Taking legacies online: how charities can use digital to boost legacy fundraising

Often seen as one of the most traditional arms of charity fundraising, legacy marketing has leapt into the digital arena in recent years and is all the better for it

Guest Writer | 23rd Nov 17

Often seen as one of the most traditional arms of charity fundraising, legacy marketing has leapt into the digital arena in recent years and is all the better for it, says Louise Pavoni, Digital Communications Manager at Remember A Charity.

Not so long ago, legacy fundraising was strictly an offline affair: often deemed a sensitive topic aimed largely at people of a ‘certain age’, with the assumption that a letter was usually the best way to reach out to new or potential supporters. But we’re now in a very different world – one rife with silver surfers and new social channels, giving charities the chance to engage new audiences via digital and help them understand the impact of leaving a legacy.

Almost eight in ten 65-74 year olds now use the internet according to the Office for National Statistics. In fact, nearly half (48%) of internet users aged 65-74 now have a social media profile, while among over 75s, the proportion with a profile nearly doubled between 2015 and 2016 – from 19% to 41%[1].

So, with the over 60s increasingly embracing the internet, plus a need to engage new and younger audiences, digital channels are fast becoming one of the most effective ways for charities to get the legacy conversation started. While digital won’t replace your offline communication strategy, it should certainly be an important part of the mix.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of digital for your legacy fundraising programme:


Tell a good story

Storytelling really encourages people to connect with your cause and the motivations of fellow supporters. Turn pledger stories into shareable blogs, social posts and video content, like this short film from RNIB with its subtle legacy message at the end. Talk about what legacies enable you to do, and who they make a difference to, like Blesma, which shares photos of people they have supported on Twitter, and Action for Children, which has created eye-catching posts on Instagram to show what even a small gift can achieve.

Video tells a story like nothing else (as in NSPCC’s What will we leave? campaign), while social media is great for driving conversation through shared content and storytelling, encouraging people to ask questions and share views and comments This is key in helping to normalise legacies.

It’s also helpful to put it in your own words, as in this Facebook video from Marie Curie’s legacy advisor explaining that legacies are its largest source of income, funding half of the charity’s nurses and four hospices.


Nostalgia is key

Research shows that legacy giving is connected to the part of the brain that recalls autobiographical memories, so encouraging nostalgia can be particularly powerful. Unicef does this really well with its personalised timeline video, providing a journey down memory lane with moments that shaped your childhood, while simultaneously showing what was happening then for Unicef and the world’s children. Guide Dogs inspired nostalgia by posting black and white photos of a child with a wheelbarrow full of puppies among a series of dated images to help build resonance with their target audience. When Remember A Charity recently A/B tested a Facebook post to make it more emotive, we found that targeting by interests and incorporating nostalgic content and images, with a small budget behind it, resulted in more shares, likes and comments, and increased reach by more than 900%.


Keep legacies in plain sight

Make some noise about legacies by regularly sharing messages about gifts in Wills across a range of channels and media. Post infographics, images, quotes and video clips like The Wildlife Trusts or the V&A, whose eye-catching GIF on Instagram generated more than 14,000 likes.

Take part in campaigns such as our own Remember A Charity in your Will Week, which sees more than 200 charities come together with government and the legal sector each September to promote gifts in Wills. There is also the annual Free Wills Month in October and others.

Harness relevant hashtags to increase your reach as Cats Protection did this September when it asked supporters to #HaveYourSay about what they dreamed of for cats in the future.  You could also drip-feed your legacy message via campaigns like #GivingTuesday, #CharityTuesday or #WednesdayWisdom, to gain exposure.


Be bold with your website

Make legacies a core part of your website by integrating messaging across your homepage and campaign landing pages. Share stories that show their impact, with practical information about how to or where to find out more. Don’t be afraid to be bold; the British Heart Foundation dedicated its homepage to legacies recently and while this is rare to see, it has real impact. Street League’s approach ­– using a video case study as evidence of the effect gifts in Wills can have – is another strong example.

While practical information is important, more than anything keep the focus on inspiring supporters with the power of a legacy. And – it sounds obvious – but make sure digital content links back to your dedicated webpage with information about how supporters can make a pledge or write a charity into their Will.


Use social media to tackle myths and taboos

Social media is the ideal platform to be more light-hearted and humorous than on other channels. Because it allows for dynamic and emotive content, social is the perfect space to break down barriers. One of the biggest fears charities often have is that talking legacies is a conversation about death. And yet, the most successful campaigns shift the lens onto the impact and importance of legacies, inspiring people to want to make a difference well beyond their lifetime.

As for humour, try using GIFs and video to capture people’s attention and get your point across creatively. Unicef has a great piece on BuzzFeed, which uses comic GIFs to help it dispel myths about leaving a gift to the charity.


Be brave

Digital, and particularly social media, allows for big impact and reach for relatively little spend. Some of the best campaigns have been ones that have broken away from the norm, so don’t be afraid to try new things. CRUK used the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto with a missing third of the score, to show to great effect the role legacies play in funding its work. This video from Save the Children saw children share their dreams for the future to inspire giving. Keep on testing different ideas, creative approaches, channels, messaging and targeting to see what gets the best responses and from whom. A few tweaks here and there can often make all the difference in inspiring your supporter base.


Louise leads on Remember A Charity’s digital communications and strategy, working to raise our online profile and help make gifts in Wills a social norm. She manages the website and social media channels, digital advertising and delivers a range of online content.

[1] Ofcom Adult Media Use & Attitudes Report 2017