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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or similar. This is a sensitive subject and it is important to come across as approachable as possible. Use a named address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or friendly department address (email@example.com).
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 update – 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising>