In our latest conversation, we are delighted to talk to Markus Aichelburg-Rumerskirch who is a leading figure in the Austrian non-profit sector, known for his work with the Austrian Fundraising Association and legacy campaign, “Vergissmeinnicht“.
“Vergissmeinnicht” is a joint legacy campaign run by the Austrian Fundraising Association with the goal to encourage and stimulate gifts in wills to charities. The name “Vergissmeinnicht“, translating to “forget-me-not”, beautifully captures the essence of the campaign, which is to create a lasting impact even after one’s lifetime.
How would you describe the current state of development of legacy fundraising in Austria? What has changed over the last few years?
Legacy fundraising in Austria is really taking off. Imagine this: in 2018, about 33% of people over 60 had a will. Now, that number has jumped to 43%. That’s a big increase!
Plus, more people know about legacy giving. In 2018, about 76% of those over 40 knew they could leave money to a charity in their will. By 2021, this shot up to 91%. And more are considering it too. The number of people over 40 thinking about leaving a donation in their will doubled from 8% to 16%.
Among those without kids, 40% can see themselves leaving a gift in their will. This shows a lot of promise. And thanks to our campaign Vergissmeinnicht, more organisations are getting involved in legacy fundraising. Since the campaign started in 2012, legacy income rocketed from €55 million to €120 million by 2022. Now, for every 9 Euros donated in Austria, 1 Euro comes from a gift in a will.
More and more Austrians now realise that they can do a lot of good by leaving a donation in their will. The progress in legacy fundraising in Austria is a bright spot and a sign of growing generosity.
What challenges or even hurdles do you see for legacy fundraising in Austria?
Legacy fundraising in Austria still has challenges to overcome. We need to help people understand that they don’t have to stick to the law alone when planning their will, but they can steer their final wishes themselves.
Another option that’s not getting much attention is leaving an organisation as a backup or successor heir – stepping in if the first choice is no longer around or after they’ve passed away. This is another area where we need to ramp up our educational efforts.
The idea of bequeathing part of an estate to an organisation, alongside provisions for own children, is still a path less travelled. Over 90% of legators don’t have children. Clearly, there’s a need to boost awareness and education in this area.
We also want to create partnerships with big insurance companies and private banks, as well as financial advisors and tax consultants. We believe that these partnerships could really fuel our campaign and allow us to reach out to high-net-worth individuals. And we see a big opportunity in reaching out to same-sex partnerships as well.
Would you say that legacy fundraising in Austria is different from other European countries? What is the same or especially different compared to other markets?
One thing that sets the Austrian campaign apart is our partnership with the Chamber of Notaries. This alliance gives us a robust support system for our work. In Austria, every notary in the Chamber gets five copies of our Inheritance Law Guide. On top of that, every three years, we collaborate with the Chamber on a study about legacy giving and charity gifts. This gives us useful data for news reports and media work. We can also offer local news interesting facts about their area, thanks to our regional data breakdown.
Working with Austria’s biggest private funeral home also gives our campaign a good push. Besides that, we focus on holding events about inheritance law and wills with notaries and reaching out directly to potential legacy donors. Our Google Ads campaign is a big help in sharing our Inheritance Law Guide. And through our Vergissmeinnicht magazine, which we send to everyone who orders the guide, we consistently remind people about the idea of gifts in wills.
Can you give us an example? What organisation(s) do good legacy fundraising in Austria? What do they do differently?
A good example is the „Community of the Blind and Visually Impaired“ (Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen) does excellent legacy fundraising in Austria. They do a great job spreading the word about gifts in wills, maintain close connections with current and potential legacy donors, and regularly hold information events. They’ve also seen success with using testimonials in their work.
You are the head of the initiative “Vergissmeinnicht“. Can you tell us a little more about this campaign?
The campaign includes 100 members from all sectors of the nonprofit community. These members elect a steering group every three years. Depending on the organisation’s size, membership fees range from €2300 to €6900, which are quite reasonable. The steering group, composed of 9 members, represents the diversity of the organisations. They work with me to determine the campaign’s strategy, meaning all organisations have a say. We send out a newsletter with essential updates to our members roughly every three weeks.
Every year, we publish our Inheritance Law Guide. It has two parts: one is a list of all the organisations, and the other provides information. Member organisations get special versions with a personalised back page. The will calculator, a tool we developed, is another vital part of our marketing efforts. It drives most traffic to our and our members’ websites. It helps people learn about inheritance and mandatory portions.
What tips do you have for fundraisers who want to develop further in legacy fundraising?
Especially when you are at the beginning, an exchange with organisations that already have experience is immensely useful.
It’s not enough to do legacy fundraising on the side. You need to have a well-defined strategy and a designated contact person for this type of fundraising. It should be a crucial part of an organisation’s communication strategy and should engage the whole organization. Legacy fundraising should have a strong place within the organisation, even if there’s little activity in the early stages. Fundraisers should also focus on tracking progress through measurable criteria to highlight successes.