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At Fundraising Convention last week, we ran a session exploring the connections between in memory and legacy giving, and thinking through – with the help of people in the room – how we could make more of the linkage.

It’s already very clear that the two forms of giving are interlinked, with honouring a loved one being a core motivation for including a gift in a will.

Indeed, the connection is so strong that Legacy Foresight found that in memory donors are three times more likely than regular donors to leave a gift in their will. Their gifts are also significantly larger on average than those from people with no known in memory connection. And, most importantly, interviews with in memory supporters over the years have shown that they’re open to having the legacy conversation with the charities they support.

But how can charities encourage their in memory supporters to consider a gift in their will in a sensitive and appropriate way?

Share the opportunity.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, we should ensure that the opportunity to leave a gift in a will which is explicitly made in memory of a loved one is something that is shared with supporters. Research shows that interest in gifts in wills is higher when people are offered the opportunity to leave a tribute gift, as opposed to a straightforward legacy gift. We’ve found some nice examples of charities who include simple prompts such as including legacies on their ways to support in memory pages, or giving in memory tick boxes when asking supporters if they want to find out more about gifts in wills – but these are surprisingly few and far between.

Example: Save the Chimps, a US-based non-profit, includes the option to record that a legacy gift has been made in honour of a loved one on its gifts in wills response forms. Potential donors are told that this is how their gift will be recorded in their publications – although they also have the choice to remain anonymous. 

save the chimps

Tell in memory legacy stories.

We know that telling stories about other people’s intentions are a great way to encourage gifts in wills – so where supporters are motivated by the memory of a loved one, we should share that story, helping others to see that an in memory legacy gift might be appropriate to them.

Example: RNIB share a moving story about Mandy, who is make a gift in memory of her father, Costa. Costa had macular degeneration, which meant that, in later life, he had virtually no sight. Mandy’s gift will make sure that in the future people like Costa will know ‘they’re not alone’.  


Offer blended gifts.

Research from Thompson and Associates in the US suggests that in memory can also be a motivator for blended giving (a combination of lifetime gift(s) with a gift in a will). This could be particularly powerful as it enables the donor to make a significant difference in memory of a loved one in the here and now (which, we know, can be a helpful way of working through a bereavement) as well as being confident that that impact will carry on, long into the future, carrying their loved one’s memory with it.

Example: Rather than focusing on gifts of different amounts, or getting into the technical details of different gift options, the University of Georgia shows supporters who might be interested in blended giving the impact their gifts can make. They start by describing a supporters’ charitable goals (e.g. creating a scholarship or enabling study aborad), then showing people how they can achieve that through a combination of lifetime and legacy giving.

blending giving diagram

Enable people to give collectively.

When someone dies, the impact resonates through families and friendship groups, and people are often motivated to come together to give, fundraise, and make a difference in memory. Legacy giving, on the other hand, is often seen as a solo activity. We could, however, enable people to give a legacy gift as part of a tribute fund, magnifying the collective impact of their family or friendship group. 


Example: The Two Ridings Community Fund has shared the story of the Moss family. The three daughters of the family have created a tribute in memory of their parents, who in life, were generous supporters of community activities. They describe how, although now scattered all around the world, when meeting up for a family reunion, the Moss’s enjoyed visiting the projects their family legacy was funding. We can imagine how, in the future, it would be natural for the family to also include gifts in their own wills to their family fund.

How else could we make the most of the connection between the two forms of support in a way that supports the needs of both our in memory and gifts in wills donors? We’d love to hear your ideas, so please do keep the conversation going.