What a pleasure to speak to Leyre Ayastuy about legacy fundraising in Spain and beyond. Leyre works as a senior consultant at Daryl Upsall International and has specialised in legacy strategies, leading projects and helping organisations with their legacy programmes. In 2005, Leyre played a role in the creation of HazTestamentoSolidario.org, the national campaign to raise awareness of legacy giving in Spain, which she now leads with a team. She teaches legacy fundraising for the Master of Fundraising programme at Complutense University in Madrid.
Leyre, thank you for this interview. It’s always a pleasure speaking to legacy experts with immense experience. How would you describe the current situation of legacy fundraising in Spain?
We’re confident that this type of fundraising is growing. There is huge potential in the market, and more organisations are now considering legacy giving. The number of charities who are interested in our joint campaign to raise awareness of legacy giving is increasing.
Let me give you some context. In Spain, the law is very protective of an individual’s heirs. According to Spanish law, it’s mandatory that part of the inheritance is reserved for family, and only a third can be freely allocated to unrelated individuals or to charities. Because of that, Spanish people often assume their legacy is defined by the law – so why dedicate time and effort to writing a will?
Nearly 40% of people used to die without a will – but COVID changed that. People were confronted with a deathly illness and their immortality. As a result, people now better understand that a will is a document that will solve future problems for their family. Since 2007, the average annual growth in will writing is 1–4%. In 2021, will writing grew by 15% from 2020.
Your will is a powerful document. You can express your wishes and the values that are important to you, such as solidarity. I was 37 when I wrote my first will, and it was a moment of reflection. I thought about my life and what was important to me. What do I want to give my children? Not just items and money, but what kind of values? I hope that in the very distant future, my children will open my will and see that I have included two gifts to charities. I know they will be proud of me since they know my values, my commitment to non-profit projects and volunteering.
We gather information from our joint campaign’s 22 member organisations. In 2021, the report showed that the number of people interested in legacy giving and reaching out to organisations had increased by 101% from 2020. More and more people are telling charities they have included a gift for them in their will. On top of that, legacy income increased by nearly 35% in 2021 versus 2020. So recent data shows optimistic developments.
And are there still some challenges and barriers to overcome?
My opinion is that society is open to talking about legacy giving. Sometimes, the biggest barrier is created by the non-profit organisations themselves. There’s still a lot of taboo around legacy giving. Some charities are still afraid to approach the subject with their donors. One of the first things legacy fundraisers must do is achieve the buy-in of the organisation’s senior management, board and staff.
Yes, we often hear this in our interviews: ‘the donors are ready to consider legacy giving, but charities are often still reluctant to communicate about it’.
Because they are afraid to bother their supporters. But this doesn’t make sense from my point of view. As I mentioned before, if you are a conscientious person supporting causes, would you mind receiving information about legacy giving or being asked about it? Of course not, because you understand that funds are needed to develop projects and protect the causes you care about. So, if I have a database with people supporting and caring about my cause, why should I avoid the question?
Before starting a legacy strategy in an organisation, internal taboos and doubts must be solved. Otherwise, these will seep into your communications. The result of this is unattractive messaging that’s difficult to understand. Legacy communications have to feel natural. I always say, ‘Let’s not close the door before we look at what’s behind it.’ Open the door, identify what you see, analyse the facts and the context, and maybe you close the door again – or keep it open. But don’t keep it closed because you’re afraid.
Do you think the situation and circumstances for legacy giving in Spain differ from other European countries?
I think the difference to other countries is time. What I mean is that in the UK, donors and organisations are used to legacy fundraising because they have been talking about it for a longer time and society has become used to it. The Spanish market is still in an early stage. Back in 2007, when we started a joint campaign for the first time, no one really talked about legacy giving. We still have to stimulate conversations today, not just about legacy giving but about will writing in general. We’re seeing a slow change, but growth is a fact.
The Spanish media has started talking more about will writing in general and legacy giving. Like other Southern European markets, we started promoting legacy giving later. If you talk to any organisation in Latin America, they will tell you how they are just starting to think about the idea of legacy fundraising.
There’s also a generational change. We see that the babyboomer generation has a different approach to life choices and their role in society. They have critical minds and love making their own decisions. They also think differently about their legacy and gifts in wills.
Younger generations are much more open to legacy giving. Our recent study shows that a younger target group segment of people aged 45 to 50 is very open to talking about legacy giving. Here in Spain, younger generations have fewer children, and they are less willing to commit themselves to marriage. It’s more about soloistic life plans. Young generations feel more independent; they know what they want and are free of taboos. Trends are changing.
In our 2016 study, we saw the youngest segment of respondents was more open to legacy giving. So, if you add these trends to the facts, we are very positive about legacy giving’s potential. Gifts in wills to charities are going to be the more obvious and natural choice for people with no children or grandchildren and for people who are more aware of the need for non-profit organisations to care for the planet and vulnerable people, research treatments for cancer and other diseases.
How are Spanish organisations communicating about legacy giving? Do you think that communication has changed in recent years?
INGOs see that legacy giving is working for them in other markets and started taking it seriously a few years ago. Also, medium-sized organisations have put legacy fundraising at their core. They communicate not only to their database but wider society, online and offline. The joint campaign is also putting effort into media, YouTube, social media and other channels. Combined, this works to make the message natural.
So, in order to communicate the legacy message to different channels and target audiences, organisations innovated and became more open, relaxing their tone and expressions. This change in communication has also been made possible because there’s no longer just one legacy fundraiser working alone and inventing messages. Instead, the marketing and communications departments have become involved. And that’s the success – the whole organisation is involved, investing, tracking results and creating strategy.
Do you have an example of an organisation that set up legacy fundraising successfully?
Most of the organisations that have been part of the joint campaign, HazTestamentoSolidario.org, have set up legacy fundraising strategies successfully. But we need to understand what ‘success’ means when talking about legacy giving. We can measure success in relation to different steps, like breaking taboos, internal buy-in, having a strategy with investment, having a person/team to lead it, having the core of the organisation involved, communicating, tracking, stewardship, and having legacy income. However, we cannot measure success by only focussing on legacy income. We must set targets carefully, bearing in mind that fundraising income is different from other types of income. The target cannot be an annual amount of money.
I would like to mention one example which I think is a great success; an example of having an open mind and talking about legacies without fear. Anesvad, a medium-sized organisation, set up a short theatre performance with a comical/theatrical approach to talking about legacy giving. It was very positively received. The performance was very funny and people laughed a lot. At the end of the performance, they delivered some leaflets about gifts in wills and received two pledges from two women around 45 years of age.
You organise the national campaign promoting legacy giving in Spain. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
The campaign started in 2007 with five member organisations. We are now a group of 22. Our goal is to create awareness of legacy giving within society and bring organisations together, letting them learn from each other to encourage the development of legacy fundraising. The campaign also provides neutral communication because we are independent and not linked to one charity.
Sometimes organisations think that being part of the campaign will directly lead to pledges and have a fast return on investment. That’s not the reality. It’s about creating more visibility for legacy giving by learning from each other. A lot of organisations made significant steps because they improved their legacy strategy. Sharing their knowledge and insights is the campaigns’ success. We also provide research and have a report on legacy giving. This is the only research that exists on legacy giving in Spain.
In 2016, 60% of the people we interviewed in our research knew about gifts in wills. This year, we carried out a new study, and 83% knew about legacy giving. That’s a 20% growth in four years due to the joint campaign’s work and the charities communicating about legacy giving.
What are the trends organisations should be aware of?
We can only notice trends when we track information. To analyse data and establish trends, we need a good CRM or tracking system.
Deciding to leave a gift in a will is not a short-term decision. It often takes some time and develops over a lifetime. It’s closely linked to a person’s reflection and is influenced by life events and close relatives. So we must consider different target audiences to be able to talk to them with different language – yes, to older people, but also to their children and grandchildren and to single people. We must track these audiences’ behaviours, since the more information we get from them, the better we can establish trends.
We must also be aware of the social context – the COVID situation, for example – because we may need to use different messaging and focus the communication on one concrete aspect of the legacy giving.
Do you have any tips or advice for a fundraiser who wants to develop their legacy fundraising skills?
I think my first tip is internal engagement. Make the organisation understand what legacy fundraising is about, solve any doubts that your colleagues may have and ensure your strategy has a realistic starting line. It’s also essential that you, as a fundraiser, really understand the difference between legacy fundraising and other forms of fundraising. Understand the speciality, the short-term and long-term return on investment and the complexity of forecasting.
Second tip: design an annual strategy. It’s not about improvising; it’s really about planning, targeting the right audience, testing and learning. Integrate the legacy messaging into your broader communication. Doing that right will save you a lot of expense and effort.
And finally, keep an open mind. If you have a great idea, try it!
Lena Vizy, October 2022