his Monday Remember A Charity Week (6-12 September) starts in the UK. The national campaign of the British consortium Remember A Charity is undoubtedly one of the reasons why legacy giving is so successful in the UK. We had the opportunity and pleasure to talk with Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity and director of development at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, about a few of his specialities: legacy fundraising, PR, marketing and behaviour change campaigning.
Remember A Charity is a consortium of around 200 British charities who promote legacy giving and try to make charitable gifts in wills the social norm. 20 years ago the first UK charities were collaborating, convinced that the way to grow legacy incomes was to grow the size of the market. They were aware that none of them could change attitudes to normalise legacy giving alone. Now two decades later, there has been a significant shift in the market. Legacies have become one of the most consistent and sizeable areas of growth for UK fundraising, now accounting for over 16% of charities’ total income – over £3 billion annually.
Rob, you see and work with so many charities in the UK. What is successful legacy fundraising?
I think successful legacy fundraising is about having legacies embedded throughout the whole organisation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an organisation with five, 500 or 5000 people. Embedding legacy fundraising and being proud to talk about it is absolutely critical. The ones that do it well are able to champion legacies wherever it falls. For example, their digital fundraising team can champion legacies because they know it matters. Their call centre understands it, and people answering the phone have the confidence to have a conversation about legacies if it comes up. A successful legacy fundraising organisation enables all staff and equips them to be able to have that conversation. Next to that, they have a long-term strategy that they commit to from a resource point of view, rather than chopping and changing it every 2 or 3 years.
And what mistakes do you see organisations making in legacy fundraising?
Number one is not embedding legacy fundraising across the organisation, thinking that one person within an organisation can do all the heavy lifting. Sometimes legacies are left to more junior members of staff or perhaps staff who find it difficult to manage upwards. So it’s also important to make more senior members of the organisation legacy champions.
Number two is thinking that there will be a return on legacies from the first year. That’s still a common misconception.
Number three is around measurements, just measuring a very narrow set of metrics and thinking only about the number of pledges, the amount of people who said ‘Yes, I will leave a gift to the charity in my will’. Thinking that legacy fundraising is like a direct marketing campaign is one of the biggest mistakes. You need lots of different measures, and some are less obvious than others; when we consider that a significant amount of gifts come from individuals who aren’t on the database of charities. It’s very important to not only communicate with people who are very close to the organisation, but also to think about the wider picture.
Figures show that legacy giving is a growth area for charities in the UK and other countries. More people include gifts in wills. How would you explain that? Is it because individual charities are promoting gifts in wills more? Is it because fundraisers are getting better at legacy fundraising? Or is it just the fact that people are more open to this way of support?
It’s actually all the things you’ve identified. So let me go through them. Firstly, legacy fundraising is more developed. We’ve got more data, more insights and share best practices. We understand what works. So it’s valuable that more and more charities understand not only the potential of legacies, but how to fundraise legacies. Secondly, there’s the cumulative impact of charities that are talking about legacies together. First it was only a few charities, but now a significant number unite. Every year more charities in the UK are benefiting from legacy fundraising because they are communicating legacies. It’s that snowball effect. The third thing is that there are more and better partnerships between charities and solicitors in the UK, and it’s easier to write or update a will than ever before. As a result, not only charities are talking about it; also solicitors and will writers are talking about legacy giving. There is less taboo and more awareness around not only legacy giving but also will writing in general.
More people are open to the idea of charitable gifts in wills. Part of that behavioural change comes because of collaborations like Remember A Charity. We are growing the market because we are finding new ways to talk to the general public, collaborating and sharing best practices, and giving charities more confidence to go out there and talk about legacies.
There is amazing research, not just in the UK, but from all around the world. We also have collective insights into some of the barriers of legacy giving and realize that most of them are part of human nature. What makes legacies so fascinating is that it’s all about human nature. There are crazy, similar themes and challenges, like for example legacies are only for the rich etc.
What would you name the biggest success over the past 20 years of Remember A Charity?
The biggest success over the past 20 years has to be the shift in legacy giving behaviour. 20 years ago just over 12% of Wills at probate included a charitable gift in a Will. It has now grown to over 16%. There is still a significant disconnect between those who leave a gift and the 35% who say they’d be happy to leave a charitable will. But this still shows that our collective strategy to grow giving is working.
There are also other success measures that are important, such as the significant growth in solicitors who regularly talk to clients about charitable giving, growing from 50% to 67% in the past few years. But the growth in giving has to be the ultimate success measure of any behaviour change campaign.
Important fact is that our members have stuck with us, and they’ve been willing to be so generous in pooling their ideas and expertise together to tackle common issues that we all face.
Through cooperation, you’ve learned from each other, you were more effective and realized market growth that individual charities would not have reached. That is very inspirational for other countries where they may be considering collaborations and national campaigns.
Absolutely. The secret of the success of Remember A Charity is the collective work. It’s really the understanding of what the role of a consortium is. Our job as a collective has to focus on those things that no single charity can do on its own. It’s important to be able to think about the bigger picture.
And if you look back, are there things you would do differently? Were there any mistakes made?
Remember A Charity has made loads of mistakes, and I hope we continue to make mistakes in the future because only by making mistakes do we actually truly know that we’re testing and trying new things. Sometimes we get it right; sometimes we get it wrong. Part of our role is to test the market, learn from things, and then adapt. I’ve always been very clear that for some of our work we need a license to fail, try again and learn from it. Because when you’re trying to change behaviour, inevitably, there will be things that don’t work. It’s new territory.
Some of our campaigns have been more successful than others. But that’s part of the evolution of any consortium. We probably learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Many of our more recent consumer campaigns have been more successful simply because we’ve understood what’s worked and what’s not worked.
But as for advising other consortiums, understand that you’ll never be able to keep everyone happy. I see many consortiums that think in the beginning, ‘How do we keep every member with us?’ And of course, you want to keep your members, but your main job is to grow the market. Your job has to be very focused, and sometimes you will do things that are unpopular. But you have to do it for the right reasons and stay focused on your main objectives.
I saw lots of charity consortiums trying just to do one thing and thinking that one thing can do all the heavy lifting. So, for example, in our early years, we were mainly just a TV advertising campaign. Here in the UK this is very expensive. So, in the end, we stopped because of the costs but also because we were able to understand that the behaviour chain has many levers, not just one lever.
Let’s take a look at Remember A Charity Week. It sounds like a big success?
Remember A Charity Week is certainly what gets the most attention publicly – an external campaign, changing the hearts and minds of the general public. Historically, legacies weren’t really seen as the space for cutting edge consumer campaigns, but as a consortium we can be braver in our approach, doing things that charities wouldn’t normally do alone.
But, what people see is often just the tip of the iceberg. The work that goes on behind the scenes is just as important. Increasingly, charities are using the Week as a platform to shine a light on legacies internally and their importance within the organisation, talking to colleagues and encouraging them to become legacy champions. It’s a springboard for solicitors and Will-writers to open up conversations with their clients too. And for us, it’s a key moment to engage with all the key influencers, including government, the legal profession and financial advisors.
And from the perspective of the charities, it’s this one week where you talk loud or louder about legacies than usual?
That’s a really important point because legacies often don’t have a reason to be promoted. There are many awareness weeks every year, but I think legacies really need it. Otherwise, it often suffers from a lack of urgency that perhaps other areas of fundraising naturally have. Other forms of fundraising like an event or a Christmas appeal all have deadlines. But with legacies, we don’t have that. In other words, when else would you have the reason to be on the front page of your charity’s website? So Remember A Charity Week creates momentum, a moment to have the conversation internally and a moment for the charities to be loud and proud about legacies externally. We understood that with this week, we can utilize as many channels as possible. Charities can use their charity shops, their home page, their CEO’s or use digital in a way they never used before for legacies.
So that’s why we also created the International Legacy Giving Day together with Legacy Vision. It’s a moment for consortiums and national campaigns to talk internationally about legacy giving. It’s great to see so many countries attending.
I’m also part of the steering committee of the Dutch national campaign toegift.nl. Some smaller charities with limited capacity and budget find it hard to choose. Should they build their own legacy program or join a national campaign? What is your advice?
I can only really comment about the situation here in the UK. If they join the campaign, they get so much in return. They get access to a lot of information, not just the networking or research, but also the campaign materials and can reach a far bigger audience by appearing on our website. I think for a small charity to tap in, share and utilise national campaign’s materials is important. The ROI on something like that is huge. But in general, investing in legacy fundraising has the best ROI; I’m amazed more organisations don’t do this.
If we try to look into the future, what do you think are important topics and trends?
We certainly see a change in the way people write wills. Their attitude to writing wills and thinking about financial planning is changing. So that’s something we need to be tuned into, to be part of those conversations. 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen the levels that people go to in researching on will writing online. When thinking about behavioural change, you should think about all the different touchpoints. For example, how can we normalize charitable giving through others? Think about employers. How can we have better conversations with employers around writing wills and charitable giving as part of that? How can we use more trusted partners in terms of key life stages? For example, the moment of retirement? Those key life stage moments offer a huge opportunity in terms of legacy fundraising.
I think being able to continue collaborating to create more cutting edge legacy fundraising campaigns is important. We always have a little joke in our team – anything we do has to compete with a cat video. That’s always our test. In a time where we are competing for everyone’s attention, we need to be able to not only inspire; we need to capture people’s attention in the first place.
The next 10 years are an incredibly important time in legacies; we’re going to see the biggest transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. There’s a huge opportunity, but we have to be noisy and effective across all channels. That’s where it’s really exciting, leveraging our relationships with big employers and with solicitors, and guidance they offer. For example, we recently embedded legacy prompts in will writing software so that when people are writing wills, charitable giving is automatically part of the process. Those are the opportunities that create change.
Do you have advice for fundraisers who want to start or develop their legacy fundraising skills?
My advice is to tap into those networks of fundraising training organisations because there is so much insight. Turn to your local or national training provider, but also start building up your own networks. And take a look at other big charities websites. Look at the videos, look at the copy they use, the stories they tell. Look at how they paint the picture.