Gifts in wills have never seen such potential. We’re facing a donor revolution and charities must grab the moment before it is too late, says Richard Radcliffe, founder of Radcliffe Consulting.
Never in my 30 years’ experience in legacies have I seen such huge change, or such potential for legacies. This new year brings new donor prospects and a new approach to legacy fundraising, for their decision-making journey is so different to past generations.
Let me take you back three decades in the UK. 83% of legacies were left by women. Now it is 60% women 40% men. A staggering change and I believe this trend is universal.
The new legacy prospect
There is a donor revolution; the new generation of legacy prospects are focused and they investigate performance. Perhaps that is why legacy giving to educational institutions and arts organisations in the UK are increasing faster than in other sectors: they are baby boomer causes. And I meet these attitudes in every country I visit. They look at accounts. They use the internet and social media, but they still read printed media.
What are they looking for? Great use of funds. Wise administration costs. An impact they relate to. And where do they find this? The go to your website of course. But if you do not give this information honestly and transparently they become concerned about whether they should leave you a legacy.
The donor revolution is being driven by lack of trust and confidence, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other non-profit media. Recent research shows that only one in three Americans have trust and confidence in non-profits. And in the UK, only one in two have trust and confidence in charities. I have also found this to be the case in many other European countries.
Will writing and call to action
More baby boomers are making a Will in all countries – regardless of national inheritance laws. Why? Because they have wealth to give away and are part of a philanthropic generation. Now, let’s stop and consider this very carefully. You cannot leave a gift in a Will without writing a Will. It is that which triggers action. But a charitable legacy is driven by passion, something that does not always drive action – it makes them think “great idea”, but they may not always follow through.
We need to know who is writing a Will, and how they are doing it. In virtually all European countries you can write your own Will (holographic) or you can use a professional Will writer, often a public notary. We don’t know how many people are writing a “do it yourself” Will versus a notary drafted/witnessed Will. And this is a barrer for many of the best legacy campaigns. How can you run a great legacy campaign unless you are clear about the call to action.
There are some European countries where response rates to legacy campaigns are truly outstanding – including France, Spain and Switzerland, three countries which were not famous for legacy giving.
What I think I know is that a legacy brochure does not result in action. Facebook sparks huge numbers of hand raisers; but does that indicate action? Probably not, but it might change a mindset. Legacy pages of non-profit websites are rarely visited; but if they are it is to find out only the address and status of the non-profit. Newsletters can drive action; the retired have time to read them if you have a clear call to action.
My latest research shows it take 5-15 years to finalise your most important Will. This is backed up by research concerning older lifestyle and attitudes in centres of excellence in Germany, California and other sources. And the most common time to make a Will in Europe is for those in their sixties. If you think that there are 100 million people aged over 65 in the European Union (until Britain leaves at least), and that this number is due to double by 2060, the legacy potential is huge. But time is running out.
Success in continuing to grow legacy giving in Europe (which is so very possible and truly exciting) relies on substantial research into understanding how prospects write a Will and then we can understand the call to action. But that research is difficult to come by because so few Wills are stored in the national registries or with notaries.
So what can you do?
In every possible channel – website, newsletter and every communication you release:
Above all, continue to inspire supporters but show them how easy it is for them to take action. Often, one telephone call to a notary is all that is needed. The gift can be a modest sum – 1% or whatever suits their circumstances.
About Richard Radcliffe
Richard Radcliffe is Founder of Radcliffe Consulting and has 30 years’ experience in researching the legacy market and implementing legacy giving campaigns throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. He would happily visit the Arctic if invited. He also trains anyone to ask for a legacy nicely!
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