What is a legacy proposition?
In legacy fundraising, a proposition is the core story concept which compels someone to leave a gift in their Will to your charity.
You may have heard the marketing terms ' value proposition’ or ‘ USP’, and this is where this use of ‘proposition’ comes from. It’s the key thing that makes your organisation or offering stand out amongst other, similar ones (such as charities within the same cause area). But more than that, your proposition should be inspiring and concisely reflect why someone would choose to leave a legacy gift, what their gift will go towards, and why your organisation should be the one entrusted with it.
We like to think of it as a compass, as it sets the direction for your legacy communications, creative campaigns, and stewardship activities. But rather than the natural magnetic field of the earth, your proposition should be aligned with the deep-rooted motivations and values of your target audience. It’s not a map, because it doesn’t alone show the full picture, and you still have room to explore creatively and forge a path towards a successful legacy campaign.
Some great examples
The NSPCC’s legacy proposition "Guardians" encapsulates the core reason why someone would choose to remember the NSPCC in their Will – to support children and protect them from harm. The awe-inspiring TV advert below is a great example of how a simple proposition can grow into a fully fledged creative. This proposition also ‘flexes’ effectively across a wide range of assets, ensuring the NSPCC’s legacy messaging always feels consistent and memorable.
For more on this, check out this fantastic post by Adam Stricker-Morecroft, who worked on the campaign.
Their proposition of “Empower children for generations to come” highlights the far-reaching and lasting impact of a legacy gift. This uplifting proposition draws on the multiplier effect, showing potential legators that by remembering UNICEF in your Will, you will not only be helping children today, but you will be unlocking their potential to go on and make a difference in their communities, helping others far into the future. You can see how this message comes alive across UNICEF’s Gift in Wills guide, Website and their Connections TV advert (which you can learn more about in our UNICEF Case Study).
Why is it important to have a legacy proposition?
Whilst a successful expedition without a compass is still possible, it is a lot harder to know where you are and which way you‘re going. Having a proposition means you have a guide which stems from a vast amount of research into the heart of your organisation, and draws on the stories which resonate the most with your audience. If you have a clear and unified understanding of what motivates your legacy audience to take action, you can create a journey for them through acquisition, conversion and pledger stewardship, which feels consistent and aligns with their values throughout. This will help maximise your legacy income over time.
What makes a powerful proposition?
There isn’t just one formula to achieving the perfect proposition, but we’ve put together a checklist to help get you thinking about your charity’s current or future legacy proposition.
A powerful legacy proposition is…
- Unique and Specific – No other charity should be able to use your proposition. A great proposition foregrounds the specific strengths unique to your charity in respect to legacy acquisition and stewardship.
- Empirically Grounded – The best propositions tend to build from solid audience research, or use focus groups or live testing during the development process, to ensure they truly speak to the values and motivations of your particular legacy audience.
- Flexible – Ideally a proposition will ‘flex’ intuitively and creatively across a wide range of purposes, communications and assets. It should have a strong central narrative, but this should contain distinct elements which can be dialled up or down. The core narrative should also work effectively throughout your stewardship pipeline (i.e. for acquisition, conversion and stewardship).
- Moving (and Emotionally Consistent) – Like every form of giving, legacy actions are driven far more by emotion than logic. A proposition should also determine the consistent emotional framing and define the tone of voice to be used across all communications.
- Brand Aligned – A legacy proposition sits below the broader brand proposition of your charity as a whole. It should be aligned with this overarching narrative, but build on it in a way that will emphasise its appeal to your legacy audience. So making sure your Brand team are closely involved in legacy proposition development is often vital.
- Fully Explained and Illustrated – The proposition itself is only part of a proposition development process. An accompanying, detailed Use Guide can be immensely helpful in ensuring the proposition is actionable by any member of your legacy team, and that it is a long-lasting asset that withstands staff turnover. The Use guide should contain everything staff would need to implement the proposition properly, including illustrative examples and inspiring guidance on how to bring it to life through creatives.
- Narratively Powerful – This is a bit of a secret sauce, but at Catsnake we believe nothing is more powerful than a great story.
If you'd like to learn more, or are considering starting your own proposition journey, please do get in touch with Shenley (firstname.lastname@example.org).