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Past successful applicant Abbie Barton shares how the award led her to gaining knowledge, confidence and a more senior role.

Q: Thanks for speaking to us, Abbie. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

I’m Senior Legacy and In-memory Marketing Manager at Marie Curie. Within the legacy department, we have a marketing team of five, which I head up, comprising three legacy officers, a manager and myself. We also have a regional team on the ground who handle events and provide one-to-one stewardship, and we have an admin team dealing with gifts and legal.

Q: What made you apply to become a mentee?

It was 2021 and I was working in a gift in wills role for Tŷ Hafan Children’s Hospice in Sully, South Wales. I live in Cardiff myself and it was a charity I’d always looked up to. Although I’d been in the charity sector since 2017, up until that point I’d only worked in events and community fundraising. As soon as I got involved with legacies, I loved it and knew it was the area I wanted to focus on.

The Director of Fundraising who hired me had a background in legacies. She saw the bursary award advertised and suggested I enter. Seeing that I was eligible and knowing that the mentoring would be invaluable, I took her advice and entered!

Q: How did you feel when you were successful?

I couldn’t believe it! I was absolutely delighted, and my manager and team were all thrilled for me too. I knew what a prestigious award it was and felt very special to be chosen out of all the people who applied. I was honoured this year (2023) to be asked to judge the award, so I know how detailed the specification is. I didn’t know that when I put in my own application though. To find out that I’d hit the criteria despite not having that insight was a good feeling.

Q: Why do you think you were chosen?

I think it must have been the passion and enthusiasm I have for legacies and that I got that across on the page. Legacies are so crucial to the longevity of a charity. People often don’t realise how much money they bring in and how easy it is to leave a gift. They might think it’s big and scary, but it isn’t — it’s an easy way to donate that doesn’t cost you money now. There’s a huge barrier around this, which is why making legacies easier to understand is so important. Legacies mean charities can keep going.

Q: How did your mentors support you during your time as a mentee?

I was mentored by three leading experts: Ashley Rowthorn, CEO of Legacy Futures, Dr Claire Routley, Head of Consultancy and Kate Jenkinson, Head of In-memory Consultancy. I was really pleased that in-memory played a part in the programme. Sometimes in-memory gets forgotten about or pushed from team to team, so it was great to have it included.

We had a session once a month along with fellow mentee Nikita Ghandi. At the beginning, the mentors liaised with us to ask whether the topics they planned to cover would be useful and relevant and asked if there were any other areas we’d specifically like to cover. It was great to have that input. I still keep in touch with the mentors now and know that if I have a question, they’re there to support me, even now the programme has finished.

Q: What did you learn along the way?

For me, the biggest thing was the importance of internal awareness and getting everyone in the organisation on board with legacies — it’s something we’ve made a great start with at Marie Curie, but we still have a long way to go. No charity will achieve great success if the legacy team works as a silo — you need everyone’s buy-in. The mentors made some brilliant suggestions, such as having champions within the organisation to help spread the word about legacies and getting your CEO’s backing. That way, the enthusiasm about legacies will filter down the organisation.

I also learned that it’s not enough to mention your work to your colleagues once and expect it to stick. You have to keep reminding them and constantly communicate with them to ensure they’re kept up to date.

The work we did on the power of storytelling and case studies was enormously useful. It’s something I bring into the working group I’m involved in at Marie Curie. We’re building supporter stories to inspire and create relatability. Something else I picked up during the programme was that you can’t assume your colleagues know about legacies or even that they know nothing! You have to find out what they know. That’s why at Marie Curie we’re working on an internal awareness survey. We need to know what areas they’re most uncomfortable talking about and how we can help them feel more confident and supported. The mentorship reinforced the importance of this.

I recall Ashley doing a great session on free wills, managing risks and choosing the right service that pays back to you through gifts. Even though a free will service can incentivise donors, you need to make sure you’re supporting it with impact and presenting a case for leaving a gift, so your organisation sees return on their investment. Offering a free wills service doesn’t come free for the charity.

Q: How did the mentorship help you develop your career?

During my six-month mentorship programme, I moved jobs from Tŷ Hafan to Marie Curie. I was concerned the award was tied to the charity rather than the individual, meaning I wouldn’t be able to continue with it, but that turned out not to be the case, and I was allowed to carry on.

Being a successful applicant of the bursary award helped me secure my new role. Everyone knows about Legacy Futures and to say on your CV that you completed a Future Leaders programme is a big thing. It definitely helped me progress in my career.

The mentorship I received gave me a lot more confidence and knowledge around legacies and the process of legacies. It empowered me to want to try new things but also push back if something in a campaign didn’t feel quite right. I really enjoy training people, passing knowledge on and seeing others grow and develop. The mentorship helped form my own development, which in turn allowed me to pass more on. As a leader, this is something I really value.

Q: What would you say to anyone thinking of entering?

It’s free to enter and the mentorship is completely free too. You have nothing to lose. When I entered, I’d never applied previously. I just wrote honestly and passionately — that’s my best piece if you’re thinking of giving it a go.

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Feeling inspired by Abbie?

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