We’re delighted to welcome the newest member of our team at Legacy Futures, Lena Vizy, as a consultant focusing on The Netherlands and Europe. We’ve asked Lena to introduce herself and her passion for legacies to you.
The draw of legacy fundraising
When starting to work as a legacy fundraiser and building a legacy programme, I immediately loved the work because it’s so diverse and rewarding. As a legacy fundraiser, you can often work with different channels and set up various fundraising activities, from direct marketing, telephone marketing, social media campaigns and events. The work is certainly never boring.
But most importantly, you also have the chance to meet and have meaningful contact with supporters. People who have often been long term supporters or beneficiary of the charity themselves and want to give something back. I had beautiful conversations with supporters about their life – memories, experiences and dreams. I feel very privileged that people shared their life stories with me. Because of its long term nature, a legacy fundraising programme encompasses every facet of fundraising, and I enjoy all of it.
The universality of wishing to leave the world a better place
I believe legacy giving has transformational power. It carries huge potential. For charities, gifts in wills secure long-term income and future impact. But I also have seen the huge potential it holds for supporters – writing your will and including a charitable gift can be a reflective, very meaningful, empowering process. People think about their last gift, which is often the most significant charitable gift they can give. They think about what they want the future to be. I strongly believe in the power of this process. I worked in different countries, and although legacy giving differs due to culture, legislation, and structural differences, I experienced that what unites us, in our human nature, is the wish to leave this world a better place and to leave something good behind – that’s universal. Helping charities, in different markets and countries, to communicate about legacy giving interests me the most.
Driving knowledge exchange and inspiring others
I started my career in the cultural sector, working mainly as a marking manager in Germany and The Netherlands. But there came a point when I wanted to make a career shift and work in human rights, which is when I started working for charities. I worked as the Legacy Programme Manager at Amnesty International Netherlands, where I successfully set up and managed their first legacy programme, and then went on to also work with the Portuguese and Flemish divisions of the charity.
As well as working in charities, my passion is to encourage knowledge exchange and inspire others about legacy fundraising, so I regularly speak at international fundraising conferences and co-founded www.legacygiving.eu – a blog about legacy fundraising in Europe.
Highlights and impact
Wow, there are so many. It’s always around helping organisations, small or big, with their legacy programmes. I loved working in Portugal, where legacy fundraising is still in its infancy. We did interviews with supporters on legacy giving. It was so interesting hearing their thoughts about gifts in wills and how open they were to this way of support. They just haven’t heard about charitable gifts in wills, but most of them loved the idea, and if we inspired just a handful to leave a gift, that’s a job well done.
Unlocking legacies through internal culture change
As a legacy fundraiser working in different markets, the most significant challenges are often (and funny enough) mainly internal within the organisations. Often the donors are open to considering gifts in wills, but charities can be too reluctant and afraid to talk about this way of support. So it’s important to understand and remove internal barriers, threats and risks before communicating externally.
I started to approach this like an internal marketing campaign for gifts in wills because one of the key indicators for a successful legacy programme is that it is recognised and understood across the organisation – so that it is becoming part of its culture. What I have learned over the years is that one of the best ‘cures’ for any insecurity around legacies is to give colleagues and senior management the chance to meet the (potential) pledger – listening to their stories and discovering that those people are often the most loyal, well-informed and committed supporters change their minds.
Developing legacy landscapes
The Dutch market is developing, and it’s great to see how many organisations of all sizes are communicating about gifts in wills. That’s different from years ago when I started working as a legacy fundraiser. Then, there were only a handful of organisations embracing legacy fundraising. More and more organisations join the Legacy Foresight Dutch Legacy Monitor because they understand the need for market research and benchmarking to help plan strategically for the years ahead.
Compared to other European markets, I believe the legacy landscape in the Netherlands is quite developed. We have a successfully running joint campaign, toegift.nl and charities do fantastic work. Organisations started to communicate wider and broader about gifts in wills like, for example, Greenpeace Netherlands or the Long Foundation, setting up very inspiring campaigns. But also smaller or local organisations and cultural institutions understand better that they will have great results by having conversations with their supporters about legacies. I hope that through Legacy Futures we can encourage more organisations within countries across Europe and the world develop or begin a legacy giving programme.
Joining a unique team
What I find exciting about Legacy Futures is that they combine different disciplines and connect expertise within legacy fundraising, like strategic advice and consultancy, training, and research across the different brands of Legacy Foresight, Legacy Link and Legacy Voice. This is unique, and adds a dimension that offers such value to the sector. I’m a big fan of the Legacy Futures group’s outstanding work. They bring together experts from different disciplines, for example, Dr. Claire Routley, Kate Jenkinson and Meg Abdy. I’m looking forward to working with such an experienced team of experts.
My role and where I’m taking it in Europe
I’m joining the team to develop and grow Legacy Futures’ work with European charities. I look forward to helping organisations with their legacy programmes, stimulating research projects, and facilitating training and workshops.
My aim and wish are to stimulate legacy giving and help charities to develop their legacy programmes in The Netherlands and abroad. There is huge potential, and charities are understanding better and better how to tap into it. Helping and facilitating them in this process is what makes me truly happy. I aim for organisations across the European continent to embrace legacy giving even more and find their unique voice to communicate with their supporters about legacy giving. Even though I’m located in the Netherlands, I will focus on international developments.
A long term view
I strongly believe that legacy giving is the future. Legacy Futures will play an important role in helping charities worldwide harness the transformative power of legacy giving and helping different kinds of organisations, small and big, as a trusted partner. There is huge potential for continental European charities within legacy fundraising and In-Memory giving, which is relatively unknown for most organisations. Legacy Futures do amazing work supporting, inspiring and leading the legacy fundraising market, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.