Corporate Fundraising to Legacy Fundraising at Claire House Children’s Hospice

August 31, 2023

“I thought it would be such a nerve-wracking conversation to have – how do you ask someone to think about their own death?”


Emma Newell was happy in her role in corporate fundraising at Claire House Children’s Hospice on the Wirral. However, during the pandemic, furlough and faced with an uncertain future, Emma was offered the opportunity to move to the hospice’s Individual Giving team. Emma grasped her new role as Legacy and In Memory Fundraiser with both hands and now says she wishes she had moved into legacy fundraising sooner. Emma tells ILM about the path she has taken and why, despite having worked for international and national charities, she loves local best.

My path into fundraising began after I had cancer in my 20s. I raised money for our local hospital and felt inspired by their fundraising manager. Doing something fun and seeing fundraising go from zero pounds to over £300,000 gave me a real buzz.

I moved to America shortly afterwards, so I started volunteering with the American Cancer Society, during which time I was offered a fundraising manager role. I jumped at the chance to manage their signature Relay For Life events across California, spurred on and inspired by amazing volunteers, supporters and patients.

On moving back to the UK a few years later, I got to work at Macmillan Cancer Support, I really love working with charities that are close to my heart and are so well respected in our communities. However, it was when my family needed Claire House Children’s Hospice, that I saw the care and support that goes into our local hospices, often with limited government funds.

I’ve worked for an international charity, a national charity and then a local charity. I think many people go the other way in their career paths, but for me, I found a real pull towards our local children’s hospice. I love that we get to meet face-to-face with both our supporters and our beneficiary families; you cannot beat the two-way storytelling and connections that happen.

During the pandemic, we realised that two of our largest income streams were lottery and gifts in wills. So, when asked if I would consider moving to legacies, I did so with a willingness to learn, as I knew that was an area our charity needed support and focus.

At first, you may think these will be nerve-wracking conversations to have. How do you ask somebody to think about their own death? Because of the pandemic, it was a difficult time for many people, but it probably was a good time for them to think about writing or updating their wills. Conversations are so much more about what inspires supporters, and their connection to the causes they care deeply about.

We are extremely grateful that our legacy income has steadily grown over the last 5-10 years, but we have also recognised that, although we have received some significant gifts over recent years, our number of supporters leaving us a gift in their Will had not grown. In fact, it had remained at the same level. We really needed to inspire this way of giving for our charity, rather than relying quite heavily on the surprise gifts that may or may not come, each year.

Working with my manager, our head of fundraising and many others across our organisation, we started work on our legacy strategy and getting the right infrastructure in place. A couple of key players came up in conversation with other charities and we were keen to work with, and learn from, great legacy fundraising industry leaders.

Legacy Link support our legacy administration, one of my mentors is Paul Browne, who is also an ILM board member. He is supportive of my learning and development and it is great to work together on our legacy cases. Legacy Voice guided us on our marketing concepts, focus groups and our training workshops, and gave us a great start on where to focus our efforts. We also joined the Hospice Legacy Circle, which is such a supportive group.

We work with the National Free Wills Network to offer a free will writing service and it has really helped being part of a wide network of solicitors, meaning someone can support us even if they live out of the area. The ILM has been very supportive too – I was extremely grateful to receive the Crispin Ellison Bursary Award in 2022, which has helped me study for my CiCLA qualification, and there’s a great wealth of information to tap into.

We’ve had support from so many peers across other charities and the wider sector, there are lots of people you can learn from who are willing to share their experience and that has been so helpful.

One of the first things Legacy Voice told us to do was a donor survey. The best advice undoubtedly is to listen to your supporters. There seemed to be three key elements that resonated for our supporters; I am supporting you because you are local, you support children, and you are a hospice.

Originally, we started out with a five-year strategy. We jumped straight in and tried to implement a lot of it within two years, increasing website visits by over 400%. In the first year, the number of supporters who have kindly let us know they have included a gift in their will for Claire House has tripled, which is amazing. We are so grateful to our wonderful supporters.

One of the successes was our radio advert. One of our lovely nurses, who has worked here for 20 years, talked about how one in five of the children we care for is funded by gifts in wills – it was incredibly powerful. Our CEO also helps by talking about the impact of gifts in wills in his interviews; it really connects people to the cause, knowing they can make such a difference by considering this way of giving.

When we first started, Claire House looked after about 10 families, now it is over 400. Supporters know that we have been their local children’s hospice for many years and that we support people they know and love in their community; they trust we will do great things. Knowing that we make such a difference when families need us most, is so important to all of us at Claire House.


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