Legacy giving to heritage

Elaine Bentley, Head of Development at Pallant House Gallery
Elaine Bentley
This week, 7 to 13 September, is Remember a Charity in your Will week. The week is designed to raise awareness and to encourage people to consider leaving a gift (a legacy) to charity when writing their will. Elaine Bentley, Head of Development at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester shares her experience of setting up a legacy giving campaign.

Legacy giving at Pallant House Gallery

Pallant House Gallery launched a legacy campaign in 2010 for the first time in its history.  In the previous 25 years, the Gallery had received a few small legacies.  Prior to the campaign, research was carried out which involved talking to volunteers and supporters, individually and in small focus groups, about their attitudes towards legacy giving.  As it is generally older supporters who are looking to write or update their wills, they are more likely to prefer printed material to looking online although it is important to keep the website updated regularly. 

One of the main motivations for leaving a legacy to the arts/museums sector is a thank you for the social experience and pleasure they have derived from visiting over many years.  Legacies are the result of building up close relationships with supporters who understand how the organisation is funded.  They realise that they can ultimately support the museum by leaving a legacy. 

Measuring success

It is estimated that it usually takes between five to seven years to realise a legacy gift.  It is therefore extremely difficult to measure accurately the impact of marketing activities and plan for the future.  Our experience, however, has been that since launching our campaign five years ago, we have already received six legacies ranging from £500 to much larger amounts.  We have also just been advised of a residual legacy which should be received in 2016.

All legacies received by Pallant House Gallery are paid into our endowment fund to secure the future of the gallery. This is an important message as the majority of legators wish to know exactly where their money will be used and like to know that their legacy is going to have a long term effect. 

It is also important to continually remind supporters about leaving a legacy.  If you produce a magazine, include an article, advert and story in every issue to re-inforce the message at every opportunity, you remind supporters to review their wills on a regular basis.

Working with solicitors

Although solicitors are unable to recommend specific charities to clients, if they know that your organisation is a charity and in need of support, they can ask their client to consider your organisation. In some cases, they will also display leaflets in their offices but not all practices will do this.

Promoting legacy giving

All members of staff, particularly front of house staff, should be aware of the need for legacies but, depending on the size of the organisation, I would recommend that the task of actually speaking to supporters about legacy giving should be given to just one or two people who can talk in depth about legacies.  Our leaflet gives my name and states that all meetings will be held in strictest confidence. 

All supporters should seek professional advice when drafting a new will or updating an existing one. 

You never know the type of person who will leave a legacy, our largest gift came from a modest man who lived in a very small flat.  The largest legacies we have received have come from single people with no children but we always stress that family and friends must be looked after first.

Top tips for campaigns

  • Before launching a campaign, carry out research among supporters to ensure you get the message right
  • Ensure supporters are aware of how your organisation is funded
  • Remind supporters on a regular basis about legacy giving
  • Remind supporters to regularly review their wills

More information on legacy giving

According to Remember a Charity, if there was just a small increase in the percentage of people leaving a gift in their Will from the current 7.3% to 11% this could mean an extra £1billion for UK charities. You can find out more information on the Remember a Charity website.

For anyone interested in learning more about how to set up a legacy campaign several of the Catalyst: Umbrella projects have workshops coming up:

  • SHARED Enterprise will be running a workshop on 12 October
  • Giving to Heritage is running two workshops in November 2015. There will also be a free webinar on 1 October
  • Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage is running a workshop in January 2016
  • Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) Catalyst Cymru will be holding two workshops in February 2016

You can find out more about the low cost training on offer through Catalyst: Umbrellas, chat about legacy giving and find links to more information and resources on the Catalyst online community.