Richard RadcliffRichard, for those who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about your background in fundraising? 

I started out in advertising but quickly moved into fundraising and research, and then more specifically into gifts in wills. I was headhunted to take over Smee & Ford — the UK company which reads every will after probate has been granted. Twelve years ago, I began my own consultancy to help not-for-profits make the most of their gifts in wills programs.

You’re considered the “Godfather” of gifts in wills — and for good reason. How many people would you say you’ve spoken to about gifts in wills? 

About 35,000 in focus groups, one to one, and on Zoom! For each charity, I begin with their stakeholders — donors, volunteers, staff, board members, and so on — to find out attitudes to will-making and legacy giving. The key is extracting honesty. I’ve held these sessions for over 400 charities all over the English-speaking world. Everything I’ve shared comes from what I’ve learned in these incredible sessions.   

And why have you become so passionate about gifts in wills? 

The psychology of legacies: perceptions of death and dying. There are so many myths and misconceptions and I yearn to overcome them! I just want to find out what can be done to make a gift in will possible. 

It’s been said that gifts in wills is the most exciting area of fundraising in the next decade. Does that hold true for Australia and New Zealand? 

We’re in the perfect storm right now. First, there’s the growing ageing population. Second, there’s financial uncertainty post-pandemic and through recession scares. Uncertainty increases gifts in wills because it costs nothing now.

The Baby Boomer generation wants to leave their legacy. But feelings around gifts in wills in Australia and New Zealand are often negative: “I can’t do it… I have a family… It’s a big gift… It’s not in my culture… I don’t want to do it… It feels strange”, etc. The good news is these attitudes can be changed.

What challenges do we need to overcome to grow our gifts in wills programs? 

I believe that too many boards are focused on simply raising money in the here and now, and less concerned about gifts in wills fundraising, which inevitably is a future-focused activity. Unfortunately, that will come at
a cost to their organisations in the long-term.

I’ve seen how long-term investment in legacy giving pays off in so many ways. But many charities feel that running an effective gifts in wills program is cost prohibitive. What would your suggestion be?

You can run an awesome campaign at a tiny cost by integrating general phrases to spark interest. The key is a combination of nostalgia and long-term vision. What I find so exciting is the changing use of channels to communicate legacies. 

That’s something I’ll be talking about more when I visit Australia and New Zealand!

Looking forward to it! What else will you be sharing with local fundraisers on your visit? 

You’ll have to come to my masterclasses to hear the full story! But in brief, I’ll be explaining why gifts in wills is such a big opportunity right now and digging into the five key elements of a good gifts in wills program. 

Attendees will learn how to build trust and relationships, how to promote gifts in wills through print, video and other media, why your tone of voice makes a huge difference, the calls-to-action that make the whole process easy — everyone thinks gifts in wills must involve lots of small decisions, which is
a load of rubbish! — and a whole lot more.

Which charities are already nailing it on this front? Where are the best gifts in wills programs today? 

Strangely, some of the best campaigns I’ve seen have come from smaller charities. Their size means manageable numbers of people to build relationships with. That’s good news for many nonprofits in Australia and New Zealand! A personal favourite of mine is literacy charity Schoolreaders, in the UK. 

COVID changed just about everything in fundraising. Tell us how it affected gifts in wills and why that matters. 

The biggest change has been a massive increase in the number of wills being made! Up over 40% globally. Online wills are now incredibly popular, but mainly with younger people. In Australia there has been an increase of 265% in the sales of “make your own will” packs.

Thank you so much for sharing, Richard — we cannot wait to hear you speak to us in Australia and New Zealand. 

Was that it? There is so much more to say! I’m already so excited about visiting in November. This is the moment of moments to get going. I believe gifts in wills offers the greatest opportunity in a generation. Miss out on November’s opportunity and you miss out on a fortune, trust me. 

Richard Radcliffe is speaking in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Auckland in New Zealand. To purchase your tickets and find out more, head here.