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Giving tomorrow: legacy and in-memory fundraising of the future and the implications for fundraisers

Giving tomorrow: legacy and in-memory fundraising of the future and the implications for fundraisers

There’s no doubt UK society will see some fundamental shifts over the next 25 years, including many people living well into their 90s, more people remaining child-free and the biggest intergenerational transfer of wealth ever seen, as the baby boomer generation dies out.

Given current trends, we predict that legacy and in-memory donations to UK charities will be worth twice as much in 25 years’ time, reaching £10 billion in real terms by 2045.

People will choose to split their giving between more causes and technology will help to level the playing field, enabling the smallest charities and community groups to reach and inspire supporters. This all means that competition is going to increase for donors’ money. It will be a challenging new world, but one that charities and fundraisers should start to harness now.

Legacy Foresight has been at the forefront of the UK legacy and in-memory markets for 25 years, providing data, insight and forecasts that have helped shape these £5 billion sectors.

Since our first project in 1994 we have worked with over 200 charities, including the top 20 UK fundraising brands.

And in that time we’ve seen charities’ approach to legacy and in-memory giving become ever more sophisticated. From simple ‘write to us for your free booklet’ asks, to today’s tech-orientated long-term relationship building, the value of investing in legacy and in-memory giving is increasingly recognised across the sector.

In a report to mark our 25th anniversary (Giving Tomorrow: Legacy and In-Memory 2045), we presented ten predictions for legacy and in-memory giving, and asked a panel of experts about the implications for fundraisers, both now and in the future.
Here’s what they had to say.


1. What are you waiting for? Invest now, or risk losing out

The long-term outlook for legacy and in-memory fundraising is extremely positive, thanks to wealthy baby-boomers, but it’s also going to be far more competitive. Fundraisers must start to plan their strategies now:

• Give your team the means to make things happen
• Balance strategic nous with intuition and creativity
• Fire up the whole organisation

Rob Cope, Director of Remember a Charity:

“It’s very simple. You’ve got to invest in legacies now. In the next 25 years we will see a significant increase in potential income. Baby boomers will die off, and it will be the biggest transfer of wealth from generation to generation there has been in history. You are either a part of that, or you’re not.”


Karen Rothwell, Director of Fundraising at Greenpeace UK:

“Your legacy plan for 2045 needs to start now. The people who will be leaving legacies then may already be in your supporter base. Who are they, what are their needs and expectations? Get real insight about what matters to your supporters and provide them with high quality interactions on their terms.”


2. We’re all human. Make an emotional connection

In the future people will be far happier to talk about death and plan their own passing – including telling family and friends exactly how they want to be remembered. The one thing that won’t change in legacy and in-memory fundraising is the importance of real human interaction:

• Listen and learn from your donors
•  Change the language – on their terms, not yours
•  The world changes, motivations stay the same

Ross Anderson, Gifts in Wills Manager for RSPCA Victoria:

“Have the ability to change the way you communicate. It’s not about us, it’s about the donor and their story. If you’re not investing in relationship management and getting to know your donors and supporters, you are probably going to come a cropper.”

Eifron Hopper, Legacy Income Manager at RNLI:

“We increasingly have to recognise the need to be donor-focused and tell them what they can achieve by making a gift, and not what they can help us to do. This will only increase as people become more discerning.”


3. Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!

Creativity is key. By 2045 people will use films, recordings, texts and holograms to communicate their final wishes. The way charities interact with their supporters will change too, with virtual reality (VR) and other digital innovations bringing donors into direct contact with beneficiaries, allowing them to envisage the impact of their gift while they are still alive.

Make the most of these developments and innovate:
• Look outside your own sector for inspiration: overseas, other channels, social enterprise
• Tell good stories: VR, digital and social media
• Connect beneficiaries with donors

Fundraising and leadership expert, Stephen George:

“We need much more creativity and innovation. We already know a lot about what works and what doesn’t. But where’s the innovation? That all needs prototyping, testing, appetite and leadership.”

Rob Cope:

“From a tech point of view I would expect to see more of a level playing field in the future. When I started, the big charities were the ones able to put big budgets behind legacies, but now smaller charities are able to reach out through local community forums and social media – effectively, efficiently and at very low cost.”


4. Stop fundraising. Start building relationships

There will be significant shifts in terms of how charities and donors interact, with individuals expecting a far bigger say in how and where their support is used.

• Integrate thinking across channels, audiences, campaigns
• Engage throughout the donor cycle – not just at the end
• Don’t dictate, collaborate – work alongside donors to drive transformation

Nick Pride, Fundraising Strategy Director at WPNC:

“The more we connect with supporters on their terms, the more natural and obvious it is to move from how you can help in your lifetime to how you can help after your death.”


Dan Carter, Global Legacy Director, IFAW:

“We’ll see more people investing time, wanting to help over and above just money. We will see more and more social-led activity. We’ll see more sophistication in the legacy market. Legacies will be up there with other fundraising streams in terms of being respected. We have to make sure we are personalising things more to ensure we can continue to grow and are engaging people in relationships, rather than just pushing things at them all the time.”

There is great work being done by legacy and in-memory fundraisers today, but charities must continue to make the case for support. The next decades will bring huge – and as yet largely untapped – potential for growth, which will be crucial for charities in the years to come.

To read the full report visit Legacy Foresight.


Meg Abdy is Development Director at Legacy Foresight.

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