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How to make Legacy Fundraising Work for you

Gifts and wills should be part of every fundraising strategy for several key reasons:

  • The ROI is enormous. Occasional correspondence and a few event attendances could lead to a four or five-figure bequest.
  • People in the UK are often worth more than they think when they pass away. That residuary legacy could turn out to be worth more than they (or your legator) expect.
  • Maintaining a portfolio of legacy pledges can help ensure a long-term pipeline of income for your organisation

Things you'll need

  • An attention to detail
  • Perseverance
  • An analytical approach

Create the product and the marketing collateral to support it

  1. Why should someone consider leaving a gift in their will to your organisation? Perhaps to support a specific project, or contribute to an endowment? Consider mentioning other advantages such as the potential for reduced inheritance tax on their estate.
  2. What benefits do legacy pledgers get from your organisation? Perhaps a regular series of special events tailored to the (typically) older demographic, or membership of a special ‘club’ with recognition in your newsletter? Remind people that they don’t need to tell you the details of their will, or provide you any proof of the bequest – this is an exercise in trust.
  3. Make it easy to leave a gift! Ensure your collateral provides all the details of your organisation that would need to be inserted into a will. Discuss this with your own legal advisers as well as the solicitors in step 2…

Arrange an annual “free will week”

Approach solicitors across your local area (or the areas where you have most supporters), and ask them to write/update wills for your supporters for free during a specific week, as long as a gift is left to your organisation. Everyone wins!

  1. The supporter has a professional, up-to-date will, for free!
  2. The solicitor has established a good relationship with a potential new customer
  3. Your organisation has got a guaranteed legacy pledge. Work with the solicitor to ensure that everyone is encouraged to let you know they’ve left you a gift in their will, so you can keep in touch with them. The solicitor won’t be able to tell you what gifts have been left by which supporters, but they should be able to tell you the number of wills written.

Approach your supporters:

at events, through targeted Direct Mail, and ensuring leaflets are available around your premises. Your volunteers, staff and service beneficiaries may not be in a position to give you a gift now, but they (or friends and families), may be happy to leave you something in their will.


Now, keep in touch with these supporters

Speak to them and invite them to events as often as they are happy with. Bear in mind that they could update their will at any point to remove their bequest to you. Also bear in mind that it’s common for people to move house in the final years or months of their life, often to somewhere better able to deal with their care or accessibility needs. Make sure you keep track of current and former addresses.


Keep track of your legators

Once probate has been granted on a will in the UK, it becomes a document of public record – meaning anyone can access it. The company Smee & Ford offer a legacy notification service. They’ll scan all the wills being granted probate for references to your organisation, and let you know! This is a valuable way of knowing when your supporter has passed away.


Record all data

Make sure you record all of the data you’re collecting in your CRM system. Use Actions, Attributes, Notes and Addresses – and if you use Raiser’s Edge then use the ‘Legacy’ Gift Type to handle the changeable nature of bequest data management.

Further information 


Page last edited Oct 26, 2016 History

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