I am bored to death. Are you dying to be different?

Published by Richard Radcliffe on

Is this a tasteless headline or attention grabbing?  Does it matter if it’s tasteless?

Let’s get legacy giving noticed

How many legacy campaigns are noticed? In focus groups it is truly frightening to discover that most legacy articles, posters, leaflets and even bookmarks go unnoticed.

There are two reasons for this message blindness:

  • The blandness of the content of legacy-related communications
  • The automatic assumption that prospects think a gift in a will is not for them – either because they have a family and dismiss a charity without further thought, or they think they cannot afford it. There might be the “I have got to die to leave a will” syndrome as well.

Getting prospects off their bottoms

Then we have the call to action, which is just not a subject to discuss over breakfast or lunch or whilst on holiday or during a fun day out.  Imagine for one moment you are retired. You wake up and you think: Shall we make our will today or book a cruise?  The answer is blindingly obvious.

Then we have the bland problem – the dullness of legacy visions. Having recently been on 40 websites – I choose one a day to ensure wakefulness – they have merged into a cloudy oneness that gives me no enthusiasm to act.

If a legacy campaign ever hits the headlines it will probably be fake news. We must change this.

Driving engagement

Legacies are almost invariably driven by personal experience and engagement supported by brand awareness. This means that passion to make a difference is running high. But often it is running high to support NOW and not LATER. Our donors are thinking about “today” and not “tomorrow”.

We must urge donors to take note of your charity’s ambitious, tangible vision, which expresses some urgency (but not too much, which can result in thoughts of “they want me dead now ”.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.  TS Eliot

Let’s throw away polite, nice, cuddly pussycat communications and explode with radical off-the wall- iconoclastic and really exciting campaigns. Let’s get under the skin of prospects so they get off their damned bottoms and act or even complain. There is nothing like a complaint; it shows passion and care.

Let’s be outrageous, tacky, tasteless, inspiring and mind-changing and blow them out of their chair, bed, garden, bar or toilet to head to their professional adviser screaming, “I can be part of this”.

The timing is perfect: Prime prospects are now baby boomers who, compared to previous generations of legators, are more radical in their giving, more inquisitive about performance and think more about outcomes than previous generations.

Decades ago, when the primary prospects  were single, older females, we could all afford to be nice and cuddly because those prospects did not have a family –there was no competition with families. The cat/dog was their last friend and so the cat/dog charity got their legacy. This all sounds so patronising — it’s not meant to be. But over the last 30 years, the gender split of legators in the UK (the only country with 100 percent of information on every legator) has changed from over 80 percent females to 60 percent females. And these females are now baby boomers who have been in business and think about legacies along business lines. The legacy decision is driven by the vision – but the need for a will drives action.

Combine a radical and noticeable vision + a radical will-making message and it will happen. These intelligent donors are NOT satisfied with a “cuddly pussycat” approach.

We have to hit them between the eyes, brain and heart.    

If we continue to be nice and polite or (God forbid) apologetic about the need for legacies, we will in the end fail. Legacy growth will be dead.

Let’s sock it to them (as they said in the 1960s.)

The legacy masterclass at the IFC this year (run by Denise Fernandes of  Sickkids Canada and me) is going to challenge every boundary we can imagine. In a way, Sickkids already has with its brilliant Fund the Fight campaign. The subject for the legacy workshops at IFC is one of the most important issues we face: the call to action to get them off their bottoms. 

[Editor’s note: This post is part of a series leading up to two Resource Alliance events — IFC Asia, The Resource Alliance’s premier event in the Asia Pacific region, taking place 26-28 June in Bangkok; and IFC 2017, taking place 17-20 October in the Netherlands.]

Categories: Latest posts

Richard Radcliffe

Richard Radcliffe is founder of Radcliffe Consulting, which helps charities to get more legacies. He is author of “Why legacies are brilliant for charities and how to get them,” recently published by Smee & Ford. He has almost 30 years’ experience in legacy fundraising and works across our globe.


madlinsudn · May 17, 2017 at 11:33

Great post. I wrote this a couple of years ago about how to make online legacy fundraising pages persuasive and engaging. It is still hard to find good examples – https://madlinblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/legacy-fundraising/

    Charles O'Neil · May 17, 2017 at 21:28

    Thanks for your comment. You have gathered a lot of great material.

Charles O'Neil · May 17, 2017 at 21:29

Thanks as always for a thought-provoking piece, Richard.

Della Weight · May 18, 2017 at 20:25

Thanks for such a passionate article. If only charity fundraising directors and senior management were as passionate about legacy marketing and gave this area the budget to match the potential and gave legacy staff freedom to really speak to donors about making a Will.

Simone Joyaux · May 20, 2017 at 13:00

Thank you, Richard. GREAT STUFF! See you at IFC 2017.

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