7 things you should never say in a legacy conversation

Ashley Rowthorn 10 simple tips for effective legacy fundraising Leave a Comment

There are quite a few misconceptions about how you should talk to people about legacy giving. Often this is routed in fear about what we might be asked to do or say as our roles as fundraisers or volunteers. We worry about having to have awkward and personal conversations with people we don’t know – but the reality is very different. Great legacy fundraising is about telling stories of the causes and people we care about. Do that right and the gifts will follow.

So as a bit of fun, we’ve put together a list of things you definitely shouldn’t say in a legacy conversation, and hopefully help give you an idea of what you might say instead.

1. “Woulds’t thou consider bequeathing the residue of thine estate oh benevolent one?

It might make us feel important to know all the technical language, but our donors really aren’t impressed – in fact they’re down right confused. So keep it nice and simple, and say what you mean.


2. “I know we’ve only just met, but how about including us in your Will?”

The legacy conversation isn’t one to dive straight into – like asking someone to move in with you on a first date. The relationship just isn’t ready for that yet! All too often we can be guilty of this, when we approach members of the public with cold legacy messages – such as targeting the local solicitor or funeral home with our leaflets. Much better to get people engaged and build up the story over time.

3. “Those kids are probably going to squander it anyway”.

We’ve said it before, but the single biggest barrier to legacy giving is having children. There is a strong biological driver to providing for family, and charities need to realise they come second. So have clear ‘family-first’ messaging is vital, as well as a clear reason why they should consider leaving a share of what’s left.

4. “So I’ll swing by next week to witness that Will and make sure the legacy gift is all tickety-boo”.

Our job as fundraisers is to inspiring people to give, and make them feel great in the process. We’re not solicitors or financial advisors, so let’s stay well away from the Will making process. Of course we can point people in the right direction, but the donor should always make the decision in private with their own independent support and advice.

5. “Of course you can restrict it to our left-handed vegan cheese making project in South Tyneside”

From time to time you may have to have an honest conversation with your donors about their desire to restrict a legacy gift. While we absolutely want to make sure their gift is spent according to their wishes, we also need to avoid the pitfalls of future restrictions that cannot be met. Be honest and upfront if your charity isn’t able to guarantee that projects will be running in the future, instead suggest that they loosen the restriction to a wider region or broader project, or better yet, make a case that they trust you to decide where the biggest impact will be.

6. “Please tick one of the the following boxes, so we can thank you in the most appropriate way:”
[  ] Blatantly ignore you
[  ] Send a half-hearted token gesture
[  ] With a hint of sarcasm
[  ] Over-the-top, gushy and unbelievable

If we’re being honest, we’re not always that great when it comes to saying thank you. At worst, we might say nothing at all, or maybe just send an uninspiring thank you letter with an annual review and a token card at Christmas.

Getting the thank you right is so important, and worth spending time on. Make sure it is genuine and think outside the box – maybe even surprise them. This is your chance to make them feel great for what they have done and reaffirm that it was the right decision for them.

If you’re struggling for ideas, check out the SOFII website which has some nice examples which you can use. http://sofii.org/article/sample-thank-you-letters-for-you-to-swipe

7. “Are you dead yet?”

Now obviously no fundraiser would ever say that, but we can inadvertently suggest this through some of our communications. We all want to keep in touch with our legacy supporters, but doing this too regularly or without any real reason may just feel like your checking in on them. Put yourself in their shoes and really critique every communication – it should strengthen their relationship and add value. And of course, only with the right consent.

Need help with your legacy messaging?

If you could use some support to develop clear and compelling legacy messaging that will encourage your donors to leave a legacy, we'd love to help.

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