steep learning curve for many legacy teams as they have had to learn new skills and negotiate with digital colleagues who base success on much shorter-term metrics.

Now the genie is out of the bottle, we can’t go back, digital legacy fundraising is here to stay. With all this new activity, it can be easy to overlook the basics. When was the last time you read your own ‘gifts in wills’ pages on your website or reviewed the web traffic? Or looked at them next to the other fundraising pages? Or looked at the pages of your competitors’? Here are some observations on trends and developments across the sector.

Progress

A big shift since 2017 is that gifts in wills are now so much more prominent on charity websites. Analysis of 30+ charities found that for the majority, it was one or two clicks from the homepage to reach legacy content. Previously, content had been tucked away. We made people work to find it, tucked it away in ‘other ways to give’ alongside phone recycling and give as you shop schemes. It is encouraging to see legacies given the prominence it deserves. This reflects the normalisation of giving in this way, which Remember A Charity have been working on for so long, and a greater confidence in talking about legacies.

Language has changed too. In most cases charities use ‘gifts in wills’ rather than ‘legacy’ as a menu title. We will all use legacies to describe our work internally and in longer copy, but it is good to see that the language we use with our supporters, especially on titles, is simpler. Generally too, the active voice is present on the title of the page once there, for example ‘give a gift’ or ‘leave a gift’. Simple, clear, easy to skim read but with a call to action.

In comparison with 2013 and 2017 many more charities have developed strong propositions for their legacy ask. These frame the messaging with strong, persuasive statements which connect with their loyal supporters. They set the tone of voice with stories, information and images. Propositions align with the brand values and are often the end product of a significant piece of work involving research, audience insights and content development, usually done with an agency. The content is used across different channels and formats (on and offline) to give the supporter a consistent experience. They show an investment in legacies.

It is also great to see some really creative content around legacies. Legacy Futures produced a showreel of inspiring legacy activity for this year’s CIOF Convention. 18 people shared examples which had inspired or moved them including WaterAid’s What Jack Gave video (which is brilliantly integrated onto WaterAid’s legacy pages – do visit and read the copy as well as watching the film) and North Devon Hospice’s Forever Stone (which is a physical thing in their garden as well as an app and pin badge). Storytelling, humour and simplicity were common themes across the examples. Many of the examples feature prominently on the charity’s websites and their wider digital legacy fundraising.

The other massive change which wasn’t a factor at all in 2017 is online wills and free wills. Many charities offer this option now and there is a wide variety of ways they present this. One charity I found only had one page on their site about legacies and it pointed straight to an online will provider. Other charities include all the terms and conditions of a number of different providers they have partnered with. Getting the balance right for your audience is key. Data from your web traffic, user testing and other insights will help you get it right.

I am also seeing more charities removing barriers and being more transparent. For example, many now have a legacy promise in their sections. Do a search on Google for ‘legacy promise’ and see how many come up. While many charities still have a form to request a gifts in wills guide on their website (rather than sharing it freely as a PDF or other download), there is debate about whether this is a barrier or a connector. I’d love to see more research on whether a form puts people off asking for more information, whether receiving a guide through the post or electronically drives pledges, whether the data capture drives more donors through stewardship and relationship building, whether counting pack sends is useful or just a metric to justify budget. What’s your experience?

Work to do

I’ve often written about why images are important as part of digital content. As the demographic of who we are talking to changes, the images used needs to follow. No more stereotypical grey-haired white people in the last years of their lives. Our pages need to inspire and reflect our audiences. We’re talking to them directly now as they will be users of digital platforms. Dr Claire Routley shared research done with Haseeb Shabbir at the Fundraising Everywhere legacy conference in April about the diversity of people shown in images across legacy marketing. There is still lots of work to be done here.

We should also start ensuring our videos are accessible to everyone. Subtitles are widely used now which is great. But I still see so many videos with pretty images, text on screen, joyful music but no voiceover or audio description. As a sector we need to do better on the accessibility of videos.

I think there is also more work we can do to strenghten the links to brand and impact in legacy comms. People need reminding about the work you have done, and how your ambitions and values match their own. This builds trust, and reassurance that they are leaving their money to you and you are going to do good things with it. I like how Greenpeace UK do this.

Checklist for digital legacy fundraising in 2022

  • 1 or 2 clicks from the homepage
  • Gifts in wills – no jargon titles
  • Strong proposition
  • Stand-out content
  • Legacy promise
  • Unnecessary barriers removed
  • Right balance of free will options
  • Diverse images
  • Accessible videos
  • Show impact to build trust

The market is changing

As legacy champions Meg Abdy and Rob Cope have said, the future of legacies is huge. But the market is getting crowded.

Small charities are joining the party. In 2019 I volunteered for Small Charity Week’s big advice day. I spoke to four small charities who wanted to get better at legacy fundraising. I volunteered again this year and spoke to two about legacies, both were so much further along than the ones in 2019. It’s a small sample but a noticeable difference. If small charities with closer personal relationships with their donors get the message right about the impact they could have with legacies at a local or specialist cause level, this may well be more appealing to them than leaving a gift to a mega charity they also support.

Shelter say in their legacy promotion that big changes are needed in the country. These will only be possible with big money to spend on the work needed. Investing in digital legacy comms now should pay off in the future. Whether your charity is large or small, the time is now.

Get support

Do take a look at the Legacy Foresight’s Legacy Fundraising 2.0 programme. The next round starts in the autumn. The programme includes benchmarking analysis of web traffic and actions.

Join Remember A Charity to be part of a movement helping to grow legacy giving. Work happens all year round but there’s LOTS of noise during Remember A Charity Week which starts on 5th September this year.

I do bespoke benchmarking and content support for charities with legacy fundraising and other areas of digital comms. Do get in touch via Twitter or find me on LinkedIn if you think I can help.

Read more

Building a legacy fundraising strategy at CancerCare

Guest post by Anna Webster, Individual Giving Fundraiser at CancerCare. Anna is responsible for all areas of individual giving at her charity. She shows that an impactful legacy strategy doesn’t need big budgets or time. She explains that legacy confidence and internal culture is key.

Anna gave this inspiring presentation at the CIoF Legacy Fundraising conference on 2 December 2021 (you can still buy tickets if you want to watch the recording from this and the other excellent sessions througout the day). She very kindly allowed it to be shared here.

Background

CancerCare is a regional charity supporting people affected by cancer or bereavement in North Lancashire and South Cumbria. Gifts in Wills have always been important to us. On average, legacies make up around a quarter of our annual income.

‘Creating a legacy strategy’ has been on our to-do list for a long time but legacy income was often a strand of our fundraising that got knocked further down the list in favour of more urgent, or more ‘exciting’ fundraising opportunities. We’re a smaller charity. We work at a regional level. We don’t have a budget for legacy marketing.

When the pandemic hit, overnight our in-person events had to stop at the same time as demand for our support increased dramatically. Legacy income became a real lifeline.

It really hit home that if we wanted to maintain this important source of funding and secure the future of our charity, we needed to give this area a bit more attention. We needed to be more pro-active and less re-active!

As well as challenges, the pandemic also gave us a bit of space to breathe and to reflect on our fundraising activities. We were just doing the same things year in year out, because it was ‘just what we do’. For the first time, we had space to get to those jobs that had fallen to the bottom of the list, including creating our legacy strategy.

Creating the strategy

Working from home at my kitchen table during lockdown, I took some time to think about what we really wanted to achieve, and what was manageable, given the size of our organisation and limited resource. I did a lot of reading online about what made a ‘good legacy strategy’ and came up with five key headlines.

Working with my manager, we made a list of tasks and deadlines that would help us to achieve those key aims. Creating the strategy was part of my ‘agile sprint’; a focus list of tasks to complete in a short period of time, so the first draft went back and forth a few times, with comments and suggestions added until we had a finished strategy within a couple of weeks!

It’s very much a working document, that I constantly refer to, rather than something that is stuck in a drawer and forgotten about.

The strategy has five aims. Here they are along with examples showing what we have been doing under each.

1. Establish a clear legacy vision

We are asking people to join us and leave a gift that will achieve something big in the future. We should be able to communicate our legacy message simply and clearly – in one sentence if possible.

Our legacy message is essentially ‘A gift in your Will to CancerCare can ensure no-one in our community has to face cancer or bereavement alone’.

Once we had this clear vision to say what a legacy gift to CancerCare could achieve, we made it an aim to put it everywhere! A lot of our legacy marketing is about repetition. A drip-drip message to make sure legacy is always there!

We’ve also built into our strategy to review the vision regularly in-line with our other key messages and the re-brand we recently went through.

2.  Be a legacy confident organisation

Postcard from CancerCare saying - More than 90% of CancerCare's work is funded by people like you who donate, fundraise or give a gift in their Will. It then lists eight different ways to give including 'pledge a gift in your Will' at number 6.

We wanted to promote that Gifts in Wills are special, but not unusual. It was something that we had previously been apologetic about. Too scared to mention for fear of upsetting anyone. We want all representatives of CancerCare (staff, trustees, volunteers) to be confident in acknowledging that Gifts in Wills are an important way in which our work is funded and feel able to have a basic conversation on the subject as well as refer further action to the fundraising team. It also helps to share the load. Top tip – your message will be further reaching if it’s not just you shouting about it!

To achieve this, we deliver internal training on a regular basis.  This varies from PowerPoint presentations on Zoom meetings, quizzes sent round via email, and we’re working on a ‘basic info sheet’ for our therapy team.

We ensure that wherever there is a list of ways to support CancerCare, giving a gift in their Will is given as an option. We’re making sure that staff feel confident about this list. We’ll be giving out postcards (pictured above) at Christmas.

We created a funding statement that explains how our work is funded (donations, fundraising and gifts in Wills). We use this everywhere. On leaflets, on our website, on our letter heads, social media posts, in presentations we give to community groups. (Again drip-drip!)

This is working – my colleague who organises our events told me that she’d been able to have a conversation with a supporter who wanted to let us know that he had included a gift in his Will to CancerCare. She felt confident to have this conversation with him and then referred him on to me for the questions he had that were a bit more in depth.

3.  Deliver outstanding supporter care

Handwritten thank you card from CancerCare

If we treat our supporters well, and build good relationships with them, they are more likely to consider a gift in their Will. We’ve also introduced an organisational stewardship plan to make sure that our donors and fundraising supporters feel valued and build their loyalty to the organisation.  We are trying to make outstanding supporter care the ‘norm’ and an ‘inbuilt’ part of our processes.

We thank people promptly when they donate or fundraise, with personalised thank you letters or postcards. This year we sent out first postal newsletter in over eight years, helping us to feedback to supporters about the difference they make.

One thing that we also try to do, when we receive a gift in a Will, where possible, we write to the families or lay executors to acknowledge the gift left by their loved one, invite them to visit one of our centres for a cup of tea! This is a level of personalisation that we can do as a smaller charity and in this way, the legacy gift in not the end of a relationship, but potentially the beginning of a relationship with the family. This is also really helpful in gathering legacy stories to help us achieve our next aim….

4.  Create engaging legacy marketing

We don’t have a huge budget for legacy marketing so our marketing is done without spending a lot. We mostly try to communicate why supporters should leave a gift in their will by telling good stories and using the right language.

We try to tell human stories, in a sensitive way. We explain the difference they’ve made locally. For example, Sam Wyatt whose gift made a difference in her hometown. We aim to tell these stories as often as we can; including them on our website, in our e-newsletter, annual paper newsletter & send them to our local newspaper. (drip-drip… always there)

We aim for our marketing to dispel some of the myths that exist around legacy giving. For example, we include sentences like ‘In 2020/2021, the charity has been grateful to receive gifts ranging from £300 to £31,000.’ to show that you don’t have to be a millionaire to give a gift in your Will to CancerCare.

We also have a Will Writing Service to make it as easy as possible for people to make their Will. It’s not free, but a number of local solicitors offer our service users, supporters and volunteers the chance to make or amend a basic Will, waiving their fees in engage for a donation to CancerCare. We are a cancer and bereavement charity and we know that a lot of the people we support worry about having an up-to-date Will. It’s almost an extension of the support we offer to give them this opportunity to write a Will. In fact, the information brochure we created (free to us because the costs were covered by advertiser) is called One Less Thing To Worry About.

One of our key messages is that we understand that when making a Will, the needs of their family and loved ones will always come first, but after you’ve taken care of those closest to you, a gift in your Will for CancerCare could help to ensure no-one in our community ever has to face cancer or bereavement alone.

5. Steward legacy pledgers

Now that we are having more conversations about gifts in Wills, we know that there are supporters on our database who have told us that they have included a gift in their Wills to CancerCare. We need to make sure that these supporters are treated well and nurtured long into the future.

We do this by simply recording on our database when people enquire about gifts in Wills, request a brochure or tell us outright that CancerCare are mentioned in their Will. Again, we are a small enough organisation to make personal phone calls to check-in, to keep them updated about news we think they’d be interested in, or invite them in for a cup of tea and a catch up!

Onwards and upwards

Looking back over the 18 months since we created our first-ever legacy strategy, we can see the differences already. We are having more conversations about gifts in Wills than ever before and have far more living legacy pledgers recorded on our database. Although we probably won’t see a huge financial impact this soon, we are confident that the actions we are taking now will serve our charity – and importantly our beneficiaries – well in the future.

Of course, now that we are getting the basics right, we want to add more to our strategy and have some exciting ideas in the pipeline. One thing is for sure, by creating the strategy, we’ve created habits that are here to stay. Legacy marketing now has a permanent place on our organisation’s agenda and it will never go back to the bottom of the priority list! Onwards and upwards!

Further reading

Here are some of the useful links and examples shared during the conference.

If you were at the conference, what were your top takeaways? Please do share in the comments.

See also:

#RememberACharityWeek 2021 on Twitter

This year’s Remember a Charity (RaC) week campaign was called Will You? It used a clear and simple ask in bold colours which charity members personalised with photos and their own messages. There was a static image version as well as a gif version. RaC shared a video of their Insta feed which was full of colour.

This annual week is used by member charities to promote the gifts in wills message and used by the wider sector as a ‘safe time’ to talk about legacies (although I’d hope that the campaign has done enough by now to make digital legacy comms, year-round). Media coverage is driven by RaC and once again this year ambassador Len Goodman was spreading the simple message of write a will and if you can, leave a bit to charity. And the Wombles were out in force, especially on Facebook.

Rob Cope wrote this call to action about the importance of legacy fundraising – Why the sector can’t afford to drop the legacy baton now. He stressed the potential of legacies for charities as the baby boomer generation ages, but described a sector where budgets and teams are being cut.

What does this mean for digital legacy fundraising? Historically it was seen that the target (age) groups preferred paper-based comms and face-to-face events, they didn’t use digital. But this year has forced legacy teams to explore and expand their online marketing and stewardship. It’s an exciting time to see how this grows.

Engagement on organic Twitter

As an insight into the messages shared this week, here are some trends from this year’s organic comms on Twitter. Unsurprisingly video features highly but well formatted tweets with strong statements and images also did well. Big audiences did not guarantee good engagement.

Engagement on organic Twitter is generally quite low these days, it is harder and harder to get much of a lift. Many of the standard tweets I looked at using the RaC artwork got very minimal engagement (like Macmillan’s). It’s not to say that it wasn’t effective, just that people didn’t share, reply or like it. The click through rates may have been brilliant or it may be effective as a reminder or motivator for an off-line activity.

I was instead looking for tweets which got good engagement. I wanted to see if there were any particular ‘winners’ or stand-out content as well as trends. Again, higher numbers of likes and views does not necessarily translate to clicks to more info or pledgers.

Strong messages

‘Our work to help animals will not stop’. This stand-out message from IFAW UK is really well formatted – strong first sentence, followed by more detail about your action and its impact. It is well spaced and includes emoji and a link to make it easy to digest. Hashtags at the end help to explain the context (only niggle is they should use CamelCaseToMakeThemAccessible). A montage of six images rather than the usual one or four also makes it stand out.

“There are developments on the horizon around better treatments for prostate cancer. I want to help make that possible.” Great stuff from Prostate Cancer. Simple storytelling, few words, well structured. Clear action and link. The same post did better on PCUK’s Facebook.

Videos

This was one of three tweets shared by the Manchester United Foundation about legacies during the week. The first was a customised RaC graphic which also got good engagement. This 3 minute video was also RTd by the main Manchester United account to its 27million followers.

A similar uplifting 2min film was shared by Lord’s Taverners to their much smaller audience.

RSPB launched a legacy campaign on the first day of the week with a video which will air online and TV called Time Flies. Here it is on You Tube where there is a 30 second version too. It was created with Aardman. On the RSPB website it appears under the heading – Your legacy is the future of nature.

First-hand storytelling

Storytelling by a charity’s beneficiary or testimonials from legacy pledgers or stories from previous donors are mainstays of offline and web page legacy fundraising. Here are some examples from Twitter this year.

Andy from St Mungo’s told how his life has been transformed. ‘Help someone like Andy transform their life, by leaving a gift in your will.’ The video has had 180 views and a handful of engagements (slightly more than daily average and another legacy video they shared in the week). It got more engagement on Facebook.

Glyndebourne ran a series of videos (My lasting legacy) through the week with supporters talking to camera. The opera house set up a special club for pledgers – the John Christie Society. Its ambassador, Dame Felicity Lott shared her story in the first one which had the most engagement.

Not all stories got good engagement, like this from Marie Curie.

Showing impact

There were also a few examples of organisations sharing their impact to drive support.

Content which your audience likes

A safer bet for legacy content is sharing images or stories which appeal to your audience. It might get good engagement but needs to be hooked-in to the legacy ask.

  • This tweet from Badgers Trust appeared in my automatic top tweets listing. Did it get lots of likes because it is a nice picture? It doesn’t include a link to make it easy to get in touch.
  • Lovely cat pictures from Cats Protection got good engagement.
  • This about ancient graffiti from SPAB also appeared in my top tweets. The text and video are interesting content but not related to RaCW, just use the hashtag. More could have been made of this. They did share other content during the week, the whole thing might have worked better as a thread.
  • This National Gallery tweet showing a painting which had been acquired thanks to a legacy got good engagement too (but lower than their usual levels).

Others

Be like Handel and leave a legacy – Coram.

I didn’t see anyone else using polls. This from Crohn’s and Colitis was interesting on their fundraising account where they shared other legacy content through the week including other polls.

Legacy fundraising good reads

Your views

Is your organisation part of the Remember a Charity consortium? If so did you join in with promotions during the week? How did it go? Which channels worked best?

Did you see (or launch) any stand-out comms during the week? Did you run paid campaigns and if so, how did these do?

Please do share in the comments.

Digital legacy fundraising – where are we now?

It’s Remember a Charity Week. This year The Wombles are the stars, encouraging people to ‘pass on something wonderful, leave a gift to charity in your will.’ Partner charities have been sharing their own bespoke Womble videos like this one for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

screenshot from The Wombles' video

Ambassador Len Goodman appeared on GMB to talk about legacies and reduced the ask to this simple message: “If there’s a little bit left over, just leave a little bit of money to a charity in your will.” Beautifully simple!

In 2013 I wrote a post about digital legacy fundraising (legacy fundraising – tips for engaging and persuasive web content) following a piece of benchmarking research for a large charity. Back then, digital legacy fundraising appeared to be a tricky task. There were some examples of content which was engaging and persuasive but otherwise it was pretty functional, if mentioned at all.

Fast-forward to 2017 and things had moved on. 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising found strong examples where charities were using emotive text as well as engaging images and photos. However, in a sample of over 50 large, medium and small charities, most had pages which were pretty dull especially smaller charities. The ones that stood out had confidence and a clear sense of themselves and what they meant to their supporters.

Three years later, where are we? Reports show that legacy gifts and awareness of leaving a legacy are rising. This year has presented some additional challenges for legacy fundraising, not just the practicalities of processing estates during lockdown, but the sensitivities of messaging around death and dying.

Rob Cope, director of Remember a Charity spoke to Howard Lake about this. He said that was, however, an uplift, especially where charities were confident about their storytelling and did this in a positive and uplifting way. He said ‘charities who are loud about legacies will do well in a competitive market. You have to ask and ask in the right way.’ He talked about the impact of covid on fundraising and said: ‘legacies have to be at the heart of your financial resilience of your organisation.’

How does your digital legacy fundraising match up? Is it loud and confident? Is it engaging and positive? Or is it functional and hidden away – if mentioned at all online? Do you have digital assets produced specifically for channels or are they digitised versions of paper brochures? Do you promote legacies on social media – either during Remember a Charity Week or as part of your portfolio of digital fundraising?

As a charity, it can be hard to know where to start and difficult to assess whether your digital legacy fundraising is effective. Which is why I am really excited to be part of a new project at Legacy Foresight.

Legacy Foresight say that digital and social media is growing as a means of acquiring and stewarding legacy donors. GDPR rules have meant that previous routes of contact are gone and target generations are now increasingly active online. But that there is not “an agreed view of what makes for good online legacy communications. For example, how can we best use digital and social media to inspire, inform and impel legacy donors into making a gift? Can we develop KPIs and metrics to help measure and track each charity’s performance relative to its peers?”

This programme is currently looking for charities to join a new learning circle looking at the future of legacy fundraising. Please do find out more if you would like to join the programme. It’s going to be really interesting!

New project at Legacy Foresight – Legacy Fundraising 2.0: digital and social marketing

More on Remember a Charity week

Digital round-up – September 2019

Highlights this month: a lesson in crisis comms from RNLI, climate change comms, diversity in the sector, guide to wellbeing.

It’s overwhelming to try and keep up at the moment. Aside from UK and world news, this is a busy time of year for awareness days and campaign launches. Here’s a small snapshot of some of the best charity content and reads from this month and some from August too.

two men in a dark room photograph some neon artwork on a phone. pink and purple colours

How to use this round-up: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Big campaigns

screenshot of Samuel L Jackson's ARUK film. He holds an orange.

Creative content

Reactive content

Celebrity endorsement of the month: The Hoff visits RNLI Penarth.

'we support the climate strike' drawing on office window. By Salford CVS

Did your organisation do anything to join in with the #GlobalClimateStrike either by joining a strike or sharing messages of solidarity or making statement about your own organisation’s commitment to addressing climate change? On a day where there was a global focus on the issues, it was good to see some (mostly environmental charities) pulling out all the stops. It was disappointing to see so many others saying nothing. Here are some examples of charities who joined in with the #GlobalClimateStrike.

Comms

It can be stressful and relentless being on the comms frontline. Your work is key to building and protecting your organisation’s reputation and impact, while also battling internal pressures. This month, Charity Comms launched A wellbeing guide for comms professionals authored by Kirsty Marrins with contributions from others sharing case studies and tips. It aims to help build resilience and look after mental health. Do have a read if you haven’t seen it already.

RNLI changed their homepage to include a striking image from one of their overseas projects

This month, RNLI faced a backlash then a rush of support, following a story profiling their overseas work. Their messaging on Twitter was an example of patience and warmth. The volume of incoming comments was relentless through the week. They responded by writing personal messages to thousands of people. Their initial tweet has been liked 44.8k times.

I wrote a short thread through the first day as the situation developed including tweets of support from other charities. Dan Slee blogged with more examples and UK Fundraising showed some of the ways people challenged the press story.

What was striking about RNLI’s response was that they took ownership of the situation and proudly communicated their values and mission. For example they changed the image on their homepage (see above) and shared beautiful images from their overseas projects on social media. They also did lots to connect with new and established supporters (see this tweet from Shappi Khorsandi, a thank you email and a thank you video from Dave at Poole Lifeboat Centre).

Would you be ready to respond to a crisis comms situation?

Also this month:

Digital – strategy, design, culture

CCDH advice - don't feed the trolls - graphic with 5 steps. 1=don't engage, 2=don't post you are being targetted, 3=if unlawful, record, report and get help, 4=block trolls, 5=don't let it get to you)

Fundraising

Screenshot from Age UK's website. Older man sits alone. White writing on a purple (cadbury coloured) background say Cadbury are joining Age UK to fight loneliness

People and organisations

There has been lots shared this month about representation in the sector. Here’s a selection of useful reads and resources

Also this month:

And finally….

Well done for getting to the end! Here’s some fun stuff.

Your recommendations and feedback

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please share your recommendations in the comments.

Could you also tell me if these round-ups are useful. It takes quite a long time to put them together. How do you use the round-ups? Please share any feedback. Thanks!

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss July’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Legacy fundraising on social media – Remember a Charity Week

It is rare to see organic legacy giving asks on social media. With limited time to grab attention and a sensitive ask to make, it can be hard to get right.

Remember a Charity Week is an annual event with a wide reach. Having a national campaign with a media presence makes it easier for charities to talk about their own legacy fundraising.

Logo for Remember a Charity Week 2019. 'Pass on something wonderful'. 9-15 Sept

Examples of legacy fundraising on social media

Here are some examples of legacy campaigns on Twitter shared in the week before Remember a Charity week. Each feels authentic. The ask is clear and appropriate. All use video as the primary tool, using very different styles, and images. Most have used #RememberACharity to position the ask.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust shared a 30 second video using striking drone footage of Cumbria with text explaining all the things Elizabeth had done to support their work. The last line says ‘On Friday it was four years since Elizabeth passed away.’ A second tweet links to their information pack which includes beautiful postcards.

Combat Stress’ video is a personal message from Jonathan, Recovery Support Worker. He speaks from a desk explaining why legacies are important. (There are no subtitles.) This second tweet a few days later sharing stats (1 in 5 veterans that we support are helped by our supporters leaving gifts in their wills) got slightly better interaction.

Maggie’s Centres shared a 40 second video featuring Rita saying that leaving a legacy was a no-brainer for her. The end shot says ‘Please consider a gift to Maggie’s in your Will to make sure we can support more people with cancer in the future’. It has had 123 views and a few likes / RTs. The tweet links to a web page sharing more of Rita’s story.

RNLI shared the story of one of their biggest ever legacies given by James Stevens in 1894. The gift paid for 20 lifeboats each bearing his name. They went on to save over 1000 lives. What an amazing story to tell to inspire future donors!

Here’s a few more examples from small charities gathered in a Twitter thread on the first day of RAC week.

Have you seen any other good examples of legacy fundraising on social media?

Getting the most out of the week

Don’t miss the chance to join in if your organisation does legacy fundraising. If you haven’t got a campaign planned, do you have artwork or a video or a graphic or text which you could use?

Are your web pages ready and maximised to inspire your supporters to act? Include a link to them to give people more information. See 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising.

Legacy giving isn’t just for big charities. Use the opportunity to get involved if you are a small charity and encourage your supporters to think about leaving you a gift in their Will. I have a few tips in this round-up from Small Charity Week.

Don’t forget to include #RememberACharity or #RememberACharityWeek in your messages.

Here’s the promo for Remember a Charity Week. It features Len Goodman and some rather funky wallpaper as part of the 70’s themed fun. Keep your eye out for their messages to share.

Further reading

Small Charity Week – round-up of useful posts

Today I volunteered at the Big Advice Day event in London organised by the team at FSI as part of Small Charity Week. They organised an impressive 315 hours of advice between over 120 advisors and 100 charities in the room and over the phone / Skype. The room was buzzing all day!

I spent an hour in turn with people from five amazing small charities and talked about digital comms / marketing / fundraising. The charities were very different (two working in development / overseas, two health charities and one local branch of a national charity). And of different sizes and ages. All were doing properly amazing and vital work with limited funds.

Here are some of the main themes which we covered and some links to relevant posts I have written, useful to small charities.

(NB I mostly include examples from larger organisations in posts as these are easier to find. I would love to include more from smaller charities. I think we can all learn from each other. Did you see the Small Charities Coalition, #BigSupportSmall campaign which launched on Monday?)

urban street art - snoopy the dog looks up at a flying yellow woodstock (from Charlie Brown)

Legacy fundraising

Four out of the five charities I saw today wanted to talk about legacy fundraising. Many had received legacy gifts but felt that they could do more to drive this type of support. Some were uncomfortable about making an ask.

We talked about using hooks to make the ask easier like Remember a Charity Week in September, Free Wills Month in March or significant events like an anniversary or capital project.

We mostly talked about content – for example, how to make the ask, what terminology should you use to inspire supporters to trust you enough to make this future donation? Really this depends on your audience and their relationship with you. Your ask might be more effective if made via a letter or mentioned in a speech at an event. However, you should probably still have something about legacy giving on your website to help people with the practicalities. The tone of voice and images you use here are key. Your direct relationship with your beneficiaries / supporters is a huge asset as a small charity. If you understand and show that you understand their motivations, you can write content which is powerful and persuasive. If you can show that leaving a gift like this, is something people like them do, it helps them take action too.

It is important to check the digital experience you are giving on your pages – for example can people find the information about gifts in Wills easily (how many clicks and where is it), is the information practical and helpful (does it tell them what they need to know)? Check the statistics if you can, to see where people are dropping off your journey and make changes as needed.

We looked at examples of others being creative, confident and appropriate in the messaging. There are lots of examples of this here:

Involving people with ‘lived experience’

More and more charities are involving people with first-hand experience of the cause at board level, in co-design of services, and in strategy setting. Many of those I talked to today were doing this but not yet involving them in comms. There are big opportunities (and risks) to include first-hand storytelling in your on and offline comms, funding applications and in-person events.

Comms processes

Being a comms / marketing / fundraising person in a small charity means prioritising and juggling. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by needing to be on 24/7. Some of this pressure can be eased by sorting out your systems and processes so that you don’t waste time looking for an image or re-writing a standard piece of copy. (I have a crib sheet of standard tweets, messages and links I can modify and use which saves loads of time.)

Spending some time working out your image strategy, thinking about crisis comms or working on monthly comms plan is time well spent. In a small charity you can be reactive but to avoid feeling like you are always chasing your tail, make sure this is balanced with some planning and preparation.

Small Charity Week

There is lots going on during the rest of the week including fundraising day on Thursday and celebration day on Saturday. Do get involved. The hashtag is #SmallCharityWeek.

Find out about the small charities near where you live. There are sure to be lots of them working from kitchen tables (see this fab thread from Tiny Tickers sharing their working spaces) or shared offices. They are on the ground working in your community or supporting people further afield. Just look at this great A-Z of small charities in Camden curated by Camden Giving which gives a flavour of the volume and variety of organisations in one London borough.

Use the Charity Commission charity search to find a small charity near you. Then find out how you can help. Donate your money or time or skills to give them a boost. Small charities need your support.

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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 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).

Migraine Trust

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. 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).

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.

 

 

See also:

 

Legacy fundraising – tips for persuasive and engaging web content

It’s Remember a Charity week so there is lots being done to inspire people to leave a gift to their favourite charities in their wills. There’s lots of noise about it on twitter via their pick your moment campaign (#pickyourmoment) and many partner charities are promoting RaC week on their homepages.

RaC week is a great as it helps charities talk about legacies. But online legacy fundraising is difficult. It is hard to pitch tone of voice and terminology to a wide audience where saying the right thing around a sensitive subject is important. Knowing where to place it on the website and how to promote it, is equally challenging. What works offline (in person or DM to segmented audiences) may not work online.

I did some benchmarking for a large charity about their digital legacy fundraising, comparing their online presence with their peers. Here’s what I learnt through the process.

<2017 update – Read on, this page is still useful but once you’d finished, go to 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising which looks at 2017 digital trends and research on over 50 charity websites>

Everyone can do it

Even small charities (and especially small charities as they are likely to have passionate supporters) should have a page on their website reminding supporters about legacies. Don’t be frightened about the subject. You don’t have to use the D word. There are lots of examples of charities producing inspiring and persuasive legacy content listed here you can learn from.

You should also think about setting up ‘in memory fundraising’ which is becoming equally standard. (See Much Loved or Just Giving.)

Terminology and location is important

When I researched this, I found that the use of the word legacy as a heading and within copy was not widespread in the sector. (Equally wills was written with lowercase w). The most common section name was ‘Leave a gift in your will’, but also ‘Gifts in wills’, ‘A gift in your will’, ‘Leave money in your will’. Nice to see the persuasive use of ‘your’ here. It is important to think about your audience and ensure you are using words which are appropriate for them. For example, in AgeUK’s case the use of ‘leave a legacy‘ is right.

The majoring of legacy pages were placed in the Donate section. A legacy is a donation albeit a future one. It is not fundraising. Placing legacies in a Donate section, generally meant this content was two clicks from the homepage.

You can be persuasive and sensitive at the same time

Just because you are being sensitive doesn’t mean you have to be dull. Yes, you are making someone think about their own death but the content you write can be engaging and persuasive, bring the subject to life.

Chances are, visitors are at your legacy pages because they already care about what you do. People visiting these pages are likely to be interested in your cause rather than interested in legacies searching for a charity to support. So your page needs to persuade visitors that remembering your charity in their will is a good thing as well as an easy thing to do. So simply, it should cover the impact of a legacy, a thank you for what they are about to do and easy access to the information they need to progress.

Think about why someone would leave you a gift. Are they likely to have had experience of your cause or used your services? Are they already supporting your work? If you have this information about previous legacy donors, you can tweak your content accordingly. The big times that people update their wills are marriage, birth of children, illness, retirement, old age. Could you do more to connect with people at these stages?

Your opening line is important. Many charities start off by saying how much of their income comes from legacies and the difference this money has made (eg BHF: Since we were founded in 1961, donations in Wills have helped us invest £1 billion in funding ground-breaking research, providing vital health information and supporting those affected by heart disease). But the whole page is an opportunity to persuade. Let’s look at some examples.

Beanstalk’s remember us in your will page talks very clearly and frequently about the impact of a gift on children. Their opening line says: “Leaving a gift to Beanstalk in your will is a way of leaving a love of reading to children for many years to come”. They use the whole page to talk about their work, with a small ask.

Beanstalk - Leaving a gift to Beanstalk in your will is a way of leaving a love of reading to children for many years to come

Refugee Action’s leave a legacy page is another nice example of a gentle ask with clear information about the difference a gift will make.

The Migraine Trust’s opening line is also inspiring: “After taking care of loved ones, consider The Migraine Trust in your Will and see how a piece of paper can do truly amazing things.” The rest of the page talks about generosity, the impact of even a small gift, how grateful they are and how much of their income comes from legacies (51%). It ends with what to do next. It is a well crafted page.
The Migraine Trust - After taking care of loved ones, consider The Migraine Trust in your Will and see how a piece of paper can do truly amazing things.

For smaller charities, there may be a worry that the organisations may not exist when the legacy is processed. Prisoners Abroad address this head-on. They reinforce that they will be needed long into the future and a legacy will make a difference. (“Prisoners Abroad is going to be needed for years to come. Prison conditions worldwide are likely to get worse not better. The demand of our services is likely to increase significantly.”)  Their short page is concise and clear.

Prisoners Abroad - Prisoners Abroad is going to be needed for years to come. Prison conditions worldwide are likely to get worse not better. The demand of our services is likely to increase significantly.

RAF Benevolent Fund don’t mince their words when they say: “You’ll probably never meet the people who will benefit from a gift in your will but they’re part of the family because they’re RAF. Supporting each other through life’s challenges is what family is all about, and that’s what the RAF Benevolent Fund does for the RAF family.” They write very clearly and directly about who a legacy can help. Rather than saying ‘we get this much from legacies’, they say: “One in three people who turn to us for help owe the support they receive to the kindness of those who left the RAF Benevolent Fund a gift in their wills” which is much more powerful.

RAF Benevolent Fund

Personal stories work well here too. They say, look, people like you have already done this. A good example is Shelter’s ‘why I’m leaving a legacy’ stories.

Shelter - case studies

What about other types of organisations? People can have close relationships with institutions such as museums, art galleries, churches, schools, city farms, clubs which means that legacy giving may be worth promoting. For example, Warwick Arts Centre says on their website “leaving a legacy allows individuals to make a contribution at a level that accurately reflects their fondness for Warwick Arts Centre”. Churches also get a lot of income via legacies – see this example from Disley Parish Church. So, having a page about legacy fundraising shouldn’t just be for cause-related charities. Organisations such as the above should recognise that patrons may want to show their appreciation in this way and promote the option online.

These are all inspiring examples. These pages work well to connect their causes with legacy donations and communicate the need and impact well with their audiences.

You don’t need pages and pages

The average number of pages within legacy sections was 7. Useful content included:

  • sample legal wording for a will including charity name, address and charity number
  • information about how to add to an existing will / how to make a codicil
  • information for executors
  • previous names of the charity
  • how to leave gifts of items
  • pledge forms to so supporters can let you know they have included you in their will
  • FAQs / jargon buster about types of gift
  • downloadable guides
  • how to calculate the value of your estate (see example from Epilepsy Society).

It is useful to have contact details where supporters can ask questions. Avoid legacydept@xx.org.uk or similar. This is a sensitive subject and it is important to come across as approachable as possible. Use a named address (mary.jones@xx.org.uk) or friendly department address (askusanything@xx.org.uk).

If you have request forms or contact pages, craft your automatic pages to say thank you and to explain what happen next (eg ‘you’ll receive it in 5 days’). Do all you can to maintain the good experience.

It can be fun

Being jolly about legacies has to be right for your audience. It can be easy to get it wrong. Whether it is right will depend on your cause and your brand.

Macmillan Cancer comes across as warm and approachable. Of course they deal with death everyday so it’s not such a shocking topic for them. They have a fun and slightly quirky wills: fact or fiction video alongside case studies, how-tos and other information on their legacy pages. This is under the heading ‘making a will is easier than you think’ and gets lots of messages across in just two minutes.

You can use social media to talk about legacies

But get the tone right. This automatic tweet generated by Shelter’s legacy page is really nicely written:

Automatic tweet from Shelter

If you are going to craft automatic tweets (rather than just relying on the title of your page to generate them), then think about how the tweet comes across. It will be sent from someone’s address and meant for their followers. Therefore it is not your tone of voice which you should be using. So you could try using more direct language to demonstrate an action you want others to copy (eg I just ordered @Shelter’s Will Writing pack to help me remember them in my will).

Tweets and Facebook posts can be used to talk about legacies and the difference they make. This is a nice example from RNIB:

RNIB tweet - “Little pieces of my life being put back together again". Legacies change lives, what difference will you make?

Be careful about writing about legacy success. The character limit and informality of twitter is especially dangerous here as this example shows (“Thank you to everyone who leaves gifts in their Wills. We received one this morning. Time to hoot the celebration horn”). Ick.

Legacy tweet

Conclusions and top tips

So, there’s lots you can do to make your legacy pages more interesting and persuasive. You have a real opportunity to engage existing supporters to take this step. Talk about your cause in a meaningful way and celebrate the difference a gift like this can make.

  • Your legacy homepage should show the impact of legacies, thank donors and clearly link to next steps.
  • Think about why someone would leave you a gift and use persuasive words about your cause which mean something to them.
  • Talk about the difference a gift will make – what impact might it make.
  • Be generous in your thanks without being too gushy. It is a significant and deeply personal thing that someone is remembering you in this important document so do say thank you.

Comments?

What other great examples are there? Who has gone too far? Please do share your ideas and inspirations here.

If you want some help thinking about how to maximise your own legacy pages – please do get in touch.

<2017 update10 tips for great online legacy fundraising>