Episode 37: Dr Claire Routley – Promoting legacies and silo smashing

Episode Notes

In early March 2020, I recorded this interview with Dr Claire Routley, an expert in expert legacy fundraising. The subject of our conversation was how do you promote legacy giving across the various teams in a charity. She shares research she carried out on behalf of the National Trust into organisations that do this really well.

There are three key themes she discovered – People; Communications and Measurement – and we explore these with examples that particularly stood out to her. Interestingly, lots of these ideas could be applied to any important concept / service / donor opportunity you would like to be more universally understood in your charity (not just legacies).

If you want to share this episode – thank you!! – or get in touch, Claire and I would love to hear from you – we’re both on Linked In, and on twitter Claire is @claireyJaneR and I’m @woods_rob.

Takeaways

  • PEOPLE – Where culture change was successful there tended to be a particular person who was clearly responsible for, and passionate about making it happen.
  • LYNCHPIN – And there was often someone involved how was good at / enjoyed talking to people across the charity. Note, if this is not your style / skill set, could you find someone who it does suit, to help get people interested?
  • COMMUNICATIONS – There were clear things that happened to promote the ideas to others. Some are obvious ‘hygiene factors’ such as including info about legacy giving in everyone’s induction.
  • FOCAL POINT – Another common tactic was Legacy Awareness Week, where you can concentrate lots of activity to help people take an interest and spend time on the concepts. This focal point really helps secure management interest / time too.

And

  • STORIES – Across all the successful charities, the habit of finding and sharing relevant stories recurred. They sought out and shared examples of where legacies had made a difference to the charity’s beneficiaries already.
  • SOCIAL PROOF – Many sought and shared examples of colleagues who were proactively mentioning legacies, to provide social proof to other colleagues.
  • MEASUREMENT – Though there was a variety of approaches to what to measure, measuring something was a key theme. Eg some measured ‘number of conversations that mention legacies / month’; others measured things like ‘amount of legacy materials requested / used at events’ / number of events where legacies were mentioned.
  • PERSEVERE – Success in most areas of fundraising depends on your ‘grit’ / keeping going, but due to the long-term nature of both culture change and the legacy journey, persevering with the right behaviours and principles in terms of legacies is CRUCIAL. Don’t give up!! If you do the right things, some people will appear un-interested, but over time you pick up more and more allies and this concept will become as normal to talk about / promote as the other fundraising income streams.

Further Resources

Do check out the other episode Claire recorded me, Episode 28. Talking to supporters about leaving a legacy, where we offer a range of tips and mindsets to help you talk about gifts in wills with confidence.

To get in touch with Claire, or to request a copy of Rogare’s report The Ethics of Legacy Fundraising in a Crisis, find her through her website – www.legacyfundraising.co.uk.

Quotes

‘Sharing examples of what legacies have achieved is really powerful. Just keep telling those stories to your colleagues, just as you would share them with your supporters.’

Dr Claire Routley

‘You’ve just got to keep going! Spreading the word internally about legacies is not a one-shot exercise. If you keep going with your efforts, over time the progress will come.’

Dr Claire Routley

Transcription

Rob:

Hello, and welcome to episode 37 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. My name is Rob Woods, and this is the show for anyone who works in charity fundraising and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, enjoy their job, and make a bigger difference even during the pandemic. And if you’d like to help colleagues in other departments buy into a particular way of helping your charity, then I hope you’re going to find this an interesting episode, because today we’re looking at silo smashing, and ideas for how to share important concepts across teams within a charity. In particular, we’re focusing on legacy giving and ideas for achieving culture change within your charity. This is the second half of an interview. I carried out with Dr. Claire Routley, Who’s one of the UK’s leading experts in legacy giving.

I met Claire in early March 2020 at the excellent conference organized by the National Association of Hospice Fundraisers, and it was just a couple of days before the UK went into full lockdown. If you’d like to hear my first interview, which is all about ways to make it easier to talk about legacies with your supporters, I shared that in episode 28. Today, though, we’re talking about a piece of research that Claire carried out on behalf of the National Trust about how to increase interest in promoting legacies across a charity. Claire explains the three key themes she discovered, and brings these to life with examples of specific tactics that charities have used in their change management programs. Just before we start, I want to reiterate that this was recorded in early March, and clearly the world has changed a great deal since then. Nevertheless, when listening back this week, I found so many of these ideas are as relevant as ever both in terms of legacy awareness and more widely in terms of breaking down siloed thinking. I hope you find the tactics and ideas that we discuss are helpful.

Speaker 1:

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Rob:

Hello again, Dr. Claire Routley.

Claire:

Hello.

Rob:

So here we are for the second half of my conversation with Dr. Claire Routley to do with legacy fundraising, but the slant on this one is going to be different from the last episode. The context is that we are both here to speak at the very excellent National Association of Hospice Fundraisers conference, and I was just having a really interesting chat with Claire in the lobby just now and couldn’t resist seeking her views on a really valuable topic for the listeners to the podcast. And in a moment I’ll tee it up for why I think it’s so important, but just as a little context, in case you didn’t hear the previous episode, which is more about how to have a conversation about gifts in wills with your supporter, any kind of supporter, a community, major donor, marathon runner, that was the last episode. But before we get onto this particular episode, Claire, your company is called Legacy Fundraising. You’ve worked in fundraising for 15 years, including as a trust fundraiser, and now your specialist focus is in legacy fundraising. Is that right?

Claire:

Yes. In a slightly backwards way I did my PhD in legacy, worked out it’s really interesting and then actually moved to work in that area.

Rob:

Fantastic. And the bit of research you mentioned really piqued my interest, because as I understand it, the National Trust asked you to do a piece of research, not so much to do with legacies pure, but into organizations that managed to get this notion of legacy fundraising being a normal thing to talk about across departments. They were curious about how to make an organization maybe be more holistic in their approach to legacy fundraising. Can you tell me a tiny bit about what that research was and particularly what the methodology was of that research?

Claire:

Yeah. We were basically looking at organizations that were doing this well, that were being successful in integrating that legacy message across the rest of the organization. So we did a quick literature review and then the exciting bit really was we went out and talked to people that we knew were really good in this space and also got them to recommend other organizations that were good at this. I suppose the literature review really was just to say some of this stuff is really good change management actually. As you were saying, Rob, a lot of this applies much wider than just the legacy sphere. So we were able to back up what people were telling us with some more academic evidence as well, really.

And I suppose I should say anything that I say in this podcast, I’d say a huge thank you to National Trust for letting us share some of this with the sector more widely, to my colleague, Christine Reedy, who worked with me on it, and to actually the brilliant legacy fundraisers that are doing this really well, because people were doing work that was far more sophisticated, to be honest, than I was expecting to find when I started. And like I said, worked that really kind of aligns with what change management tells us is good as well. So all credit to them rather than me, really.

Rob:

And if the listener works in a fairly small organization and there’s only three of you in an office, maybe this is not a massive deal, because you really, I hope, all three of you are driven primarily by the overall outcome we’re trying to make for our beneficiaries and therefore how finances and successful fundraising can achieve that. It may not feel hard that we need to be talking to each other, and the overall goal of more satisfied supporters and therefore more longterm and generous supporters who might help in several different ways, both as a major donor and living gift in their will, that all might feel fairly easy if you’re in a smaller organization, or it might not.

But my experience is in medium sized and large organizations, the truth is it’s much harder than most people think it will be to help people think bigger picture rather than just focusing on what they thought their job was to do, which is to raise major gifts or bringing in corporate partnerships or get people running the marathons or get legacies. The very most successful fundraising organizations are donor focused and they have a culture, therefore, that is holistic about helping the donor do what they want to care about this cause, rather than being silo-ish and what any given internal target might appear to want. So I think whether the listener is a legacy fundraiser or not, I’m so fascinated to hear as to what you discovered. Are the things that the successful organizations managed to do, if they are to break down these silos and get people across the organization and outside of it, talking about something like legacies?

Claire:

To summarize it, really, there were three key areas that came up. So there was people and how you go about talking with engaging with your colleagues. Then communications, so looking at that whole area of how do we communicate these messages out internally? I mean, obviously those two are interrelated to a high degree, but they were two key themes, I suppose. And then the final one was around measurement and how you actually measure effectively what’s what’s happening within. Obviously for this study legacies particularly and how well it’s been integrated.

Rob:

Fantastic. So do you want to jump into that first theme of people and tell me about an organization or two that you discovered was doing this pretty well, and some of the tactics that you really liked that they were using.

Claire:

Well, at the core of it really was having somebody who was leading on this project. I suppose it was probably the legacy fundraiser, but who was really passionate about this stuff. Actually one person said to me that internally they call him Dan Dan the legacy man, because whenever there’s a team meeting or he bumps into you in the kitchen, he’s there really bigging up legacies, telling little stories. And actually I went to Australia last year and I was talking about Dan Dan the legacy man. Somebody was like, “Oh my goodness, they call me Esther the bequester over here.” So tip number one, have a name that rhymes with something legacy related is a good start. But have that passionate person. And I suppose have the courage to admit if it’s not you, if you are the legacy lead, but you find it really difficult to go and engage with your colleagues or big it up, whatever it might be, find that that passionate person that’s going to lead on this internal engagement project for you.

Rob:

Great tip. So it is true that personality wise, some people find it much more enticing and enjoyable to be endlessly out and about in the corridors and having chats, doing small talk. And if that’s not you, but your organization really needs to get legacies on the map, then it’s fine for it not to be you, but who else could play that role on your behalf? Thinking that through sounds like a good tip. What else in terms of the theme of people did you notice was going on when this was working successfully?

Claire:

So the people that are very good at this would then basically say, “Well, who are the champions internally?” So you’re wider core group, really. I’m not quoting exactly because I forget exactly how they phrased it, but someone said find those passionate people internally that do everything. If there’s a organization bake sale, they’ll be there with baking the cakes. So that’s not necessarily the chief executive or the chair of trustees. Sometimes it’s the person on reception that’s been there for 20 years and knows everything about everybody and it’s that you’re happy smiley face you see in the morning type person.

Rob:

So that’s a really interesting point. Be a student of, for want of a better word, the politics and the power dynamics across your organization, and sometimes it will be in line with the formal hierarchy, and sometimes there’s some other people who are not heads of team, but actually are also in a loud way or in a quiet way, are strong characters that others respect. You’re saying when organizations were good at this, they found the right champions and talked to them one to one, help them understand, meet their objections, and helped them understand what it was we were asking you to do. And then the more formal cultural change efforts succeeded because people were on side and people who had influence were on side.

Claire:

Yeah. The advice to us was that those people then essentially bring the vast majority of the organization along with them. And what was interesting, not everybody, but some people were formally appointing these people as champions. So one organization would have some formal recognition, it would give them a mug as legacy champion, and they said they really appreciated that actually, that internal recognition. But not everybody. Sometimes that was a looser, more informal structure.

Rob:

All of that said, I’d love to move on to theme number two that you mentioned, which is broadly ways of communicating the fact that you would love people across the organization to understand what legacies are and be able to do their bit in this area. Couple of things you noticed that were done well in this area, both conventional and obvious things, and also maybe there’s some standout things that you thought, “Well of course that works. You could hardly ignore that.”

Claire:

Yeah. So in terms of the standard things, including legacy in induction was quite good. So right from the entry into the organization, people were socialized into understanding that this was an important income stream, that it doesn’t come from the legacy fairy. It’s actually fundraised and an important part of these relationships that they hold. So having it there from day one, or at least the first week is great. Legacy training. Again, the idea of giving people, and I’m paraphrasing from the wonderful Stephen George here, but tools and confidence around legacy conversations so that you’re breaking down some of those worries or barriers that they have.

I think the really fun thing that we talked to people about was legacy awareness weeks. A lot of people were aligned with the Remember a Charity awareness week, which happens in September, which is external facing. A lot of people were taking that and thinking about how do I use this as a internal engagement opportunity. Some people were having their week or sometimes even their month, different time of year, but it makes sense, I think, to align with when the sector generally has been a bit more noisy around this. Having some internal awareness period, focus period. And again, people were doing lots of interesting things there. Taking over the internal intranet, sending around quizzes, chocolates-

Rob:

Quizzes about legacies or quizzes-

Claire:

Yeah, all the fun things about unusual wills or sometimes unusual gifts that the organization had had. So much interests meet there in legacy. It wasn’t in the study, but someone mentioned at one of the IOF’s legacy special interests groups recently, which I thought was amazing. They did a story… I’m trying to think, it was a Twitter story or using Slack or one of those sorts of things. They had a short, few paragraph long story with a bit of a legacy theme, and they dotted the different sentences of this story around the organization. So whoever had sentence one had to find it and put it up. And then whoever had sentence two, had to then go on and add to the story. So it just became a really… I suppose it was that period. I think it might have been coming up to Christmas, when it’s slightly kind of… People are kind of looking for a bit of fun aren’t they, at that time. And they got really engaged in this story.

Rob:

I love that. So you’ve got one piece of the jigsaw. It means very little, but you have to go and find someone else in your… As a tip, that’s a brilliant metaphor.

Claire:

It’s such a good idea, isn’t it? And again, all of this being other people’s ideas that I’m stealing for future use. But she said people got really excited and it got to a point where someone was going round asking “Who’s got sentence six?” Because they really wanted to see what happened in the story. So some really fun internal engagements, but particularly I also loved the idea that one hospice had essentially someone dressing up as a giant cat. Idea being there, has the cat got your tongue, i.e. you’re not having legacy conversations, and just kind of went around the office dressed as this cat and crashed into meetings. I think these sorts of things really help to overcome that other barrier to legacies, that it’s just a bit boring. People think, “Oh, it’s legal, it’s death. Why would I want to get engaged with it?” Because it’s just not fun. So actually doing these really fun transgressive things.

Rob:

I love this and it would fit really beautifully into a theme I’ve been really interested in the last three years, which I call creating wow moments, where you create surprise or delight just beyond what normal fundraising does. What normal colleagues or normal donors would remotely expect you to do, that’s precisely why, if you can take a deep breath and be that bit more bold, a bit more bespoke, a bit more creative, it adds up to a bigger difference, because finally cut through… And especially if it’s playfully done with the right tone, then people are less likely to just write it off as a mere gimmick, if your tone is right and there’s something about the hook, something about the reason for doing this particular fun, different treatment that is more noticeable, that does in due course makes sense to the overall message you’ve got, the main story you’re trying to get across, whatever you’re trying to promote within your organization.

Our experiences is it’s far better to take that risk and cut through, than take the risk of just sending around more emails and doing another dull five minutes in some team meetings, saying all the things that people expected you to say. Now you can get it wrong. You can do this tactic and it just be pure gimmick and there’s no substance to it, you don’t explain why you did it, and then I understand why people would at some level be justified in their cynicism. You interrupted their team meeting and you should be back at work rather than dressing up as a cat. But my view is if you think it through and you get both the concept and the tone right, then the number of people who think it was a mere gimmick are relatively few, and the number of people who are really pleased you did it tend to be high.

Claire:

And I suppose we think about those wow moments for our donors, but not necessarily for our colleagues. I suppose you’ve made me think overall, there’s so many parallels between… We have an external marketing plan or an external fundraising plan, and actually, if you’re going to do this stuff well, you need something that mirrors that internally.

Rob:

That’s absolutely my observation about it, especially if success in growing legacies overall comes from us making better use of these high quality relationships, all the different people in the charity have with their supporters, rather than legacy fundraising being a thing that happens six times a year when there is a legacy mailing. It’s just absolute madness, I think, to keep sending that stuff out and not be having chats with the people you’re regularly meeting anyway because they’re running a marathon for you.

Claire:

And I suppose the other really good point is just… And again, applies to fundraising overall, doesn’t it really, but telling stories. Because there are so many brilliant stories around legacies, around the people that have left them, around the slightly unusual gifts sometimes, around the motives, around what you’ve done with the money. Just keep telling those stories, again, as you would externally, but keep telling those stories internally. And actually National Trust shared with us, they had… It’s just a really nice a billboard, I supposed you’d call it, in one of their properties where it said are you curious about what’s going on in the Arbor, let’s call it, I’m misquoting again slightly. But actually we’ve been replanting all the trees and this is because we’ve had a legacy to pay for it. So encouraging people internally to use those… Telling the stories to your colleagues and then encouraging your colleagues to tell those stories to potential donors as well, because again, what a lovely, gentle way of promoting legacies in a non-scary faction is just to tell these little stories about what your organization’s had and what it’s done with it and what an amazing difference they make.

Rob:

And then, Claire, in terms of that third theme of measurement, what did you notice from this research project that the more successful organizations were doing?

Claire:

It was a little bit of a mixed bag. Whereas the other two themes there seemed to be some really clear ideas coming out, in terms of measurement, I suppose it was two schools of thought. In one school of thought they were saying, “Well actually we set quite hard targets for our colleagues,” often around you have to have X number of legacy conversations a month or a year or whatever it might be.

Rob:

So not counting pledges, but please record the number of times per month you mentioned legacies to your supporter.

Claire:

Yeah. Whereas some other organizations, it was a much softer measurements. I was interested, I suppose, in the one organization where they said, “Actually what I measure is the amount of leaflets and pens and legacy marketing collateral that is ordered, because actually that’s a sign that my colleagues are out there sharing the stuff, having conversations.” So for her and her organization, she thought that was more effective than trying to very specifically target colleagues. Although again, I’m kind of slightly torn on this as well, really, as to whether the hard or the soft measurement is the better way to go.

Although one organization was saying, “Well actually, by making sure people do have targets and measuring the conversations that they’re having, that then really helps over the longer term because actually I can, in a couple of years, time, five, six years time perhaps, be able to go back to people and say ‘we’re starting to get these legacies in,’ and actually that was a result of the conversation that you had.” So to be able to close that feedback loop, which again, I thought it was a very astute point. But I think he probably depends a bit on the culture of your organization as well, whether the levels of targeting people have even to whether legacies will fit into that. So I guess it’s finding a route forward whether it’s with the hard or the softer measurements are better for you really, I think.

Rob:

And just before we finish this bit of the conversation, you’ve talked about those three themes, having, I guess… Your original PhD was all about why people give and then this particular piece of research was what is it that organizations do when they’re more holistic in their approach? Any last idea we may not have yet stressed from this research project that you think is useful for the listener to know about?

Claire:

One thing I’m going to just add, which applies to all of the above, really, the people, the stories, the measurement, is just keep going as well. So I think sometimes where these efforts fail is where it’s… And I think I mentioned in the previous episode, actually, someone was just brought in to do some training, and that’s it. Then the organization expects this amazing transformation. But it’s a real longterm process, and I guess it can feel quite difficult to constantly be banging this drum.

But again, what someone said to me, which I thought, again, was a really… It’s really stuck in my mind was the point at which you’re becoming really bored talking about this is the point at which it’s just starting to register with your audience. So you think your colleagues are absolutely sick of you talking about legacies, and actually it’s only just starting to even make it onto their radar, really. The last time you had the conversation, they were just thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch. So you’ve just got to keep banging on at it and doing the hard graft. It’s not a one shot exercise.

Rob:

Very wise words. I’ve heard that advice on all the different topics I have on this podcast, that every now and again, you get a lucky early win, but the more normal change curve and results curve is about incremental gains, and the early part of the graph, the universe does not often send you a major early result. It often takes longer than you think it possibly should, but that’s the time when you keep going, and if you can, then in due course you reach the tipping point and suddenly this becomes more and more, A, normal, and B, also results start to show as well.

Claire:

Absolutely.

Rob:

So Claire, if people wanted to get in touch with you, are you on LinkedIn? Are you on Twitter? I’d love to hear what they think about this episode. So if they want to find you on Twitter or LinkedIn, how could they do that?

Claire:

So yes, I do a tweet lots of legacy related things, so come and join the conversation. I’m on the worst Twitter name to actually say out loud, because it’s ClaireyJaneR. So Claire with an I and a Y on the end, Jane R.

Rob:

Fantastic. We would love to hear what you think about this. Do get in touch. We’ll get back to you. Claire, if people want your advice, what’s your website?

Claire:

Oh yes, legacyfundraising.co.uk.

Rob:

Fantastic. Claire, I’ve learned so much today. This is such an important topic. Whether what we’re trying to do is legacies or anything else that actually our organization needs to be more holistic about rather than silo-ish about, I’ve learned a lot. Thank you ever so much for sharing your ideas, and I look forward to talking to you again. Bye-bye.

Claire:

Thank you. And thank you everybody for sharing them with me in the first place.

Rob:

Bye-bye, Claire. Bye.

Claire:

Bye.

Rob:

So there you go. I hope you found Claire’s insights useful. As usual, on the blog and podcast section of my Bright Spot Fundraising website, I’ll put a summary of the key ideas and a transcript of the interview, as well as a link to the excellent book Legacy and In-Memory Fundraising, which Claire co-edited with Sebastian Wilberforce. If you’re interested in other ideas to do with legacies, then as well as checking out Claire’s website, I recommend you have a listen to episode 28 of this podcast, which is also with Claire, about how to have a conversation with a charity supporter about legacy giving. And if you liked the podcast, please remember to subscribe today, and it would be fantastic if you could share it on with your colleagues or just take a moment to leave a kind review wherever you get your podcasts, which really helps other fundraisers to find this free resource.

If you want to get in touch, we’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Claire is @ClaireyJaneR with a capital J and a capital R, and I am @Woods_Rob. If you’d like more ideas to help you succeed during the pandemic, then do check out my ebook, Power Through the Pandemic, which gives seven key strategies to help you raise money even now through major donors, corporates, and trusts. You can download it for free from brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power. Finally, thank you so much for listening today, and until the next time, good luck with all your fundraising efforts.