Episode 55: Growing legacy income, with Dr Claire Routley

Episode Notes

The pressure to handle more urgent fundraising challenges mean that strategies to promote legacy giving often gets put to one side.

Dr Claire Routley is one of the UK’s experts on legacy fundraising. In this clip, we explore ideas to help you A) find and bring to life your legacy proposition; and B) ideas to help you promote those ideas consistently, so that both colleagues and supporters feel this is a normal way of donating.

This is an excerpt from a new course we made recently, and it’s one of more than 40 fundraising courses available to fundraisers within the Bright Spot Members Club.

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.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Claire’s advice, and I hope you find it helpful too.

Quotes

‘…The classic legacy strategy is drip-drip marketing… So it’s not some sort of weird, strange, big ask… The more you consistently drip-drip that message, the more you make it feel like it’s a normal way of supporting the organization.’

Dr Claire Routley

Further Resources

Here are two more episodes on legacy fundraising you might like:

Episode 37 Promoting legacies and silo-smashing.

Episode 28 Talking to supporters about leaving a legacy.

Or if you’d like more powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then do check out my new free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise high value income, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

Ongoing training and inspiration

Are you tired of one-off conference sessions and training days, where any info you learn fades away within a week or two of the event?

Our Bright Spot Members Club is a training and inspiration site for fundraisers who want to access practical learning on an ongoing basis. All the learning bundles, including FIVE KEYS TO GROWING LEGACY INCOME WITH CLAIRE ROUTLEY, are available 24/7 and there are inspiring live masterclasses and problem-solving sessions every week, on a broad range of fundraising subjects, as well as a supportive community. To find out more, go here.

Full Transcript for Episode 55

Rob:

Hey there folks. Welcome to Episode 55 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. My name is Rob Woods, and this is the show for anyone who works in fundraising and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, enjoy their job, and make a bigger difference, especially during the pandemic. And in today’s episode, we’re looking at things you can do to improve your charity’s approach to receiving income through gifts in people’s wills.

Rob:

Dr. Claire Routley is one of the UK’s experts on legacy fundraising and together we recently created a new learning bundle for the Bright Spot Members Club. The course is called Five Keys To Growing Legacy Fundraising Income. In today’s episode, which is an excerpt from that course, we explore the first two fundamentals of any successful legacy fundraising strategy.

Rob:

I guess my very first point is this is going to take some effort for a fundraiser who normally might be focusing their energy on corporate fundraising, or events, or individual giving. Just to help us tune into the opportunity and potentially the opportunity that is being missed by many charities, could you help us care and understand why it’s worth bothering to do some of this activity?

Claire:

Yeah, sure. I would imagine lots of people have seen the statistics or are vaguely aware that legacy giving is predicted to grow over the next few decades, but maybe not everybody is aware of the scale of the transformation we’re likely to see. So, that’s definitely worth having on your radar. So, if you weren’t aware, we’re likely, over the next few decades, to see the biggest transfer of wealth ever between generations and because people are lovely and kind, and generous, many of those people will be thinking about, actually, as well as supporting the people I love, I want to support the charities that I really care about. So, predictions at the moment suggest that the legacy market is likely to double in size by 2045, which is pretty amazing and down to the generosity of so many kind people.

Rob:

Yes. And yeah, I guess a key thing for us to be aware of is you might get some legacies without doing much activity, but to really embrace this opportunity of this growing market, there’s a certain set of things that maximize the chances that people who care about our cause will think of us when they next go to their solicitor, potentially, with this in mind.

Claire:

Yes. Yeah. So, there’s five key things that we were going to discuss today, I suppose my sort of five top tips for any organization that is wanting to get started in a slightly more serious way with the legacy fundraising. So, number one was developing the organization’s legacy messaging and explaining to people why they should care about this. Number two is thinking about, okay, what am I already doing? How am I already communicating with our supporters and integrating the legacy message within that? Number three is quite similar in a way, but thinking particularly about your colleagues. So, actually, they’re brilliant a channel for getting messages out, again, to people that really care about your organization. So, how do you bring your colleagues on board?

Claire:

And then the… Sorry, number five, number four is, okay, I’ve done the job of integrating to those messages that I already have going out. Where’s my next step? So, kind of like, do I go back to developing small proactive approaches which might focus very specifically on legacies, for example. And then number five is thinking about how you manage the legacies that you then start to receive into your organization in order to get the best value for your organization. But very importantly, really, delivering on those wishes of those people that left that gift in the first place.

Rob:

Fabulous. So, five keys that we could quite deliberately focus some energy and some problem-solving in. And if we’re going to jump into the first one to do with developing your messaging around legacies, what are some of the key tips for how to get that right?

Claire:

I think probably my first key tip would be to really understand your donors. What is fundamentally floating their boat about your organization, and really, what’s that big long-term vision that they are buying into? Because, really, the research tells us that’s what people care about when they’re thinking in the legacy space. They’re not necessarily as concerned with the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day. They want to buy into this vision that you both share. You can also understand how their lives and their life history connect in with your organization. Because, again, we know that legacy giving is often motivated by people sort of looking back over their lives and that’s good to know, isn’t it, just generally, but actually, obviously, how that happens is different for every organization. So, you really want to understand, okay, we’ve got these big-picture answers from academic research, but how does that relate to my particular organization?

Claire:

I don’t think in order to do that, that you can beat, sounds so obvious, but going out and interviewing donors about their lives, their passions, what they really care about from your organization. So, just to give you a little example. And I love all of my clients. It’s hard to say I’ve got a favorite, but I do have a very soft spot for an organization I did some work with last year called The Talyllyn Railway because I am a bit of a train nerd. And the Talyllyn Railway is in sort of Northwest Wales. And it was the very first railway to be taken over by a really sort of passionate army of volunteers when otherwise it would have closed. So, it’s amazing. You’ve got these people that their families, three generations of people, have volunteered on the railway, and they’ve had railway marriages and railway babies who have been brought up on the railway.

Claire:

It’s a pretty amazing place. And the interviewing their key stakeholders, it was just, it was fabulous. And the one thing that really kind of sticks in my mind was the word magic that people used about this place because it is in just the most beautiful countryside. The railway itself, it’s a narrow-gauge railway so it’s really sort of, if you can call a railway such a thing, really cute and small going through this really beautiful landscape around the side of a mountain. And one person, for example, was talking about but the thing that really struck her when she first came was the fact that the door handles were, on the little carriages, were really, really shiny. And so, someone obviously loved this place enough to focus, even in the midst of this beautiful overall situation, they really cared enough to focus on those little tiny details.

Claire:

And somebody else just talked about going up to a reservoir, which is up near where the train runs to and just looking back past the mountain and it just feeling, that word again, magical. And so, there’s something about magic. And I spent, being the over-academic analytical type that I am, I spent a long time to unpick in my head about how do I capture this magic in the perfect way that will work for everybody. And then it sort of really occurred to me that, actually, the magic is different for every different person. So, they all have this sense of magic. But, like I said, for one person, it’s the shiny door handles, and for somebody else, it’s the view out over the reservoir.

Claire:

But actually, when we were talking about legacies in the space of magical memories and making sure that future generations could create these magical memories, then people would sort of, I suppose, superimpose their own personal little bit of magic that they felt when they visited the railway. And so, we never would have got to that lovely place about talking about the magic of the railway if we haven’t sat down with people and really tried to drill into their particular connection to that very special place.

Rob:

What a wonderful example, and there’s no way one can achieve that insight as to why people care about a particular cause without… You might think you can from behind your desk, or by looking on the internet, or by researching in some other way, but there really is no substitute for these real conversations with these kinds of people who care about your cause. Not only about why, but also the language with which they express it is likely to be different if you are not that person. So, that’s a brilliant tip to motivate us to get out and have those conversations, and find those stories, and find the particular insights that might be central to your messaging. Any other advice to help us get that messaging right for if we’re creating that proposition for a legacy?

Claire:

I think once you’ve actually sort of gone out and done those interviews, the classic process of developing a case for support off the back of those interviews is a really sort of good discipline to go through. And just like in any other area of fundraising, I think you having that case is really useful because it makes sure that your messaging is aligned and very practically as well. Having that case put together really helps you then on a very practical level. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time that you have an opportunity to communicate about legacies. You can use that case as the basis for all the other messaging that you put out. So, it’s a real time-saver as well as making sure that, as we said, I suppose, slightly more strategically, but you’re aligned, that you’re using the language that your donors are using.

Claire:

And I think when I develop these sort of case for support documents, what I’ll commonly do is start from the full version. I write down everything that could possibly go into it, and it might end up being four or five pages of A4. And then a discipline I find really helpful is then to boil it down and boil it down and boil it down. So, I’ll start with the full version, and then I’ll say, “Right, I have to be able to express this in a single page. I then have to be able to express it in a single paragraph. I have to be able to express it in a sentence.” And that’s, for me, that’s really, really good discipline from going all of the lovely data from those lovely interviews, down to my sort of “concise” four or five page-document, right down to that sort of what’s that core sentence, to use a bit of fundraising jargon, that core sort of legacy proposition, ultimately.

Rob:

Wonderful. So, by going through this process, that’s how you tend to arrive at that really pithy, short, sharp concept. And I can totally see that it’s hard work to get there. I don’t take that lightly, but I can absolutely see that if we’re willing to do the work that that could work for any other charity in working out, actually, the proposition is this, not that which we would have done, which sounds like every other charity. Secondly, I see just how practical a document this is and what a time-saving document it is because later on in this mini course, when you’re going to tell us about the importance of integrating, if you’ve already got all these different length versions, it’s so much easier for you to, at short notice, take advantage of a PS at the bottom of some other mailing, or a paragraph within a annual report, or whatever. If we’ve done the work to create the case of support in the first place, we’re so much more likely to make use of those other opportunities in a time-efficient way when they appear.

Claire:

Yeah, absolutely. And when I was in my last sort of in-house job, I was so thankful that I’d done that piece of work right at the beginning. And as you say, absolutely, people will come to you with, “Oh gosh, we’ve got some space here and you’ve got about 10 minutes to fill it.” And you’ve got that copy ready to go, really.

Rob:

Fantastic. Just before we move on, any last tips or pitfalls you think people should be aware of that make them more likely to succeed in creating this kind of a proposition?

Claire:

I think I’ve just started to mention already just a couple of points about be aware of what we know from the wider research as well. So, as I said, for example, the donors are interested in sort of the big picture and the big vision. What research also tells us is stay away from legal language. I think that’s a really good point. It’s very easy, I know in our world, especially in this lovely, sort of caring, sharing world of fundraising. I think often if people are getting started, you think, “Okay, I’m going to go to the next big charity that I know, I’m going to take a chunk of their text and almost, not exactly, but almost sort of changed the name over and I’m done.” And I think sometimes, let’s say less effective message then just starts to kind of cycle around the sector.

Claire:

Using legal terminology actually puts people off leaving legacies. So, in one experiment, for example, using the word bequest rather than the word gift in a will halved people’s interest. But it’s so easy for these sorts of legal terms, for example, to sneak their way into copy. So, I mean, I would suggest generally having a look at what research tells us about good legacy language and just sense checking what you’ve pulled together, perhaps, from these interviews with, again, what the broader research tells us.

Rob:

Yes. And our viewers are probably thinking, “Well, that’s kind of obvious, Claire. We would definitely not do that.” But I would urge people to be respectful of just how pernicious these forces can be within an organization with no malintent for any kind of jargon, frankly, medical jargon, or some other kind of jargon to do with the management of cancer or refugees. Any jargon can sneak in but I think it’s especially tricky in this area because you probably do need to be spending a little time liaising with lawyers, and executives of wills, and people. And in that industry, there is this kind of a language which is the norm and expected, and even needed. So, sort of the act of changing hats between talking to those people and talking to the person who might be considering a gift in their will, as long as it was positioned right, that’s not necessarily easier so we need to be on our guard, don’t we?

Claire:

Definitely. I think that’s a really great way to explain it. And actually, Professor Russell James that carried out some of this research talks about, well, just imagine it’s a conversation with your grandmother. You wouldn’t go to your grandmother and say, “Grandmother, would you please leave me a residuary legacy?” So, we shouldn’t talk to donors in that way which I think is a really nice way to help cut through some of that jargon.

Rob:

Fantastic. Just before we move on, any last idea that can help at this stage?

Claire:

I think, think about the different pieces of communication, ultimately, you will need. And again, if you’re just getting started, you don’t need necessarily particularly shiny, beautifully designed versions of all these things. But do consider whether you might need a sort of a legacy brochure, which I suppose is the sort of fullest expression of your case for support. Other organizations have used things like bookmarks. So, for example, if you’ve got charity shops, you might want to include bookmarks, again, as a way of just sort of introducing the legacy message to people. Web content, social media content. So, it can be helpful, once you’ve kind of got that core message, to think about where is it then going to sort of filter down and what are the most useful pieces of collateral for your particular organization?

Rob:

Hey, it’s Rob. And I just want to jump in really quickly because quite a few listeners have been in touch recently as they’re making plans to allocate budgets to support their fundraising from April. And they’ve been asking about the various training options we’ve got at Bright Spot. And while not every charity is able to invest in our full Major Gifts or Corporate Mastery Program, or indeed our in-house Masterclass for their team, many are able to find the more modest budget for our Bright Spot Members Club. As I mentioned at the beginning, this episode is a short excerpt from the full legacies course with Claire. And this is one of more than 40 learning bundles available in the club on a broad range of fundraising topics on everything from individual giving and corporate to major donor fundraising and leadership.

Rob:

Now, as well as the community and all the courses you can access whenever you like, every single week we do a live one-hour masterclass or problem-solving session with experts like Claire to help you put in place the strategies from the courses. If you’re at all curious about how our training club will help you or your team keep learning and stay inspired in 2021, you can find out more at brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. For now though, back to the legacies content as I asked Claire about the second key to improving legacy income.

Rob:

So, first idea, we need to get that messaging right and the idea of creating that case for support and the different versions of it and the assets. The next one, I think you mentioned, Claire, is to do with how we integrate those ideas into the charity’s other communications. What’s your advice about how we do that?

Claire:

Well, I suppose the real classic legacy strategy is drip-drip marketing. So, the idea that you’re getting the message out to people little and often. And there’s a couple of benefits actually to that classic approach. I suppose the more you sort of drip-drip that message, the more you make it feel like it’s a normal way of supporting the organization. It’s not some sort of weird, strange, great, big ask that sits over here that’s just for celebrities or hugely rich people. So, it just makes it seem like a normal way of supporting the organization.

Claire:

Ant then, I’m going to steal a lot from Professor Russell James because he’s marvelous, but he talks about we need to make it feel like people like me do things like this. So, we want to make it feel like if you’re a supporter of the organization, this is a normal thing to at least think about. And as I said, drip-dripping that message out on a regular basis can really help with that. The other sort of benefit, I suppose, of that sort of drip-drip approach is we spend, as human beings, spend a lot of our time completely in denial about anything vaguely to do with death and dying. It’s never going to happen to us. And there’s only sort of various points in our lives that those thoughts are able to break through and that we actually take any sort of proactive action to plan.

Claire:

So, again, the idea of having drip-drip messaging that comes out regularly is that it’s more likely then that a supporter will see it at a time that’s relevant for them, as opposed to if you only ever do one legacy mailing a year and that’s the sum total of our activity. A lot of the people that it gets in front of, it’s just going to seem completely relevant at that particular point in time. So, there’s lots of benefits to the drip-dripping the message. Of course, especially for people who are just getting started, if we’re just getting that message out through our existing channels, our newsletter, our website, our social media, all of those good places, that’s obviously a cost and resource-efficient way of communicating the legacy message. In fact, there’s a lot of things that we can do that won’t actually sort of cost any money here.

Claire:

So, interestingly, actually, my last organization, just to give you an example, which is I used to work for the Bible Society, and my colleagues were actually really brilliant at sort of coming up with ideas around places that they could integrate the message, which was lovely. So, we had things like the organization’s headed paper had a lovely little sort of legacy message just on the side. The lady who worked in the post room, she came up and she’s like, “Have you thought about using the…” You know when you frank, you have your own franking machine, and you can have a little sort of logo or something? She was like, “Have you ever thought about using that for legacy message?” We’re like, “No. Brilliant.” Maybe more traditionally, tick boxes on response forms to appeals. And I’ve also had and I’m straining to sort of encouraging my colleagues here, but I had a brilliant colleague called Robert who was absolutely wonderful.

Claire:

I think he was better than me at sort of one-to-one legacy communication. And he did a lot of work with mid-value donors. He did a lot of work on the phone, checking in with people, having some really lovely conversations. And he just sort of developed the habits of every conversation that he would have, pretty much, he would towards the end, he’d say, “Did you know, I’ve just been looking at our records and you’ve actually been supporting us for 15 years, which is pretty amazing. Did you know that there’s a way actually you can carry that onto the future?” And over about six months, I think just by adding that little question into his telephone calls, he must’ve identified, conservatively, I’d say probably about a million pounds of legacy income. Some of that was gifts that people had already put into wills, but I mean, great if we know about that, we can make sure that we look after those people in the right way. So, just finding those little opportunities to include the legacy message in things that you’re already doing, as in Robert’s example, can actually reap, I mean, amazing rewards.

Rob:

Yes, it clearly makes such a difference, doesn’t it, if we can find a way to be consistent in this while, at the same time, pursuing the various other communication and fundraising objectives we’ve got to do week on week or month on month. But the consistency is clearly the key and it’s not going to happen by accident. It’s going to happen if a charity makes a decision that this is really worth it to our cause and our ability to serve, so from now on, this is part of how we communicate and it’s the norm. And then on top of that, you can get creative in some of the ways that you said and find really interesting ways to keep that drip going.

Rob:

I think you mentioned last time you and I spoke, Claire, a lovely example of an organization whose legacy income had been broadly flat, and then some years later there was a clear upsurge, and that absolutely correlated and was because of this extra decision to be consistent. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to mention the name of the organization, but could you just give me the top-line example that might just help us if we ain’t going to go and talk to our colleagues, decide that this is worth the effort?

Claire:

Yeah. And I think actually it’s probably okay to mention the name because essentially, I was carrying out an audit for another client whose name I won’t mention and looking at what’s some of the charities in a similar space had been doing. And one example that I pulled out was the Royal British Legion. And I mention their name because actually a lot of the information that then sort of went in the audit came from… Well, all the information came from some publicly available sources so I think we’re okay to sort of talk about them. But yes, it was really interesting. If you look at their legacy income over time, I mean, it was broadly flat. So, we were looking at 2007 to 2013 originally. There was pretty much the flat income, but then 2014, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, they’ve grown consistently over time.

Claire:

And so, often when I’m doing these audits, it’s really useful to look at who is growing the most and then try and dig in to find out what, in a public space, they’re saying about their approach. And really interestingly, the Legion has had this real sort of long-term focus on recruiting new donors but recruiting people who ultimately would be likely to become legacy supporters and very, very importantly, stewarding those people effectively through to legacy gifts. So, I’ve got little sort of quotes that I added into this audit from their assistant director of fundraising, Guy Upward. He says, “I always look at the return on investment when reviewing new supporters who were generated from cold. Now, I obviously need to look at these figures too.” And he says, “Because nearly 14 million pounds of ‘incremental sales’ in such a short period is not too bad, is it?”

Claire:

I mean, this is not purely legacy fundraising. This is making sure that all of the people that you bring into organizations have really brilliant supporter experience such as their confidence in the organization, seeing it as a really good effective steward of money. Ultimately, it’s not just having a fancy legacy ask that it’s going to do that. It’s looking after people really well so that they see the organization as a deserving recipient. And it was just really interesting to see somebody who has been in post, I think he’d been in post for about 13 years and just have had that real sort of consistent approach to stewarding supporters and growing legacy income. And you can see that that’s really worked well for them.

Rob:

Yeah. Thank you for sharing the example. When we look at it like that, it’s clearly so valuable. But I also, like what you were saying there, fundamental to everything, I think you teach and that you do with your clients is helping them not see normal fundraising and legacy fundraising as a separate. Now, we’ve got to improve legacy. Doing this well is fundamental to us caring about the experience of our supporters, the experience of people who care about our cause. It is about great stewardship and it is about giving them the various opportunities that that kind of person might want to support with. For some, it’s through their company, and for some, it’s through leaving a gift in their will, and for some of them, it’s both. So, it’s this holistic approach, actually, that is, I think it really helps me also see that it’s not a matter of putting loads of effort into this better legacy stuff now and we might be rewarded in 11 years’ time. Seems to me that you see rewards from the very start when charities get better at realizing that gifts and wills is a thing to be conscious of.

Claire:

Yeah, yeah. And again, there’s some really helpful data out there because I think, again, perhaps one of the worries that organizations have is I don’t want to promote legacies because it’s going to cannibalize current giving or lifetime giving. People will think I’ve done my legacy, I’m done. And actually, the data suggests the very opposite. So, another of Professor Russell James’s brilliant studies actually shows that if you look at somebody who’s giving up until the point of writing the charity into their will, and then look at their giving going forwards, actually, just after someone has written the charity into their will, their giving can increase quite dramatically. And I guess what they’re doing there is maybe making that vote of confidence in the organization that I really care about you. I care about you enough to put you into my will but that also means that I’m going to support you in the future. So, actually, rather than the complete opposite in a way, rather than cannibalizing your lifetime giving, someone making that additional commitment is actually likely to be helpful for your organization.

Rob:

That is so interesting, isn’t it? And it really does fly in the face of some of the arguments that might be put up internally that there isn’t space to promote legacies today because that might affect our short-term income. It really helps us. And it is also consistent with the work of Professor Robert Cialdini about the laws of commitment and consistency that in lots of areas of life, if we’re encouraged to take a small step that is that we like and is in our interests willingly, that actually can then lead or usually does lead to greater willingness to do more.

Claire:

Yeah.

Rob:

Claire, thank you so much for sharing all these ideas. I look forward to inviting you back to do a live problem-solving session for the Members Club again soon. But for now, Dr. Claire Routley, thank you so much for sharing your ideas on legacy fundraising. Bye-bye.

Claire:

Thank you. Bye.

Rob:

Well, I hope you found Claire’s ideas helpful. As always, I’ll put a brief summary and a full transcript of the conversation in the episode notes which you can find in the blog and podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk. And if you enjoyed this episode, do remember to subscribe to the podcast today as we’ve got lots more great episodes coming up over the next few weeks. And if you want to get in touch or share the episode, we would love to hear from you. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Claire is @claireyJaneR and I am @woods_rob. And if you’re a corporate partnership or a major donor, or a trust fundraiser and you need to boost your momentum and your results, do check out our Corporate Mastery and Major Gifts Mastery Programs, as we’ve just recently launched dates for the next programs starting in April 2021.

Rob:

And at the time of recording, I had just completed doing Day Five of the current programs, and I can tell you I’m more excited than ever by the results that the fundraisers on the current programs are achieving in spite of the pandemic. To find out more or to get in touch, do head on over to brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services and click on either the Corporate Mastery or the Major Gifts Mastery page. Finally, thank you so much for listening today. Until the next time, good luck with all your efforts to grow your fundraising results and make a positive difference.