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Digital donors are a growing demographic, across generations and genders, but often the channels legacy fundraisers use to reach them are homogenous.

Our research has shown that different digital channels have different roles to play when it comes to legacy fundraising.

While social media and paid digital advertising are good at raising awareness and generating leads, video is a great medium for storytelling, and email works well in developing relationships with supporters – keeping them updated on the vital work of the charity and any news or events.

And things change, for example Facebook as a platform has become crowded and costs have risen, so charities need to think creatively to maximise budgets and standout. The constant stream of new technologies and platforms offer new opportunities for charities to give their messages cut through and cultural relevance but rather than jumping on every new technique and platform, it’s about focusing on the right things.

Inspiration from the sector

Corporate and consumer brands have been experimenting with new platforms and using social media in an innovative way right from the start – they often have the budgets to do so. But charities are innovative too. It may be that the total audience will be smaller than can be reached through a more mainstream medium, but if there is a strong link between the message being delivered, the audience and the communications environment, the overall campaign can have more relevance and resonance and greater cut-through.
Examples of charities harnessing new channels and platforms in interesting ways include:

UK children’s hospital Alder Hey used smart speakers to harness the potential of voice activation to encourage new supporters to request a legacy pack. When considering new platforms and technologies, it’s important to keep in mind the objectives of the communication, the message being communicated and the audience you are talking to.

Virtual/hybrid supporter legacy events are here to stay despite the end of lockdowns, and videos and VR offer supporters preferential access to the people, places and events that embody your charity – at a low cost and flexibility you cannot manage face to face – for example global charity UNICEF’s behind the scenes tour of their warehouse in Bangladesh.

International charity Greenpeace was presented with a gift when the HBO TV series Succession had a storyline about legacies. Greenpeace jumped on the storyline, and went viral, generating a record number of likes, shares and hits on the UK legacy web page (10x the daily average). Charities can look to the wider world and think more tangentially about other stories, events and opportunities to piggyback on with a legacy message.

Measuring impact

With so many charities online and advertising costs rising, it can be hard to achieve cut-through and measure efficacy. Digital is immediate, and legacy has an inherent time lag. Unlike signing up for an event or responding with immediate donations, ROI is difficult to measure.

Engagement, open and click through rates can be used to give a steer as to how well a legacy campaign is cutting through and attracting new prospects. However, wider brand metrics like brand awareness, consideration and likelihood to support in the future also need to be factored into the equation. Legacy prospects aren’t amending their wills on a daily basis, so they may see communication but not act on it immediately or only request information at a later date when it’s more relevant to them.

It’s vital to remember that brand communications, fundraising communications, and legacy communications are interconnected. All activity helps people feel close to the charity and drives loyalty, connection and long-term support and essentially ‘paves the way’ for a legacy ask or an ongoing stewardship journey.

Supporting our people – all of them

Some great strategies and tools to help you and your teams continue learning are:

Organisations such as Media Trust, Digital Europe, and Google Digital Garage, which offer some fantastic training, for free, so people can stay on top of their game.

­Undertaking CPD (continuing professional development) once a month is essential, as the digital landscape is always changing.

Having regular brainstorming meetings where you pool creativity is valuable for coming up with new ideas.

Keeping abreast of the media and news stories so you can ensure that any communications are topical can be really helpful to stay relevant.

Read! The EFA website is packed full of useful insight and information.

But most important is communication. Mutual understanding between legacy, digital and comms teams is vital – putting digital skills, channels or teams into silos can be very harmful. By thinking about how they can be integrated into a broader stewardship journey, and investing in digital training and development for fundraisers across Europe, we will be able to harness the power of digital much more effectively.