Encouraging fundraisers to leave a lasting legacy – some options to consider

August 2, 2021
Share this article

If the worst were to happen, how would you like to be remembered?

Millions of people want to keep making the world a better place, even after they have passed on. For charities, legacy fundraising gives fundraisers and supporters an option that allows them to continue supporting a cause in death that they fought for in life.

How to approach this delicate conversation with your supporters

According to a study by the University of Plymouth (commissioned by Legacy Voice, a legacy fundraising consultancy), the legacy market in the UK represents 14% of charities’ voluntary income. This is estimated to double to over £5bn by 2050, but achieving it is not without challenges.

The current focus for most charities soliciting legacy donations is to encourage fundraisers to write them into their will. However, they face an uphill battle – a 2010 study by unbiased.co.uk revealed that two thirds of the adult population aged between 35 and 54 have not made a will.

While inertia may play a role in that, considering what to do when a loved one dies may in fact weigh more heavily on people’s minds, bearing in mind many of us have lost someone during the pandemic.

It would be ideal if more people discussed their legacy wishes more openly with family and friends – whatever their age. Failing that, charities might have more success in encouraging their supporters to leave a lasting legacy.

What support can charities give?

There are many examples on GivenGain of fundraising projects set up by family and friends in memory of someone they cared about, or campaigns to get fundraising support for a loved one’s favourite cause after their death – a page that can serve as a permanent memorial to them.

Sharing examples like this with your fundraisers by e-mail and through social media is a great way to raise awareness of this option to support your cause. Showing real-world examples of the difference such a campaign can make can be particularly effective too. Whether it is writing to donors or posting messages of thanks from beneficiaries of the help provided, it all goes a long way to reinforcing the message of the power of legacy fundraising can continue to help the charities you care about after you’re gone.

The power of online vs wills

Some citizen activists leave money in their will to a favourite cause, but this is often a contentious subject among family members, who stand to lose out on any inheritance left to a charity. For non-profits, this can create legal headaches and costs, especially if the will is later contested in court. Charity income should be spent on frontline activities and not legal fees, and even if the will is uncontested, any money left will still be tied up in probate, further delaying receipt.

Alternatively, family and friends can honour the wishes of the deceased by fundraising and donating in an online fundraising campaign in their honour. This builds the legacy by opening it up to any donor or fundraiser around the world. It can even be an annual activity to remind those closest to the deceased of the cause they cared about the most. The benefit to the charity is in receiving the donations immediately and potentially from a greater number of supporters.

At the funeral, donations or a collection at the end of (or at) a wake is customary in many traditions. However, this places a burden on the family of the deceased having to collect the money, deal with any cheques and make the donation to the charity at a time when they themselves have other things to worry about.

In contrast, by moving the process online, mourners can simply donate in their own time, with the money going straight to the charity. It also helps bring people together from around the world to celebrate a life in a way they cannot in a church or chapel. There are no borders to cross, no pandemic restrictions – anyone who ever crossed paths with the deceased can easily leave an anecdote and a memory to the benefit of all.

Online also saves on the hassle of administration and allows people to share memories of their friend or family member publicly with the wider world.

While legacy fundraising is a difficult subject to broach, having the conversation early on with supporters and showing how it can benefit their beloved cause and remove unwanted stress from the funeral will no doubt help more people create a lasting legacy.