Bequest Manager and Scholar Finds UK Study Tour Very Worthwhile


Why did you apply for the AET/Include a Charity gifts in Wills study tour? What sparked your interest?

I have had several roles throughout my fundraising career, leading to my current role as bequest manager for Heart Foundation SA.

I was excited to apply for this study tour as the UK is known for its excellent work in legacy fundraising, as they prefer to call it. It was a great opportunity to further develop my knowledge of gifts in Wills fundraising. The tour has also provided me with further personal development and enabled me to bring these learnings back into my own organisation.

What did you hope to get out of the study tour?

Overall, I hoped to gain insight and knowledge about what is considered best practice in the UK gifts in Wills fundraising sector. I wanted to understand what communication channels charities use to acquire bequest prospects and whether their acquisition and engagement strategies are any different to Australian charities. I also wanted to understand what key metrics UK charities use to measure the success of their gifts in Wills programs, as well as make connections and develop networks with other legacy managers so that we can continue engaging now that the study tour is finished.

You attended the Institute of Fundraising’s legacy conference and networked with people from specialist gifts in Wills organisations. What were some of the key takeaways?

There were three key takeaways from these events:

  • The Importance of gifts in Wills marketing

The restrictions in data collection that have come about with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have heavily influenced how UK charities communicate with their donors and develop their gifts in Wills strategies.

Charities are moving away from traditional communication channels and investing between one and three per cent of their legacy income on legacy awareness marketing campaigns. Most charities have a dedicated marketing team that focuses on awareness and acquisition.

  • The significance of the ‘invisible legator’ (bequestor) to an organisation’s gifts in Wills program

UK research firm Legacy Foresight has investigated charitable gifts that are received ‘out of the blue’ and the reasons why this might occur. In the UK, 80 per cent of bequest income comes from these donors; 51 per cent were totally unknown to the organisation and 35 per cent of gifts came from people known to the charity, but their bequest was unknown. This has also influenced the way charities communicate and engage with their donors.

  • Creating a gifts in Wills culture

Gifts in Wills philosophies are integrated throughout UK charities and are part of their induction process. All staff are trained in the importance of charitable gifts to their organisation and how to have a bequest conversation. They are introduced to the language used and learn how to listen for cues or how to create nudges. The importance of gifts in Wills to a charity is not questioned and investing in bequest fundraising is a given. It is seen as everyone’s responsibility, not just the legacy teams.

What can Australian fundraisers learn from the UK when it comes to gifts in wills fundraising?

Australian charities need to invest in gifts in Wills marketing and include multi-channel communications within their marketing strategy. Developing unique and memorable bequest propositions, which are used as a secondary brand to promote gifts in Wills, is important to advance legacy fundraising in Australia.

Charities also need to consider the ‘invisible legator’ when developing their communication/engagement strategies for bequest prospects. Understanding why some donors choose to disclose their charitable gift to a charity and why others do not, and developing different communication strategies for each of these segments, will also help to improve gifts in Wills fundraising in Australia.

Finally, Australian charity leaders should invest in creating a gifts in Wills culture in their organisations.

What could the UK learn from Australia about gifts in Wills fundraising? What are we doing particularly well?

Increased competition in the gifts in Wills market highlights that a personal connection to a charity is more important than ever.

This is where I believe the UK can learn from Australian fundraisers. UK charities primarily rely on direct mail to inspire and engage with their bequest prospects and consider legacy functions as the best mechanism to build donor engagement.

Australian fundraisers are better at building and developing relationships with donors because they engage on a personal level (e.g. phone conversations, home visits and gifts in Wills functions). Personal interactions are important factors when developing meaningful relationships with our most valued donors. Through engaging with our donors effectively, we are keeping them connected to our charities.

You also spent a day at a charity. What charity did you go to and what did you take away from your visit?

I visited Macmillan Cancer Support which is currently ranked in the top three charities in the UK for gifts in Wills income. Their legacy team is divided into two groups:  legacy promotions and estate administration. For me, there were three takeaways about their work in gifts in wills fundraising:

  • Macmillan had invested in a legacy awareness marketing campaign to highlight the importance of gifts in Wills and had integrated the legacy brand in all their communications
  • they had built a legacy culture within their organisation, ensuring that gifts in Wills are understood by all staff and volunteers
  • they had included estate administration within the legacy team.

Macmillan also offers a free Will-writing service to their supporters which aligns with Free Wills Month in October. They partner with several solicitors and there is no obligation to include a charity in the Will, but solicitors prompt supporters with the question: “have you thought about including a charity in your Will?” This works well for Macmillan and other UK charities incorporate a similar strategy in their legacy programs.

What learnings from the study tour could you now apply to your work at the Heart Foundation?

I have prepared a report for our development team, highlighting some of the different strategies used in the UK. These may be considered as opportunities in our local environments.

It’s not just about the work…the organisers made sure to organise some fun for the study tour scholars at the end of each busy day. What was the best extracurricular activity?

On our last night in London, we had the pleasure of having dinner at the very elegant Savoy Hotel before seeing the musical Dreamgirls at the West End’s Savoy Theatre. It was a great way to finish our four days of intensive study and celebrate our time together.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to do these kinds of study tours?

I would certainly encourage anyone who is interested in undertaking a study tour to apply.

It has been a professional development highlight, having the opportunity to meet and learn about best practice in gifts in Wills fundraising from professionals who specialise in the field.

I know that the knowledge I have gained from the study tour will be incorporated into my fundraising practice for years to some. I have made some amazing UK support networks and lifelong friends who are as passionate about bequests as myself.

Will you be sharing your findings with the local SA fundraising sector?

I hope to share my learnings from the study tour with my SA colleagues in the New Year. I would also like to set up a regular bequest networking group in SA where knowledge can be shared, and support offered for fundraisers in similar roles.

Final thoughts?
A big thank you to Include a Charity and Australian Executor Trustees for this amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

London calling! The seven scholars (and one Include a Charity director!) pause in one of London’s many parks. Front row, left to right: Vicki Rasmussen, Charlie’s Foundation for Research; Eyvette Turner, The Heart Foundation (SA); Ross Anderson, consultant. Second row, left to right: Laura Henschke, MS Ltd; Helen Merrick, Include a Charity; Jakki Travers, The Smith Family. Back row, left to right: Nadia Aden, The Fred Hollows Foundation and Naomi Schofield, International Fund for Animal Welfare.