The importance of saying thank you to pledgers

July 5, 2024

“When I spotted this role, it was as if my dream job prayers had been answered”

Joanne Till is talking about her position as Legacy & In Memory Fundraiser at Wolverhampton-based Compton Care.

The charity provides specialist palliative and bereavement support for people in local communities living with life limiting conditions – a service Joanne was grateful for when it helped support her grandfather.

A recent finalist in the category for Legacy Fundraising Event 2024 at the Smee & Ford Legacy Giving Awards 2024 in London, Joanne explains more about her role, achieving a 158% increase in pledgers, and how the ILM has helped her find her feet.

Photograph of Joanne Till of Compton Care
Joanne Till, Compton Care

My background is in sales and marketing, but when Covid made me re-evaluate my priorities, I wanted a role that would make a positive difference to people in society.

I spent 18 months working for a social purpose charity while studying for an MBA, then when I spotted the role with Compton Care, I thought all my dream job prayers had been answered.

I’d been a supporter for over 20 years as they supported my grandpa – I’ve even thrown myself off a building to raise money with a charity abseil – and when I had my interview, I joked that even if I didn’t get the job, I’d still support them.

It was a very new role for me, the previous legacy person had already left, so I had to learn from the start. I attended lots of seminars and it was very hands-on, the ILM was key because I could pick up the phone to other people in legacies and they’d say ‘ask me whatever you need’, I’ve never known an area where everyone is so helpful.

The forum is valuable as it provides real examples and solutions to issues other charities have raised; and the masterclasses, newsletter articles and factsheets have been really useful – so much so I referenced one of them in my legacy strategy.

As the charity’s sole legacy fundraiser I am really lucky because I get lots of support. It costs about £14 million a year to run the charity and, in 2022/23, 16% of total funding came from legacies – you can’t argue with those figures in terms of the value legacies bring.

I work closely with the wider fundraising team – the head of fundraising and marcoms, the director of income generation and finance – they are all really involved with legacies and have been very helpful and supportive.

I also manage the In Memory income stream but I genuinely have the world’s best co-ordinator (also called Jo) who does the bulk of that work, which frees me up to manage legacies.

I think it’s about balance, forward planning and working strategically, championing legacies across all employees and highlighting how the income we achieve from legacies contributes to Compton Care’s running costs.

As well as inpatient care, we also work in the community, we support care homes, we have retail shops – it’s at so many different levels.

Because we work collaboratively it gets results. One of the fundraisers spoke to a service user who told her he had left a legacy in his will. She mentioned it to me and when I spoke to him it was a lovely, emotive story. He said Compton wasn’t about death, it’s about life as well, and we had given him back his life, so he wanted to leave a legacy to support others…it was an amazing case study.

Our Wolves VIP Supporter Event, which was shortlisted at the awards, was held at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux stadium.

Determining VIP supporters is difficult – everyone is a VIP in the nicest possible way – but I worked with our communications and data teams, looking at how long people had supported the charity, making sure our core supporters were invited.

It was the first event I had done and it was great from start to finish. Our clinical team gave a presentation about everything we do, showing it is not just about palliative care its things like art therapy, support for children and young people, it’s bereavement support, community services etc.

We talked about legacies, there are a lot of misconceptions such as people thinking they have to leave all their money to charity, and when we received the questionnaires back, we couldn’t believe how positive everyone was.

Like everyone else, we’ve had a real impact from probate delays, touch wood, that is getting better now, but HMRC delays are really impacting legacy income.

In terms of highlights, I couldn’t pick just one!

Being shortlisted for the Legacy Giving Awards has to be one, it meant such a lot and it was so great to be in that room with all those amazing well-deserving charities.

We recently had the figures for last year and we achieved £2.5 million in legacies – which was absolutely astounding – and we increased our pledging numbers by 158%, that’s such an important one for me.

I think it’s down to good communications, we have great links with wonderful solicitors and will writers – we had enquiries from over 100 supporters last year during our Make A Will campaign and we have a thanking week, where we send cards, videos and emails.

Other activities include community open days and In Memory events, plus we have both an email and print newsletter, Christmas cards to say thank you – we’re always so grateful for peoples’ support.

If people tell us they’ve left us some money, and sometimes it comes from a simple organic conversation at an event, then it’s an opportunity to put them on our pledgers’ supporter journey.

We never want to know details about how much people have pledged, we just want to say thank you while we can and show them what their donation means. That’s key for me, to say ‘this is the difference you will make’.

By Olivia Baxter

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