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Legacies: Why the buck stops with you

Blog post   •   Jun 17, 2016 11:59 BST

If you’re a trustee and you’re reading this, the bottom line is that the buck stops with you.

These are not my words, but a clear warning from the Charity Commission’s updated fundraising guidance for trustees last week.

The guidance emphasises the need for boards to have “effective oversight over fundraising”.

If you’re a trustee, like me, then the message is clear: Trustees now have ultimate responsibility for fundraising and must ensure that their charity complies with the law and follows best practice.

So what does this mean for small charities? Well, the good news is that everyone in the organisation must now understand the importance of fundraising.

Let’s take legacies as a prime example. For too long, too many charities have viewed legacies as money that ‘just comes in’. A lack of understanding between investment and return has led to a lack of support in this area.

But attitudes within charities and among the public are changing.

Recent figures from Remember A Charity and Smee & Ford show that the number of charities named in a Will in Britain rose by 10% in the past year.

More charities are benefiting from gifts in Wills. The trick is making every charity’s staff, volunteers and trustees understand that they need to be all “loud about legacies”.

So how’s this done?

Paint a picture

Words matter when it comes to legacies. Use phrases like “gift in Will”, not “legacy” or “bequest”

Inspire your supporters with a vision for the future. Paint a picture of the world you can create together. Leave the technical language to the solicitor

Encourage your supporters to write a professional drafted Will. You can find a list of charitably-minded solicitors and Will-writers on our postcode search

A good chinwag

Legacy fundraising is all about a good chinwag, as one experienced fundraiser once told me.

“As 50% of our income comes from community fundraising, our community team were trained to promote legacies,” explains Michael Clark from Cystic Fibrosis.

Equip your staff and board to have the confidence to have a conversation about the amazing difference a gift in a Will could make.

It doesn’t have to be expensive

Integrate your legacy fundraising, drip-feeding your message in all communications.

Put a case study in your newsletter or e-bulletin. Or talk about it on social media.

“We delivered a digital legacy campaign that blew away the success of our normal activity on social media,” explains Marie Curie’s Dan Carter.

And when was the last time you put your legacy message on your website homepage?

Your charity shop or reception area are also great opportunities to create conversation.

Map a path

Map a path from where you are to where you want to be. This takes time, planning and investment.

Decide what funding your charity needs from its legacy fundraising:

Why do you need it?

And when will it be achieved?

Measure the right stuff

All fundraising needs to measure success. Just make sure that you measure the right things.

Measuring pledgers isn’t a reliable measure. So how about a mix of measures like:


Web traffic to your legacy page


The potential for legacy fundraising in every small charity is massive. It only takes one gift to make a transformational difference. 

Remember: the buck stops with you.

Rob Cope is director of Remember A Charity, a campaign of more than 150 charities working together to make gifts in Wills the social norm. He is also a board member of Relief International.

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