CDE project 10 sec­tion 4 part 2: the expe­ri­ences and needs of donors and their families

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 26, 2017

At the heart of the challenge of providing the best experience are the primary wishes of the donors and their families. For donors to feel comfortable discussing legacies, they must know, feel and understand that a charity is not in competition with their families. A charity is a partner and a potentially welcome solution to a donor’s needs. In the past, charity marketing messages have created a sense of conflict with the natural instinct to give to family first; thus, it is essential that charities to market themselves in a way that puts family first, even though some supporters may not have families, as the instinct is still there.

If the fundraising model used to engage supporters focuses solely on revealing intent, it is failing. What is perhaps worse, it is misunderstanding the donors’ wishes, fears, anxieties and understanding of legacies. As a result, no conversation, intention or action may have been disclosed to the charity receiving a legacy gift. People are naturally private, particularly in a climate in while leaving a charitable bequest is not a social norm. Unexpected gifts appearing from an unknown donor are a mainstay of legacy fundraising. For many, it constitutes the majority of their gifts, and it often helps to understand this. One way is to count the sources systematically:

a. Gifts from people you have never heard from and who are not known to you

b. Gifts from people you know or who are on your database in some way, but have never disclosed or discussed an intention to leave a gift

c. Gifts from people you know who have previously disclosed that they are either considering a gift, planning to give a gift, or have already done so.

It is important to recognise that all gifts received are from supporters. Because someone is not known to you does not indicate a lack of support, but shows the donor has chosen not to tell you about their support or has not disclosed by his or her behaviour. What of the donor who watches you from afar with admiration, crossing the street to put cash in a street collection tin for you? 

Most gifts are the product of influence rather than direct response. But, when we do have a direct response and donors have revealed their intent, we need to make sure we step up to an even higher level of stewardship. Data from the NCP G 2001 collected by Adrian Sargent reveal that only 25% of donors who had informed the charity of their bequest intentions experienced being treated any differently as a consequence.  He concluded that these pledgers are placing greater emphasis on the quality of service they receive and, in this case, we fall short of serving their needs.

The question to ask is, why don’t people reveal their intent? What prevents a conversation? (see TNS Research in the overview section). Could it be that our pursuit of a ‘pledge’ or more simply a ‘please tell us’ has clashed with the natural tendency towards privacy?

For many supporters, a gift in a will is something that takes time to consider, to reflect on and on which to act. A minority may move through these stages more rapidly, usually due to personal circumstances but, for most, the process takes time. Prochaska’s model, as described previously, provides an insight into the stages used to make decisions.

This model is used to inform actions taken in social campaigns to change behaviour, and has been used to illustrate a legacy approach at Remember a Charity, the NSPCC and others. Fundraisers should seek to focus on driving a great experience by recognising the longer decision making process and creating a broader, longer-term consideration to action approach that engages and inspires. The ‘pledge’ will remain as a natural cornerstone, which is donors revealing that they have left a gift, but the volume and influence is greater in the softer majority of donors who are considering but haven’t yet acted or revealed intent. 

Click on the image below to view project 10 in full - pdf format

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Related case studies or articles

CDE project 10 summary: legacies

This project will look at the strengths and weaknesses of the current model of legacy fundraising and identify how we make sure that people feel encouraged to include charities in wills.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 1: an overview of and background to legacy fundraising

To leave a legacy is a natural human desire. Since the beginning of history, human beings have striven to pass on something of ourselves to future generations.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 2: legacy fundraising today and the opportunity before us

In the past 15 to 20 years, legacy fundraising has embraced new forms of reach and engagement. The rise of digital platforms and other media have increased and developed engagement.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 3: putting the donor-led experience at the heart of legacy fundraising growth

What do donors need and want in order to make the giving of a gift in their wills meaningful, normal, joyful, easy and rewarding?

Read more

CDE project 10 section 4 part 1: the approach used in this report and the basis for these conclusions

To draw together some inputs, ideas and contributions that shaped some of the conclusions and recommendations in this paper, we have organised the collection of insights around four areas.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 4 part 3: how the donor might behave and how can we use insight to improve experience

Much has been written about the power of emotion and at the heart of thinking about how these can be used in legacy fundraising, the following are links to four resources pertaining to the art and science of emotion.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 4 part 4: the organisation’s culture, capacity and experience

Creating a positive experience for legacy donors or for those enquiring about becoming such donors requires a much wider contribution and understanding from the organisation.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 5: the legacy marketing, fundraising and influence method and experience

The majority of legacy gifts are made without revealing intent in life. We have indicated reasons that this focus may actually drive engagement away rather than encourage openness.

Read more

CDE project 10 section 6: the probate and legacy administrative experience and approach

The donor experience is complex, and there are a variety of experiences that donors may with a charity during their journey. 

Read more

CDE project 10 appendix 1: case studies to showcase putting donors at the heart of legacy fundraising

Four case studies are described here, each demonstrating strategy and behaviour in legacy inspiration that place the donor at the heart of its practices and activities.

Read more

CDE project 10 appendix 1: WaterAid

This case study was put forward for an Institute of Fundraising Legacy Award and highlights the combination of strategy, marketing and culture to promote legacies in a more donor-friendly way.

Read more

CDE project 10 appendix 1: UNICEF UK

UNICEF UK had reviewed its legacy strategy and concluded that it needed to engage a wider audience and to reach more people while simultaneously finding innovative ways to engage existing supporters.

Read more

CDE project 10 appendix 1: Cystic Fibrosis Trust

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust recognised that, as a charity in which the condition they were seeking to address was responsible for early death, the subject of legacies was a difficult one to introduce to their core audience and beyond – people with CF and their families and friends.

Read more

CDE project 10 appendix 1: Remember a Charity

This case study illustrates an insight-driven and donor-led campaign.

Read more