Katrina Emerson: How Livability communicated the power of gifts in wills

13 Sep 2018 Voices

As part of a series of blogs for Remember A Charity Week, Katrina Emerson explains how Livability communicated with supporters about the power of gifts in wills, and the change they can bring. 

Gifts in wills are an important source of much needed income for many charities. And in a climate of austerity, cuts to care for society’s most vulnerable is on the increase. So, with over 50 per cent of Livability’s fundraised income coming from these precious gifts, it’s no exaggeration to say that these gifts are vital. 

However, gifts in wills only represent around 3.5 per cent of our total income. And with some charities raising nearly 40 per cent of their income from gifts in wills, we recognised that there’s more we can do to inspire people to support us in this way. 

In the past couple of years, Livability has made an important investment in to our fundraising team, with much-needed, dedicated resource into setting up a more focused legacy marketing programme. 

Since joining the charity two years ago, here’s how we have been working to communicate with supporters about the power of gifts in wills, and the change they can bring. 

Gathering supporter stories

It may be widely known that supporter stories are so important for inspiring others to consider including a gift in their will. But what can you do if you don’t have any, or you don’t have any known relationships with your legacy supporters in order to approach them about sharing their story with you? 

Conveniently, I had joined Livability just at the time that invitations to the annual Christmas Carol Service and Rose Fellowship reception were due to be posted out. So I included my contact details in the letter and invited supporters to contact me with any questions prior to the event. The event provided the perfect opportunity to start building relationships with our legacy supporters and ask them to share their story with us. Before too long, we had started to build up a bank of supporter stories that started to bring the programme to life. 

Incorporating legacies across existing communication channels

Once we had some strong supporter-led content, this was shared online and across other communication channels, including Your Livability - our supporter newsletter. This was a really important step in making it clear that gifts in wills are a core part of our supporter offering.

Other quick wins included adding a tick box to appeal forms to enable supporters to request more information about gifts in wills. When writing to thank legacy supporters for any donations received following an appeal, we invited them to come and see the charity’s work in action. Since taking this approach, we’ve hosted two legacy supporter visits and we now have a fantastic relationship with them. 

Inviting legacy supporters to exclusive events 

We found that inviting legacy supporters to exclusive Livability events can be a great way to build engagement and nurture those relationships. For us, this has included staff award ceremonies, official openings of our services, special open days held at royal residences, and more. It’s such a great opportunity for them to meet fellow supporters, staff, volunteers and the people we work with and support and really feel connected with the charity. 

Defining our legacy proposition

Wanting to understand more about our supporters, we carried out telephone interviews and a supporter survey, to ask them what it was about Livability that had inspired them to include a gift in their will and what they want to know more about. This gave us some useful insights and learnings, so we then commissioned an agency to run a workshop for us, involving our fundraising, communications and finance teams. The idea was that we could create a legacy proposition that they would all be willing to share with their audiences and that would be incorporated across all our legacy communications.

Developing a range of materials 

The decision to leave a gift in a will is rarely one that will be made on the spot, so we created a range of materials for different audiences and for each stage of the supporter’s ‘legacy journey’. These included an introductory leaflet, bookmark and postcard, our fulfilment pack – a detailed guide featuring supporter stories, practical tips and information on making or updating their will, as well as a toolkit for staff. This May, we sent our first legacy mailing in 3 years, which has so far received a 2.85 per cent response rate and a ‘positive’ legacy response rate of 0.5 per cent. 

Not being afraid to speak up 

Bearing in mind that we had such a reactive approach to gifts in wills in recent years, it’s astounding to think that last year - during Remember A Charity Week – we took our legacy message out on social media, attended roadshows across the country, placed an ad with The Daily Telegraph, blogged about it all and even encouraged our supporters to be interviewed on the radio.  And this activity continued throughout the rest of the year, with articles in supporter magazines, social media posts and blogs featuring stories from our wonderful supporters. And of course we have lots more activity planned for this year’s Remember A Charity Week! So don’t be afraid to speak up about legacies. 

Katrina Emerson is legacy marketing manager at Livability


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