7 Things We Learned (so far) About Legacies During The Pandemia

While we’re not out of the woods yet and some countries are slowly and carefully starting to deconfine,

While we’re not out of the woods yet and some countries are slowly and carefully starting to deconfine, we are seeing a shift happening. Yes, most nonprofits have to deal with a significant financial hit but the general mood is starting to shift away from “o-m-g what do we do?” to “ok the worst is probably behind us, now what?”.

Talking with legacy colleagues and friends from around the globe, lately the conversation has been on what we’ve observed happening surrounding legacy fundraising as a result of this pandemia. Here are some key learnings to consider when you begin to work on your next fundraising plan:

1)   Legacy marketing must focus more on digital channels

Organizations that use different channels to market their legacy programs or those that were able to quickly pivot fared better than others. A 2018 study by the Pew Institute showed that Facebook and YouTube are the top platforms used by older adults.

What does this mean for your organization? That we must stop subscribing to the assumption that older donors are not online and start marketing right where they are.

2)   A strong legacy website

Having a good legacy website that is inspiring, donor-centered and provides the information the donors or a legal advisor needs to write or update a will cannot be understated here. The legacy page should also be easy to find (no more than two clicks from the home page) and an easy to find contact person’s name with a clickable email and telephone number. Better yet, include a contact form right on the page where donors can download documents to help them with will writing.

3)   Importance of internal communications

Many have spoken of the importance of not only managing up but also managing down and sideways. What that means is internally communicating and demonstrating the value that legacies bring to the organization’s current and future financial stability.

This can be done by telling the stories of living and past legacy donors, demystifying the complexity of legacy marketing and solicitation, and most importantly, the colossal importance of having a strong donor journey from the moment the donor joins makes their first donation, and then, continually providing value so they stay the course until such date when they can leave a gift in their will.

4)   Growth of the legacy program

We have seen in the past two months and a half months a huge increase in people  writing or updating their will. From Canada to the UK to Australia and everywhere in between. Without wanting to appear crass, the reality is that this has been an opportunity for acquisition and for obtaining pledge confirmations. Organizations that decided to halt their legacy programs have sadly suffered from short-sightedness (more on that in point 7 👇🏼).

5)   Diversifying funding sources is a must

This became apparent very quickly at the beginning of the pandemic. Organizations that are struggling the most are those whose fundraising portfolio depend mostly on a few revenue channels, such as face-to-face, special events, admissions or memberships. In some cases it’s through no fault of theirs, it’s just the nature of the sector they work in (museums, arts organizations, etc.).

For others, it can be due to lack of knowledge, strategy or human resources. If anything this situation has taught us is that no one is immune to crises (remember the 2009 Great Recession, what if your organization had started diversifying its funding sources then? See a previous post that touches on this).

6)   Human resources is key

Having enough staff with the right training and with the right tools has proven fundamental during this crisis. There’s A LOT to unpack here! 

No longer can organizations continue hiring staff without the skills to do their job effectively.

No longer can organizations deprive their staff of a professional development budget to gain or to upskill their craft.

No longer can organizations continue to expect one person to do the work of 5 while hanging the threat of not meeting fundraising goals over their head.

Fundraising is a revenue generating department and if you want more revenue, you have to invest. And if you want to keep your fundraiser for a long time, take care of them, listen to their expert advice and let them do their job.

7)   Donors like to be called

This has been the BIGGEST observation. You are probably saying, “well yes, of course!”. No, non, niet. Some fundraisers were told by their EDs or CEOs that they could not contact donors for fear of burdening them during this difficult time. Donors care for your organization and for the people you are helping. They also are struggling and more than ever they could have used that kind call which for some, may have been the only call they received all day.

And no, not one fundraiser reported saying that donors were upset that they were called. Quite the contrary. They felt seen, they felt appreciated, they felt part of your organization’s family. Want to venture a guess as to which organization they’ll think of next time they make a donation, or when they decide to write or update their will?!.

Take Action now

Here are a few things you can start doing:

A)  Internally promote the heck out your legacy program

Demystify those myths and break down those walls that people put up because they think all we legacy fundraisers do is talk about death.

B)  Go digital

Develop legacy marketing content specifically for Facebook and for YouTube. Facebook ads, FB lives, short YouTube videos showing your organization’s work, etc. are great lead generation and engagement tools.

C)  Adapt your offline legacy content for your website

Make sure you are as inspiring online and you are offline and look into online will writing services.

D)  Thoughtful stewardship

Don’t stop, no matter what any CEO, board member or consultant says. As Mark Philips over at Bluefrog Fundraising remarked during a conference presentation: They Are Not Your Donor. You Are One Of Their Charities.

E)  Invest in your people 

To be successful you need trained staff that are on top of latest trends, techniques and insights. That small investment will be returned in increased revenue guaranteed!

So what are you going to tackle first? What quick win can you secure now?


And if you’re saying to yourself: “Right, let’s do it. Let’s start a legacy program”. The next Online Legacy Bootcamp starts on June 15 and for a limited time, I’m offering a 20% discount off the regular price – that is a $540 savings. Simply complete this registration form TODAY!

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