We’re excited to feature a conversation on legacygiving.eu with Nadine Shalala, CFRE on legacy fundraising in Germany. Besides founding the major donations and legacies group at the German Fundraising Association, Nadine is also the co-organizer of the Nachlass-Netzwerk, a network and platform for legacy fundraisers and administrators in German NGO’s. Our chat with Nadine provides a deep dive into the current state of legacy fundraising in Germany.
How would you describe the current situation of legacy fundraising in Germany? What kind of developments can you see?
Legacy fundraising in Germany is booming. For a considerable period, we lagged behind other nations such as the UK and Canada, but we have made remarkable progress in recent years. This isn’t solely due to the record sums being bequeathed in Germany. The overall acceptance of the concept has notably increased among organisations and donors alike. Interestingly, even NGOs that haven’t actively marketed in this segment are securing legacy donations – from both known and unknown donors. I think it would be nearly remiss for an organisation not to invest in legacy fundraising right now.
What challenges or obstacles do you see for legacy fundraising in Germany?
I believe the challenges are similar to those in other countries. Many individuals are aware of the option to leave charitable gifts in their wills. However, translating this awareness into action proves to be a significant challenge. Experience shows that, on average, it takes 15 years from initially considering writing a will to actually doing so. Moreover, often this initial will doesn’t even include a charitable organisation. This suggests that we need to discuss this option more often and with greater frequency. I am thinking on a large scale, such as through widespread radio and television advertising. Organisations need to position themselves as trustworthy partners, actively promoting legacy giving and looking after the legacies of their donors.
However, as more and more organisations actively promote legacy giving, they also need to differentiate themselves clearly from others and establish a distinct brand and vision for legacy donations. Simply saying: “give me your money”, won’t work.
Do you think the situation and circumstances for legacy giving in Germany differ from other European countries?
From my own experiences in Canada and Singapore (and as studies indicate), generally, fewer people in Germany donate to charitable organisations, and fewer still write a will, often assuming that German inheritance law will take care of everything. This naturally poses challenges for legacy giving. I also believe that we often lack the boldness seen elsewhere. When I observe legacy campaigns from other countries, many are funny and edgy. We Germans tend to be more reserved and risk-averse. I hope that in the forthcoming years, we will witness a shift towards more interesting and captivating campaigns.
Do you have an example of an organisation that set up legacy fundraising successfully? And what elements made/ makes them successful?
I believe every organisation must find its unique ‘legacy voice’ as previously mentioned and answer questions such as: Who are we as an organisation, and why are gifts in wills so vital for our work? There are some examples of smaller NGOs that have crafted compelling legacy packs tailored to their cause and genuinely centred around donors. One such example is Sentana Stiftung.
I’m also impressed with Amnesty International’s efforts. They’re not just making a significant impact with their legacy message “Freiheit ist ein Wert der bleibt” (“Freedom is a value that remains”), but they’re also exemplary in their approach to engaging and stewarding their supporters.
As an animal welfare organization “ Vier Pfoten (Four Paws)” obviously many of their supporters own pets. Understandably, these donors are concerned about the well-being of their pets after their own passing. Recognising this, Vier Pfoten offers pledgers personalised support for their four-legged friends. This truly embodies donor-centric legacy fundraising.
You helped initiate the national campaign NACHLASS-PORTAL as part of the NACHLASS-NETZWER in Germany. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
The idea behind the campaign was to provide services for fundraisers and legacy administrators in organisations. Many of them are responsible for more than just legacy giving and there never seems to be enough time or money to get all the projects done. It takes a lot of effort to organise events for potential legacy donors, to develop content for newsletters and websites. We wanted to assist in this regard and collaborate for a shared purpose. That is the idea behind the NACHLASS-NETZWERK. In addition, the network also offers training for fundraisers, online consultations and connections to service providers.
When the Netzwerk started, the question soon arose as to whether the content could be used publicly so that more people could be made aware of legacy giving to NGO’s. And that’s when the network initiated the NACHLASS-PORTAL campaign. The portal provides information about charitable gifts in wills to potential legacy donors.
What are trends in Legacy Fundraising?
Legacy fundraising is diversifying. Digital offers are becoming increasingly important, and more and more formats will be developed online. Donors of all ages are using digital tools. And we all know that the Pandemic has accelerated this trend.
So, we will be seeing more services being provided online such as will generators (which are not without controversy) or other tools that help write your will from the comfort of your home, but with legal assistance. I also believe that new (online) formats will emerge, such as online communities for people who are alone, seeking to make new connections through legacy giving. AI will also bring significant changes – I’m eager to see what unfolds. We will also see more collaboration not just among organisations, but across professions to offer donors the best experience possible. Because in fundraising the expectations for exceptional donor service have increased. And that is why I am convinced that we will also go back to the roots of (legacy) fundraising. A one-on-one personal approach – a human connection – that makes donors feel special.
Do you have any tips or advice for fundraisers who want to develop professionally in legacy fundraising?
For me, talking to colleagues from Germany and abroad is truly invaluable. Many are doing fantastic work that often goes unnoticed. Exchanging ideas happens on an informal level one-on-one or at specific events. Go to as many as possible! And be curious.
How about an International Legacy Fundraising Conference? There’s an increasing number of academic work on the subject of legacy giving, which offers vital insights for one’s own work. Learning from others is key to collectively improving and providing donors with the best possible professional services.
However, I also believe it’s essential to continue one’s education. It’s crucial to have an understanding of inheritance law as well. But in the end, a lot is also learning by doing! The best way to find out if it’s working is: Give it a try!