Legacy giving at Christmas

December 15, 2023

Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, but with so many demands on families’ time and money, is the festive season a more challenging one for legacy managers? We asked some members about their plans.

How do you promote legacy giving at this time of year?

Shazia Mehboob, Senior Legacy Officer at Action for Children, says: “We are doing this subtly by running our free will campaign, although this started well before Christmas; we focus on sending our legacy pledgers Christmas cards and our biggest campaign is Secret Santa with no direct legacy message.”

Dave Hawes, Director of Finance & Infrastructure, Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT), says DAAT doesn’t do anything directly targeted at legacies at this time of year as the focus is mainly on seasonal appeals, however there is a chance to incorporate legacy messaging into these wider appeals.

“All communications are an opportunity to remind people that leaving a legacy is another way to support the crucial work that our charity carries out,” he said. “Continually building this awareness and the relationships with our supporters, which is so important, will help to encourage longer-term legacy giving and allow us to continue our life-saving work.”

Rebecca Massey, Senior Legacy Management Lead at Cancer Research UK, says the Legacies team hosts Evenings of Festive Music at cathedrals, this year taking place in Selby Abbey, Edinburgh St. Giles’ Cathedral, St Mary’s Church, Marylebone and Chelmsford Cathedral.

Rebecca says: “The Legacies team usually invite known pledgers, supporters, solicitors and family and friends of Legators. It’s a way of thanking people for their support and highlighting the importance of legacies on our research.

“In the Case Management Team, we are personalising our regular comms to thank supporters, executors and free will service solicitors. This includes sending Christmas e-cards, which tell a very personal story to demonstrate how money raised through legacy gifts is continuing to fund life-saving research and has huge potential to improve and save more lives.”

Do you find legacies increase or decrease at this time of year and, if so, why do you think that is?

Dave Hawes says the festive period sees less legacies coming through, something he attributes mostly to the holiday season, as many professionals in the sector will take time off during December.

He adds: “We’ll tend to see an increase in quite straightforward pecuniary legacies, but anything more complicated will often be delayed until the new year. Progression of residuary estates will often depend on property sales, which will again slow over the Christmas period, so it’s not until the market starts to pick up in the new year that we will start to receive updates.”

Also taking note of the challenges of reaching out to families over the Christmas period, CRUK’s Rebecca Massey says that during this time the charity adopts a reactive approach, and avoids proactively chasing lay executors in December because they are mindful that it can be quite a difficult time of year for the friends and family of the legator and any correspondence regarding a legacy gift may not be well received.

Is it harder to get the legacy message across at Christmas? 

Shazia Mehboob continues: “It is harder in my opinion for a different reason, as people are thinking about their loved ones who they may have lost throughout the year or are dealing with long-term illnesses which make Christmas quite difficult, the last thing people want to think about is making a will.”

Jilly Rivers, Fundraising Co-ordinator, Legacy Officer at Birmingham Dogs Home, says: “Christmas is a crowded time, however, we do still promote in memory giving whilst supporters reflect on loved ones they may have sadly lost this year. We help them to celebrate their lives and remember their love of dogs.

“If the subject arises then we do chat to supporters about gifts in wills and how they can let their love of dogs live on further. Whilst some supporters make a donation to the dogs at Christmas, some supporters like to know how they can further help the dogs in our care.

“We will be running a ‘Gift in your Will’ campaign in January/ February knowing that some supporters may be thinking about getting their affairs in order at the start of the year and this may even include making a will to ensure family members are remembered, and then maybe even charities close to their heart.”

How do you make your legacy giving requests stand out?

Jilly explains: “We let supporters know that their love of dogs could live on through a gift in their will, no matter what size gift they’d like to leave to our charity.

“Within our literature we let supporters know how their gift could help many dogs in our care, whilst showing examples of dogs that have been given the gift of life through gifts in wills. It’s a reminder that they too can give our dogs a happier tomorrow, and that we are only able to continue providing these life-changing and life-saving services thanks to the support we receive through gifts.

“We have teamed up with FareWill, so we do promote this free will service to our supporters so that they know that making a will doesn’t have to be a costly and time-consuming process and that it can even be done in the comfort of their own home.

“When supporters realise that 3 in 5 of our dogs are cared for thanks to gifts in wills, this has a massive impact as to how special a gift is to us.”


Click here to visit Action for Children  | Birmingham Dogs Home  | Cancer Research | Devon Air Ambulance Trust 


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