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The changing world of legacy marketing

The changing world of legacy marketing

To celebrate the tenth year of Week, which kicks off next week (9th – 15th September 2019), Fi Riley, Head of Legacy Marketing at the British Heart Foundation, looks back at how legacy marketing has changed over the past decade.

Cast your mind back to 2009. Britain was reeling from the financial crisis, and the full impact of the crash was not yet being felt. Gordon Brown was Prime Minister but facing growing turmoil in his party. To add to the doom and gloom we were treated to the swine flu epidemic but were slightly redeemed by an Ashes win for England!

In the legacy marketing world, total legacy income was just short of £2 billion – although it was soon to face a two year period of decline – and charity legacies were in the press with the RSPCA Gill case and the Roland Coats story where his daughters received charity mail shots because of a discretionary legacy clause in his will. I was legacy marketing manager at RNID (now Action on
Hearing Loss), learning the legacy marketing ropes from Carol Johns, who I still fondly consider as my work mum, and delivering a new legacy marketing strategy.

Flash forward ten years. Again, I’m implementing a new marketing strategy, in a newly established head of legacy marketing role at the British Heart Foundation, looking forward to the opportunities ahead and the amazing experiences we hope to create for supporters. The sector’s total legacy income has surpassed £3 billion a year and many more charities are entering this marketplace.

How has ten years of growth in the legacy market changed the scene in which my new strategy needs to succeed?

1. Growth in legacy investment

THEN: Getting increased investment in our legacy marketing strategy was a bold move in 2009. Many larger household name charities had been investing in legacies for some time, but it was not as widespread as it is now. Legacies was still seen as something for big brand charities and we were not yet seeing it spread out in a big way to smaller charities or more local causes. For them, short term opportunities were often prioritised over longer term investment.

NOW: Legacy marketing investment is happening for a growing number of charities. Fundraising directors see the value of legacies and are creating mixed fundraising portfolios that have a place for the longer term investment required to be successful in . The marketplace is not just big brand names but a mix of small, medium and large charities, giving
more options to our donors when contemplating who to remember in their will.


2. Supporter centricity is still key

THEN: In 2009 legacy marketing offered the potential for a supporter centric proposition. At RNID we were delivering legacy events and looking at ways to put relationship fundraising front and centre. Meeting supporters face-to-face and having legacy conversations with them, being able to find out what experiences they wanted from us and having this dialogue was done on a
small scale, but with the right intentions to ensure our supporters were central to our strategy.

NOW: Ten years on and the desire to drive supporter centricity through relationship fundraising is now supported by sophisticated CRM systems that can get us there further, faster: automated communications that offer bespoke journeys to supporters and multiple opportunities for two way conversations with supporters.

We are now able to deliver a supporter centric approach, using our systems to understand supporter preferences (and record them in a GDPR compliant way). With our systems taking the leg work out of the process, our energy is freed up for genuine interactions with supporters, offering engagement and conversations with ease.


3. The rise of digital

THEN: Digital was growing but legacy marketing with its focus on an older audience was not always using digital to its full potential. Digital as part of a strategy often didn’t go beyond a clear web page. Many charities used a precedent set by Blue Frog from their ‘Generating Legacies Online’ series, which set out a useful list of what charity legacy pages should include to maximise
legacy promotions online.

NOW: Digital is so key to building engagement with supporters that for many charities it is becoming a lead channel to drive their marketing strategies. UNICEF were highly commended in 2018’s digital trading awards for their digital legacy campaign. At British Heart Foundation we launched our digital ‘always on’ campaign in 2018 and the learnings have allowed us to go from
strength to strength in this channel. It’s not just marketing that is benefitting from the rise of digital.

With a multitude of online Will-writing services available, we can now see disruptive opportunities for will making that would previously have been out of reach for our supporters.


Ten years on legacy marketing continues to be a community of people who share best practice, put their supporters at the heart of their decisions and strive for excellence. The direction of travel we were following ten years ago has not changed drastically: the core components of successful legacy marketing are still what they were.

What has changed in the intervening years are the systems, technology and investment to scale legacy marketing up to reach its potential. With this scale of investment we have greater opportunities to deliver amazing experiences for our supporters, to manage their experiences and to ensure we can secure legacy income for the longer term.

British Heart Foundation is one of the 200+ charities working together as part of Remember A Charity to grow the legacy market, normalising gifts in Wills. Find out more at

About Fi Riley

Fi Riley is Head of Legacy Marketing at the British Heart Foundation. Fi has worked in fundraising for over 14 years. During her career she has also been the chair of Will Aid and served on committees for Remember a Charity’s Executive Group and for the Institute of Fundraising’s Legacy and In-Memory Giving Special Interest Group. She has written a chapter on legacy conversations for the Department of Social Change’s legacy giving textbook and is a regular speaker in the legacy sector.


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