Legacy Fundraising 101… Fresh from the IFC!

Published by Juan Hendrawan on

This is my first blog for 101fundraising and it was my first time at an IFC masterclass.

Since part of my job is developing legacy fundraising in new markets, Mitch Hinz, my boss, decided to put me in the legacy masterclass this year. The speakers were Stephen George and Allan Freeman.

In the masterclass, we discussed about things that seemed all logic and just common sense, but you never realized it until someone actually told you! At least that’s what happened to me. The masterclass for me was a complete legacy 101.

I will not write all the stuff that we discussed in the masterclass. I don’t have the slideshow from the masterclass yet, and I did not take much note (Oops!). I am a listener (a typical legacy fundraiser) and cannot do two things in the same time. Therefore, I always heavily rely on my memory. :-)

First of all, I was honestly hoping to get more information about new markets to build legacy fundraising in Asia and other new markets. But the masterclass was UK-centric and both, Stephen and Allan, had been super clear about this since the beginning. Fair enough!

Easy to Say, Difficult to Actually Do It!

Legacy is not only about DEATH but also about LIFE. We need to simply change the way we think about life and death. We should celebrate DEATH with a joy and see it as a new beginning rather than an ending… Therefore, hopefully we can make everybody comfortable to talk about legacy giving. If your colleagues, volunteers, pledgers, trustees, board members, can talk and be legacy fundraisers, wouldn’t it be fantastic? Instead of only having you as a legacy fundraiser, you’ll have hundreds of legacy fundraisers. Especially now that word of mouth can be a strong tool to spread a message.

Story is important. A good story is essential in all fundraising channels and to come up with good stories and “not lazy” propositions isn’t easy. The example of laziness is: “If there is a way, there is a WILL“.  Anyway, besides a good story, the conversation between you and your donors is one of the key successes. Building the trust and loyalty is part why the conversation is playing an important role. A lot of legacies messages and stories are playing with your emotions. You don’t believe me? Just watch the video below from NSPCC:


Conversation is essential

Wipe your tears because we are getting serious here. We also discussed about the barriers why some people don’t leave legacies. To be honest, I don’t remember all of the solutions but, I think, the right conversation to your donors can be the key to overcome the challenges. The conversation is important to build trust and loyalty.

  • People will always want friends, family, loved ones to come first and might think there isn’t enough room in their will for charity. Solution? Inform them about residuary legacy!
  • People often think that a legacy should be large sum of money. They need to be wealthy to leave a legacy. What you need to do is to communicate. You need to make sure you communicate to them that no matter how much their gift, it will make a difference! (In fact, nobody knows how wealthy they will be when they pass away).
  • Future looks bleak. In this recession time and uncertainty, people can be nervous about committing a legacy to charity. People will think about their retirement and health care. Longevity means to worry about cash. You need to communicate about the possibility of small legacies and reversionary will. Plus, remember what Richard Radcliffe always says, “Legacies are life driven and death activated“.
  • Changing a will can be expensive and hard work. How about codicil or letter of wishes? Have you informed your potential pledgers about it.
  • People simply have a different culture. Well, again we simply need to inform and communicate with them about what is a legacy and why we need it. WWF introduced legacy giving in Greece last year and the response was pretty good, although legacies are not popular in Greece.

Drip, Drip, Drip…

Now, we will discuss quickly about the marketing channels for legacy fundraising. Good to remember the drip marketing motto. Drip marketing can be used in communications strategy to legacy donors or prospects over time. The messages are dripped in a series of communication channels with a legacy message. It’s usually in direct marketing or newsletters. Hopefully, by the time your prospects want to make a legacy, they will remember your charity.

  • Direct mail: Good for older donors. Young donors will not read it. Members who already share your values is better. Many people won’t tell you about the gift in their will. The response you generate only shows one particular mailing, but not the final result. Bear in mind: use a large font, indent paragraphs, be careful with colour, white or light-text in a coloured background is also difficult to read.
  • Telephone: Time of calling is crucial. Make a special legacy call or one very simple question in the end of another call. Manage your telemarketing well, otherwise it could be a disaster. Some people will even take out your charity from their will after a bad call. Handle your call with sensitivity. Be polite, quick and effective.
  • Website: Provide with testimonials, PIC pictures (Person In Charge; your legacy contact person), and a form to request additional information. Visiting your website should be a pleasurable experience for your potential pledgers. I personally love Amnesty UK’s and Great Ormond Street Hospital’s legacy pages. Do you have a favourite too? Let me know!
  • Newsletter: Focus on language for older donors. They love a thing that is tangible.
  • Advertisement: Be specific and focused. Put you ads in a specific magazine like Forever Young, Senior Choice and supporter communications.
  • Event: Mixed audience (existing and potential pledgers). Make clear objectives, is it a legacy event? If so, make it clear upfront, or is it just a general event with a presentation from the field project?
  • Video: Don’t make it too long. Maximum duration is 30 minutes if the DVD is sent to supporters’ home. If you have a simple video and only publish it in social media, use the video-tags properly, so your donors/prospects can find it easily. A simple video of pledgers testimonials can be beneficial for you.
  • Face to face: Get to know your donors and their motivation; nurturing the relationship.… Remember to be gracious, grateful, understanding and listen, listen, listen.

Team up!

Benchmarking with your competitors and join professional organizations (Remember Charity-UK, Legado Solidario-Spain, the Canadian Association of Gift Planner, etc.).

Professional organizations (consortium) can be really helpful to promote legacies in your market. So, if your country doesn’t have one, team up and make one! (Again, it’s easy to say than to do it, right?)

Also how about legacies in social media? Can legacy giving work in Social Media? Is it too risky? Are you just playing a risk management with it? What do you think? Please let me know what you think!

That’s it for now… My blog is getting too long now…

Thanks and ’till next time! :-)


This blog post is the third in a series of 6 blog posts covering the IFC 2011:

– IFC: folding letters and licking envelopes! – Reinier Spruit
– I Am The Comms Devil – Margaux Smith
Legacy Fundraising 101… Fresh from the IFC! – Juan Hendrawan
– Thursday 27 October: Sonya Swiridjuk
– Monday 31 October: Ellen Janssens
– Thursday 3 November: Julie Verhaar

Juan Hendrawan

Juan Hendrawan

Juan is a member of WWF's international fundraising development department focusing on individual fundraising. As part as his job he is responsible for helping WWF's offices worldwide to build its legacies fundraising program. He also organizes workshops, internal websites and knowledge exchange within WWF fundraisers. He is based in Belgium and an avid dressage rider (loves horses and dogs).


Mitch Da Boss (WWF) · October 24, 2011 at 15:04

Great blog, Juan. Obviously I did the right thing sending you! Thanks for taking the time to sum things up, because any group not doing legacies is really missing the boat. A little “drip” here and there can cost pennies, and bring in, literally, millions. Show me another channel with that ROI!

– Mitch

    Juan Hendrawan · October 24, 2011 at 23:04

    Thanks Mitch.
    I hope we can bring more offices to improve their legacies program next year! :)

Rebecca Davies · October 25, 2011 at 01:10

Thanks for this post, Juan. Hope to see more from you. Regarding broaching different cultures on the subject of legacies, I suspect there is more to it than you were able to write about here. Do you have any more examples? It’s in my planning for 2012 to develop diaspora philanthropy here in Canada for my charity.

    Juan Hendrawan · October 25, 2011 at 09:58

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks a lot! I love your blogs especially the last one “Advise to Professor”… :)
    We are just starting to try to build legacies in other new markets and markets that haven’t fulfilled their potential. I have examples (marketing materials) from WWF Hong Kong but it’s not published yet so I cannot share it with you now. Other than that I have materials example from Greece and New Zealand. I also hope we can do some research next year for legacy giving in Asia. I am talking to Singapore and Finland too.

    In Canada, we are trying to organise legacy event this year and I can inform you how it goes, if you like.

    Would you like to see the marketing materials? If so, I will send it by email plus more details stuff about what I do..


Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit · October 25, 2011 at 20:52

Great first post Juan! You’ve set a new record for LIKES for a <25 year old!

Quick question: What percentage of your gross fundraising income should come from legacies according your experience? So not necessarily what WWF’s goal is, but what YOU think is the potential… (taking markets and organization specifics into consideration)?

    Juan Hendrawan · October 26, 2011 at 13:02

    Thanks Reinier! :)

    Well, in my humble opinion, looking out numbers, it would be good to have legacies income at least 20-25% of your total individual fundraising income. If it can be more, then it’s good. I don’t know with other organisations with more popular legacy cause (cancer research, hospice, etc.).

    At WWF, we don’t have many national offices that have more than 20% legacy income out of its total individual fundraising income. So, we still have lots work to do… :)

Stephen George · October 28, 2011 at 17:56


Thanks for this and a great summary of the masterclass. The thing to remember about the UK side of things is that in a sunsequent workshop, we discussed how much of this is about human being rather than country specific. Michael Johnston from canada was in that session and absoutely concured that 80% of content is global and relevant, 20% is about the nation, culture and legal framework of where you are. So, our point up front was that these examples and experience could be applied anywhere. You have summarised this really well and for readers its important to remember that a conversation is your goal. The outcome will flow from that.

Hope all is well, and as promised if you need anything else drop me a line

    Juan Hendrawan · October 31, 2011 at 12:27

    Thanks a lot Stephen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *