By Eimear McCooey, Legacy Advisor, Marie Curie


We all know that Legacies or Gifts in Wills are vitally important to the charities we work and care for but most charities with limited resources only think about it when we receive a notification of the gift or cheque in the post.   

Gifts in Will raise over £2bn every year for UK charities and this only set to grow.  However many charities are often unsure about how to talk to their supporters about legacy fundraising, or concerned about causing offence.

I know when I started working specifically in Legacy Marketing I was unsure and perhaps even fearful of bringing the subject up with supporters.  But I very quickly came to realise that people do want to talk about it – 1. Because they care about Marie Curie and want to know how they can make a difference and 2. Having a Will and leaving something behind involves everyone.

What I have learned over the past 18 months is that there are a few things we can do to talk about Gifts in Wills regardless of size of charity, job title, role or area of expertise.  Supporters, staff, volunteers – every single person you meet has the capacity to leave a gift in their Will to your charity, lots just don’t know they can.  

1. Be proud of legacies – Get internal buy in.

Legacy marketing will work much better if everyone in your organisation is on board and willing to help promote legacy giving.  You can provide them with some simple messages to include wherever is appropriate. Eg.  The impact legacy income currently has.  What does it help your organisation do?  How will it make sure your organisation can continue long into the future etc.

2. Family first

For many people the idea of leaving money to charity could be seen as somehow disinheriting your family. So it is really important to use ‘family first’ messaging when talking about legacy giving to overcome this barrier.  Eg. ‘after providing for your loved ones, please consider leaving us a share of what is left’.

3. Drip, Drip, Drop

If we are going to encourage more people to leave charitable gifts in their Wills, we need to make legacy giving a normal thing to do, which comes by including it in everyday conversations with supporters. 

4. Know your audience

Think carefully about who you are talking to, think about the groups of people that are most likely to want to leave a gift to your cause in their Will. The more specific you can be, the better, because it allows you to clearly understand their motivations and adapt your messages to them.

5. Know your story

To ask someone to consider leaving a gift you need to be able to explain why you need it and the difference it will make.   You are asking people to join you and leave a gift that will achieve something big in the future. You should be able to communicate your legacy message simply and clearly.  One of Marie Curie’s key legacy message is:  If you believe that everyone should be able to choose where they spend their final days, please leave a gift in your Will to Marie Curie.  Your gift could ensure we’re there for those living with a terminal illness in years to come. 

6. A conversation works best

Think about how you can start up a conversation with your supporters about legacy fundraising. Maybe you could create a simple conversation starter such as a bookmark and distribute it in your charity shops with every purchase. Make sure your staff and volunteers are prepared and trained to be able to have a simple legacy conversation if the opportunity arises.

7. Keep it simple

It is really important to make it as easy as possible for people to make a Will and leave you a legacy. Consider your website – how is it easy to find your legacy pages? And when you get there, can you easily download a copy of your legacy brochure or find the necessary information?

8. Avoid jargon at all costs

Language is so important and something we need to use with care.
Even the word ‘Legacy’ for example can be off putting to many people as it can be construed as something large and only for the rich. Used in the right way it can add an extra sense of importance, but it’s easier to talk about ‘Gifts in Wills’ or ‘a gift in your Will’. It does what it says on the tin.

9. Measure what you do

Legacy fundraising is very difficult to measure. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
We encourage you to measure what you can – the volume of your communications, the feedback you receive from those communications and the numbers of legacies you get each year. And look for an upward trend!  Ask all staff to include the message where they can and let you know when they’ve done it.

10. Look after your supporters

The simplest piece of advice to help you raise more money from legacies is to treat your supporters well. The warmer your supporters feel about you and the longer their relationship with you, the more likely they are to consider leaving you a gift in their Will. 

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