3 Tips for Legacy Giving to the Arts

By Amanda Rigali on

Cat Palmer Profile

Cat Palmer was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Wiltshire Music Centre until September 2016, and has remained at the organisation as Development Assistant.

On 16th March 2016, the South West Fellows were lucky enough to be able to attend a training session with the development team at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

With a varied and remarkable history, the BSO is the only major symphony orchestra in the UK which is not based in a major city. It takes world-class performances and education projects across the South and South West of England, covering an area of over 10,000 square miles.

Fundraising is key to the BSO’s ability to take world-class performances and music education projects across such a large geographical area. In particular, although only 7% of the UK population currently choose to leave legacies to charitable organisations in their will, 15% of these are left to arts and cultural organisations and it is predicted to be a growth area. The BSO has seen the number of pledgers that they know about increase by 200% since late 2014. (For a more general introduction to thinking about legacy fundraising, see Hannah’s great blog on the National Trust.)


There are three main areas to consider when developing legacy giving in your organisation:

  1. Cause – create a compelling legacy case for support, which should include your organisation’s main message, as well as incorporating key themes from pledgers. This case for support should include reference to the past, but it should also be looking to the future: this demonstrates the longevity of your organization, which in turn increases confidence of potential pledgers. If you can, include examples of how previous legacy gifts have helped your organization, as it will help to spark the imagination of your supporters which may encourage them to take the next step in supporting your organization by leaving a legacy.
  1. Communications – should be regular, to make talking about legacies feel comfortable for your donors. Take a drip-feed approach and gradually spread your organisation’s legacy message out through every communication channel that you can. From mentioning legacies in newsletters to referring to them at events, drip-feeding the information will help to normalize legacy giving.
  1. Connectivity – do not underestimate the possibility of people who are already involved with your organisation leaving you a legacy. Only 10% of BSO pledgers are not already donors, and for the 90% who are already donors, it can be a natural last step in their donor journey. Existing donors leaving a legacy can also help you to ensure that the stewardship of pledgers is sustainable, as they can feel closely involved with your organisation through existing communications such as newsletters. In addition, 49% of the BSO’s pledgers are volunteers who support the Orchestra with their time, but may not be able to donate money during their lifetime.

Legacy giving does have a slow return time, and it can be hard to evaluate, but the long-term benefits in terms of financial sustainability for your organisation mean that a legacy scheme could be worth your time.

Do you have any thoughts on the ideas mentioned in this blog, or is there something you would add? We’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

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  1. Pingback: Encouraging Legacy Giving to Arts & Cultural Charities | CAUSE4

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