Legacy Fundraising Trends Taking the Limelight in 2024

Published 10 January 2024
We wanted to kick off 2024 by looking ahead to the trends set to truly make a difference this year. In this article, the latest in our Legacy Limelight series, we reflect on four key issues that could help charities make the most of the opportunity ahead.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but we have spoken to four experts in their fields to shine a light on what’s hot for 2024, to give you inspiration for your legacy fundraising efforts.

Focus area: Digital tools

How might digital tools play a role in evolving legacy fundraising this year, and beyond? How can charities and other organisations in this space make best use of them to reach and engage potential donors?

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For me, this is the biggest trend to watch out for. Over the past few years, our audience has shifted from the so-called “silent generation” to baby boomers, shadow boomers, and even the top end of Generation X. Naturally, their habits and preferences are different to the generation that came before them.  

As recently as five years ago, the accepted wisdom was that legacy fundraising needed to be tackled delicately, explained slowly, and communicated primarily through traditional media like direct mail. Now, our audiences are more comfortable in digital spaces - in fact, looking at the average 60-year-old, you’re likely to find them on Whatsapp, while watching the TV, mid-way through buying something online on their tablet. 

That means the approach to reaching and engaging with them needs to change. This audience wants a frictionless experience online. You need to capture and keep their attention just like millennials – which means messaging should be in bitesize chunks, landing your points concisely. Simply uploading a pdf guide to wills won’t offer the best user experience – and that could cost you.

Charities need to ensure their basics are brilliant for that journey to work. Your landing page should be effective, with a compelling message, easy-to-use forms and a good follow-up message. That’s where so many of the battles are won. 

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I agree - that’s been a real driving force behind the success we’ve had at Farewill. We wanted to make it easy and cost-effective for people to make a Will. Our audience want to be able to do it all online, in simple steps.  

But the advantage of making Wills online isn’t just to the individual. The machine learning that we’re able to do from the data that our users provide is a very powerful and valuable tool for charities. 

By far and away the most useful data we gather is that which allows us to help charities increase their gift inclusion rates, and the proportion of those which are residuary gifts.  

After that, it’s the real time data that we can show charities about the performance of their campaigns. Getting that feedback when the campaign is still live is completely transformative. By understanding if the marketing is working, you have the information to optimise it and generate better results. 

What’s more, the ability to share that information with your Board is incredibly powerful for a charity. Instead of only hearing about the cash which came in after someone dies, now they can learn about donors choosing to leave a gift in a Will - we’re getting data much earlier in the journey. That shift can gain tremendous buy-in from a Board and trustees - with data showing that a campaign is working, they can choose to double down on their investment. The vast majority of the charities we work with have seen increases in their annual budgets, because they can show the result of their investment. It can totally change the culture inside a charity. 

Focus area: Personalisation

How can tailored legacy giving campaigns improve responses, and ultimately pledges, to the causes that donors care about?

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Your audience is in a moment when they’re considering who they are, what their values are, and how they want to be remembered. They’re also thinking about their mortality - something that of course, they have little control over. But their Will is one aspect of this process that they can control - and that’s really powerful. If you can tap into this mindset, and show them that you understand where they’re at, and that you care, you can create really meaningful relationships. A personalised experience can help you do this - and the more you understand about your audience, the more you can tailor that experience to meet their needs. 

One really effective way of doing this is to create feedback loops in your communications. Ask people for their opinion, find out how they want you to communicate with them, let them have control over what the next step might be - and learn from the answers.  

If you've got capacity and budget, we always recommend going out doing some proper research into your audience. That's the best way to find out what really makes them tick - and what you learn will always be surprising.

One example really stays with me. We did some research with audience members for a leading humanitarian charity and found that almost all of the people we spoke to had been in a situation at some point in their lives where they’d relied on the kindness of a stranger to save them.

That gave us such a valuable steer about the values that had shaped them and, in turn, the stories they might really respond to.

It's also important to think about the different ways you can build a relationship that feels authentic. Direct mail is great for this - there's a sense of intimacy in the one-to-one conversations you can create through a two page letter. But that can sometimes be hard to replicate through digital marketing.

The shift to a slightly younger audience may have changed habits and behaviours, but they still want to feel that same sense of connection. And there are lots of little things you can do that can make a huge difference. Thank yous are so important – and we'd really recommend in investing in a personal touch here. Share updates with people who are thinking about leaving a gift with information on how important that gift is to your organisation.

It can also work really well to have a consistent signatory on all your comms - or a recognisable face on all your assets (read how Weldmar Hospice recently achieved this in December’s Legacy Limelight - LINK). There are lots of things you can do, and you don’t need tons of data to do them - even the little touches and accents can help, by making this feel more personal, and less transactional. 

Finally, in all the excitement of the insight you gain into your audience, don’t forget about those fundraising basics. Be creative, but be clear about what you’re talking about. It’s sometimes easy to forget to explain the important stuff: what you’re asking people to do, and what difference that will make.  

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I would second that. Having a really simple legacy narrative is so important. It comes down to two basic premises - consider leaving a gift in your Will because this is how important it is to us, and this is how we will use it. We have reams of data that we can share with our charity partners, but the best legacy fundraising campaigns that they create are still the ones which have the clearest message. I’d say the most important thing is just for charities to get started, and to develop a legacy fundraising plan with these basics in place. 

Focus area: Public awareness and education

What opportunities or challenges are there in educating the public about the benefits and ease of leaving a legacy gift?

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For us at Farewill, our focus is always on the value of having a Will. Intestacy rates are still quite high in the UK, meaning that many people in this country will die without a say in how their estate is passed on. Advocating for people writing a Will is a priority. 

Then, when people have good access to easy and cost effective ways to make a Will, we give them the option to leave a gift to a charity if they wish. We share the information about charities with them, then of course it’s up to the customer to make their decision. And increasingly, people are choosing to leave a gift in their Will to charity. In the last 12 months alone, over £300m has been pledged to charities in the Wills people have made on our platform.

This isn’t just for the larger charities. With platforms like ours, legacy fundraising is even more affordable, and you can do a homegrown campaign quite cost effectively. That’s a big shift. It’s all to play for - the bigger charities have been doing this for a while but there’s plenty of room for smaller charities to get involved. In fact, we know from our research that alongside perceived longevity, the locality of a charity, that is, the sense your gift is going to make a big difference, is a key driver for donors, and smaller charities have a compelling advantage there. 

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Sarah & Andrew:

There are two areas where we feel an impact might be made in the marketing communications that charities share.

Firstly, charities may wish to explain to their audiences that leaving a residuary gift in their Will can be a method of ensuring that their wishes will be checked by an external third party (the charity), at their expense, rather than their other beneficiaries paying a solicitor to make the check on their estate. This is a really strong value proposition to the testator.

Secondly, taking the time to express personal thanks to the executor of a Will when a gift is left to the charity, and sharing how that money will be used, is a great opportunity to generate goodwill, which in turn creates positive word of mouth. A softer, more personalised approach seems to be very effective.

Focus area: Diversity

How are campaigns evolving to better reach all communities? Are charities promoting diversity and inclusion in their legacy giving strategies? Are they recognising and respecting the diverse values and backgrounds of all potential donors?

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In the time I’ve been at Consider, there have been some really positive steps made in this area, but I think there is still a lot of work for us to do, in 2024 and beyond. 

Legacies sit towards the end of a supporter’s life cycle, and you can’t expect to resolve all of the issues at that stage. The work has to be done throughout the supporter journey – and that means it’s a really long game.  

As a minimum, charities need to question whether campaign creative is reflective of the diversity of our audiences. Critically though, we should be reflecting diverse experiences, and not just those of beneficiaries. For example, LGBT+ and BAME people are more likely to be homeless, but if a homelessness cause only shows them as beneficiaries, they’ll only emphasise - and perpetuate - that imbalance of power. 

There’s no easy fix, but intentionality, and a determination to tell more diverse stories, is crucial. Part of that will come through collaboration with stories and content teams internally. But another big factor can be creating those feedback loops with supporter - by asking questions, you get richer pledger stories – and that can have a real impact. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Consider recently published a report into how LGBT+ people in the UK really feel about giving to charities. In the older group of people we spoke to, everyone we spoke to was planning to leave a gift in their Will to charity, and felt that their Will was very important. Many of the lasting insecurity that came from forging relationships before legislation around gay marriage. By leaving a Will, they felt more in control, protected and supported. If charities can positively address some of these deep-seated anxieties in their communications, they can build really powerful relationships.

About Legacy Limelight

After the legacy giving sector came together at the Smee & Ford Legacy Giving Awards in April, we want to continue the celebration of legacy professionals and the impact of their incredible work.

In this new series we will be sharing inspirational stories from across the legacy sector, shining a light on the difference that legacies can make for charities and their beneficiaries, and showcasing the people who make legacy gifts happen.

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