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Charity spotlight… with Jon Jacques, the Fundraising Proposition Lead (legacies), for Save the Children UK

We spoke to Save the Children (UK)’s Jon Jacques about how charities can respond to the cost of living crisis and the three golden rules for a successful fundraising campaign.

Jon has previously worked in legacies for British Red Cross, Mencap and Barnardo's. He’s also chair of Will Aid, a charity that’s raised over £20m and helped over 300,000 people get a professionally-written will for free. We caught him as he comes to the end of his work at Save the Children, before moving to Amnesty International in 2023, where he’s taking up the role of Global Fundraising Specialist for Legacies in the International Secretariat.

How is the effect of the cost of living crisis affecting Save the Children?

In terms of our work, the cost of living crisis is definitely affecting the needs of the children and families we support – especially here in the UK. 

The ability to be able to offer people a will for free through Farewill, which Save the Children pay for to encourage consideration of a legacy, can be a really good way to add value to a relationship. It gives supporters something that they otherwise might have struggled to pay for. So us working with Farewill can reduce the burden of costs to the donor, which can be a bonus in the cost of living crisis.

And there's another aspect to it. During conversations to engage and recruit supporters, our fundraisers often recognise that setting up a new direct debit might well be a difficult choice for some families at the moment. But a free will can often prompt another way to support the work of the charity. A free will with Farewill can be an attractive thing for them, especially if they have children and need to make a plan for guardianship, should the worse happen. And especially with a younger audience, being able to offer them something of value is a really helpful way of bringing supporters on board, especially if they don't have much disposable income.

What are the three elements of a successful campaign?

1. It needs to emotionally connect

For any campaign, whether it's above the line to acquire supporters on Facebook or television, or to motivate existing supporters, it needs to inspire strong emotional engagement. Whether it's applied to the impact of potential donor or it's communicating the impact on the beneficiary: it needs to emotionally connect.

2. It needs to be memorable

It also needs to be memorable. Because ultimately, you don't know when someone's going to write or update their will to include a gift. It’s the emotional response to your campaign that makes it stand out in their memory. On both of these counts it could be a brand or a dedicated legacy campaign that prompts action – either immediately or even several years on.

3. It needs to communicate that the need is long-lasting

The third thing is a sense of the ongoing need of your cause long into the future. So it can continue to give positive benefits to your beneficiaries. So if you die in say, ten, twenty, thirty years time, you still believe there's going to be the need for that trusted organisation and your gift will empower positive impact.

What would be your advice to someone in a charity who wants to start seeking legacy giving, who may not have much time or budget to dedicate to it?

You know, it comes back to emotional connection, memorability and future need. They’re the three factors that will help you communicate the value of legacies both internally and externally. 

If you were a small hospice for example. You can invite people to a face to face event, it needn't cost the earth: you literally just provide some biscuits, or sandwiches as a push. 

You can bring people to an event like that, explain the impact of your cause, they can hear from some of the services, you can present how much legacy giving supports this work, maybe give some examples of people who've left money or give your testimony of other people who've done it already, who the money has helped, and how. 

You can also include – and it doesn't have to be Farewill – someone like a local solicitor who is willing to write a will for free. Make it easy for people, because ultimately everybody puts off making a will. This is the nature of our lives: even legacy fundraisers put off making wills or updating wills!

There's some other tips which can be cost effective for smaller charities: 

Don't discount paid social as a way of connecting with supporters. It's a very cost effective way of reaching your supporters with a specific ask.

Don't forget direct mail, as not all of your potential legators are comfortable with online communications. You've got to use all the channels. 

And, you know, ultimately, the will doesn't have to cost a charity anything, I'm very proud to be the chair of Will Aid and every year around 600 solicitor branches across the UK give up their time for free to write a will for a donation to charity.

And many organisations have friendly solicitors within their network: often Trustees or those on boards may be from the legal profession and may be willing to set aside time to help write a will. 

So that brings us nicely onto talking about death. Do you have any advice around broaching this often uncomfortable subject?

I don't think it's as uncomfortable as people might imagine! We've just talked about how you'd like to be remembered, quite comfortably, and the impact you have on people's lives. 

And most of the time, you don't really talk about their life, you talk about what's inspired them to support your cause in the first place. 

Ultimately, legacy giving is just another way of supporting that charity and showing that that charity has been important to you in your life. 

What do you know now about legacy fundraising that you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

I would have ensured that all of our supporters had opt-in for email. That's actually the key one, because not just pledges, many charity supporters seem uncomfortable opting in for email. 

And to engage them and give them good reasons to opt in such as online content including opportunities to see our work overseas and in the UK or through webinars. Making sure that we really focused on the need to opt in on every channel, but particularly online.

Find out more about how Farewill works with charities to support legacy giving.