It’s time to thank your legacy pledgers. Then thank them again.

In our recently-published report on the impact of COVID-19 on the fundraising marketplace and donor decision making, we spoke about the importance of recognising donors who have continued to support you through the crisis and retaining those who have joined because of it.

Perhaps the greatest example of this throughout the coronavirus pandemic is Legacy giving. Legacies have always been an interesting challenge for charities – before they even think about landing the appropriate ask there is the barrier of people writing their wills in the first place. Research even suggests that two thirds of the UK population previously have not had a will.

It’s typically been understood that it’s the big life events that trigger people to write or update their will – changes to family, wealth or health. But there’s no doubt now that coronavirus is a significant life event for us all – as we’ve been told to stay at home, not visit family, and many of us have seen changes in our working life.

This has been reflected in the increased interest in will planning. Google searches indicate a massive spike in ‘how to write a will’ around 23rd March, when the lockdown was announced in the UK. Online will writers Farewill have seen a 300% increase in requests for new wills, according to The Telegraph. The effect is trickling down to charities too – Remember a Charity reports twice as many people visiting their ‘writing a will’ page as would do normally.

Source: Google Trends

It sounds blunt, but this is a rare opportunity for charities. What would in any other circumstances take a significant chunk out of a legacy fundraising budget, is currently happening organically. As people are planning for the future but looking for ways to gain some control over their lives now, they’re taking that first step towards writing their wills and including gifts to charities within them.

So how can charities best make use of this opportunity?

By remembering that supporters should sit at the heart of everything they do. Right now, supporters are looking for information on writing wills – so make sure the information on your website is as up to date as possible. The first rule of behaviour change is to make your desired behaviour easy – so this information should be easy to find, easy to access, and easy to digest.

In every piece of communication about legacies, be mindful about why supporters choose to give in this way. At On, our approach to legacies is to make them personal and popular. We show supporters how their individual gift will have a significant impact on the cause they care about. We use relatable testimonials from living Pledgers to frame legacies as a ‘normal’ thing to do.

Then comes the supporters who have taken actions to include you in their will. Show them how important they are to the cause and the charity, talk about the impact they make. Think about how you can engage with them in the long-term. Having previously conducted interviews with Pledgers of a medical research charity, I’ve learned that these types of supporters truly value the relationship they have with the charity – things like meet the researcher events, receiving impact reports, and staying connected with like-minded supporters.

If your charity does not have a legacy stewardship plan in place, now is the time to create it. And if that plan already exists, you need to adapt it to the current circumstances. Effective donor care now will be remembered long past COVID-19.

In a nutshell: thank your legacy audience now, and think about how you can keep that relationship strong going forward. Don’t give these special supporters a reason to take your charity out of their will further down the line because they’ve questioned the impact that they will make.   

Ready to act? If you want to have a discussion about how we can help with your legacy stewardship, contact us on or call Nick Mawer on 07917 113 157.

Emma Barry, Strategist


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