How to find your inner Richard Radcliffe!

Published by Elsbeth Takkenberg on

People who have had the pleasure to listen to Richard Radcliffe’s inspiring and challenging presentations on legacy fundraising, may have had the same thought as I’ve had after meeting him: ‘How on earth can I get as experienced as he is and make legacy fundraising feel like a walk in the park?’

And specially when you have read in Sebastian Wilberforce’s ‘Legacy fundraising‘ that “Richard Radcliffe has more then 30 years experience in the charity sector….specializes in planning and running legacy focus groups….he has met more than 15.000 donors….”, legacy fundraisers with only a few  years of experience may start to feel a bit lost. And some of us, like me, may start to wonder how many lives we need to get even close to the experience Richard has in legacy fundraising. 

I think you can start by looking for that little piece of Richard Radcliffe in your inner self, the piece that makes him know how donors, volunteers, prospects, board members, colleagues and beneficiaries think about making their last will and including a charity in it. We probably all have talked to people that are close to us about legacies. So the experience does not  necessarily have to start with your donors, but this can also be your parents,  a good friend, the neighbor who takes care of your cat while you’re on holiday, the family in law. I’m sure that many of us have had conversations with people we are somehow close to, about making a last will.

I still remember how natural it came to me to talk about legacies with a close friend who lost his father. This made him think about how he wanted things to be arranged. Or a colleague I spoke to, who was not that happy with the fact that her brothers and sisters threw away all the furniture of their deceased aunt, and feared that somewhere in the future this would also happen to her own furniture if she did not take care of things.

On top of these personal experiences, it helps to call and visit a number of donors that already included your charity in their will and ask them why they chose a specific charity. Combine this with a number of phone calls and visits to people who have said that they won’t include your charity in their will. Now you start to have a small piece (probably a week) of the Richard Radcliffe’s 30 years of experience in you, and you can use this for building a strong Case for Support.

When I meet new legacy pledgers, I always ask them why they have chosen for MSF. And most of the time, people start to tell me the story of our Case for Support. And sometimes they even admit that they have recognized themselves in the words we use in our brochure, our website, and our mailings.

Of course, to increase legacy income by having a successful legacy strategy, we need to do much more than talking about legacies to our relatives and to some donors. But research is the key to a good strategy and a good strategy is the key to more legacy income. The conversations we have already had with friends, family members, neighbors about making a last will and including a charity in it, is our little piece of Richard Radcliffe which makes us better legacy fundraisers. So cherish it and let it grow.

Elsbeth Takkenberg

Elsbeth works as senior fundraiser at VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam. She has previously worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Plan Nederland and the University of Amsterdam. She is specialized in major gifts and legacies and is passionate about building strong and long lasting relationships between NGO's and donors.


Juan · August 29, 2011 at 14:25

Thanks Elsbeth for your blog. It’s great to read something about legacy fundraising.
I totally agree with you about listening to your donors. I have always think to have 3 ears and 1 mouth when speak to donors. I am helping some Asian offices developing its legacy fundraising and your blog support my argument to ask their donors directly to develop case for support. Waiting for your next blog.


Richard Radcliffe · August 30, 2011 at 10:03

Hi Elsbeth and others. Oh what a surprise that was! Well all I can say is I am a very lucky man meeting so many people in so many legacy focus groups and gaining their insight from around the world. I would NEVER have or want another job. But we all still have a lot to do to change the world and get more people doing it! Often it is Trustees/baord members which are the block to investing in this fruitful world of the dead giveaway. Take care Richard

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