Legacy Fundraising: Legacies from scratch, talking about death, debating the big questions and more

: Jonathan Levy

Despite offering fantastic returns, legacy fundraising doesn't get the respect it deserves, says Jonathan Levy – one of the board members who designed the Legacy Fundraising track.

After starting my fundraising career little under six years ago, working as a sole fundraiser for a small charity, I undertook an advanced apprenticeship in fundraising and carried out meticulous research on the various methods of raising funds. For whatever reason, legacy giving really intrigued me and I could instantly see the greatness of it.

Naively, I was a little surprised that not everyone could see what I saw , but having previously worked in politics, I wasn’t going to let others’ negative opinions put me off. Desperate to learn more and enhance my credibility I attended Fundraising Convention for five years as a volunteer helping to run the event. This year I have the privilege of playing my part as a board member, working on the legacy track alongside Macmillan’s Director of Legacies, Craig Fordham.

'Doesn't get the respect it deserves'

With many fundraisers put under pressure to get quick wins, legacy giving sometimes doesn’t get the respect it deserves and it’s still a long way off becoming a social norm.

It has enormous potential and I find it staggering that although it’s the largest single source of voluntary income and vital to the survival of many charities, just 6% of people leave a gift to charity in their will.

Legacies offer fantastic returns and any charity looking for a long-term sustainable solution of income should prioritise this form of fundraising. It’s about life not death and leaving a legacy gift is a fantastic way of giving back to the future.

Fundraising Convention will be another superb learning opportunity with what is hopefully a more authentic mix of perspectives than ever before. Related to this, I’m proud that one of this year’s legacy track sessions will be Legacy and In-Memory Fundraising in Multicultural Britain. This will provide the latest insight into this previously under-explored area and Legacy Foresight will present their new research on the beliefs, rituals and behaviour surrounding death and remembrance in today’s society focusing on British Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh communities. As a Jewish person myself, I regard this session as vital and I’m sure it will help us all to return to our organisations better able to ensure that our strategies and messages are appropriate and compelling.

I learnt so much in my first job working for a small charity that most people hadn’t heard of, but I always wanted to think big. At the ‘Legacies from Scratch’ session, attendees will learn how small charities can adopt the principles of large charities and create legacy marketing strategies from scratch. Having worked for a large organisation with a well-established legacy programme, before moving to work with smaller organisations, Matt Smith is well-placed to deliver a great session on this.

Fundraising Convention offers something for everyone in fundraising, no matter how much or little experience you have. As Europe’s largest professional fundraising event, we want it to reach out to fundraisers across all areas and that includes those in the arts, culture and heritage. Gemma Rooke is Development Manager of Z-Arts (and separately a part-time funeral celebrant), and after attending last year’s Fundraising Convention for the first time as a RAISE bursary recipient, she successfully applied to speak at this year’s event. Her session ‘D is for dead, how to talk about death and dying with dignity’ will explore how to talk to bereaved families, how to honour their wishes – and what not to say, and how to get your whole charity on board.

The legacy track will also cover why legacy giving and philanthropy are two sides of the same coin, along with different perspectives on developing will-writing products. We’re not short of opinions and Allan Freeman and others will be debating the big questions in the legacy world., whilst legacy great Richard Radcliffe, will be telling us why we shouldn’t plan a legacy donor journey. A lifetime donor and legacy pledger will talk about her own experiences and her hopes for her legacy, and we’ll be covering animals too as we hear about legacy success at the Donkey Sanctuary. You can also hear about how Save the Children and Marie Curie developed and delivered their 2018 sector-leading campaigns and what they learnt along the way.

Fundraising Convention is always a wonderful experience not only for learning but networking too. I felt rather lonely at times in my first job and sometimes didn’t know who to turn to for help. Now, thanks to Fundraising Convention, I have fundraising friends across the country. 

Have you booked your place yet?

Jonathan Levy is Senior Business Development and Fundraising Manager

View the full Fundraising Convention programme here.

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