Back to Blog

Sporting legends and legacy giving create conversations across generations

Posted on 13th September 2021

A couple of very different events have happened this last week that have inspired my thinking juices.

11:11pm last Saturday night… 

Emma Raducanu wins the US Women’s Open tennis final. The first qualifier in the Open era to win a Grand Slam. The youngest Briton to win a Grand Slam. The first British woman to win at Flushing Meadows since Virginia Wade in 1968. The first woman to win the title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014. And the first all-teenage US Open final since 1999. Who was in that final…? Again, it was Serena Williams (…pattern forming?). But what really struck me was that the two teenagers spoke so articulately during the award ceremony and beyond their years (having just fought, tooth and nail). Martina Navratilova rightly described this as a “changing of the guard” moment, as the next generation of tennis stars grasp the baton from those who came before them. 

Author: Stephen Mooney, Client Partner

Cut to 2pm last Tuesday…

The Legacy Voice team met in person. Face-to-face, not Zoom, with no screens, no mute or doorbells ringing. What a joy it was, especially for those of us who hadn’t met in person before. And particularly for the brainstorms, where we all riffed and bounced off each other in a way that online just can’t recreate. We talked lots. About the need to inspire donors and to nurture long term relationships.  About free Wills. And how In-Memory giving and Gifts in Wills are both about “conversations between generations”. 

The sports fan in me turned to the Paralympics and Olympics, where everything is about the spectacle and performance of one generation of athletes inspiring the next to take on their mantle. And in the case of the Paralympics, of inspiring the cause for a future world of disability equality. 

Of course, the Fairytale of New York at Flushing Meadows is a world away from Room 5 at the NCVO offices in St Pancras, and who on earth am I to draw parallels?! But perhaps the subjects aren’t so different, and maybe we could take a few things into our legacy thinking that might be useful.

“Inspiring generations”

In her post-match interviews, Emma (18) described how she was inspired by Tim Henman (47) and Virginia Wade (76), who were in the stadium with her, whilst Navratilova (64) was willing her on from the commentary box. Great tennis legends inspiring the teenager to take up their cause and follow in their footsteps. And then there were the children from Emma’s old primary school, talking of how their new hero was inspiring them to take on the world.

But inspiration can flow in both directions, too. After all, Emma inspired 50 year old me to write this piece. Just like the Gretas and Malalas inspire everyone, anyone of any age can inspire us to believe in the world they want us to pass on.

All good legacy marketers know this. And yet, the message to inspire people to sign up is often reduced to “register for free Wills”. We know this is an essential means of measuring campaign performance, but legacy giving shouldn’t just be reduced to this transactional act that differentiates no-one. It’s an oddly functional way to start a long term relationship that could lead to a potentially life-defining act of conscience. So perhaps we can (and need to) inspire a little more? To be a little more Emma…

In-Memory and Gifts in Wills are both part of the “conversation across generations”.

In the Arthur Ash Stadium, we witnessed every tennis generation coming together in this wonderful moment, and for us, legacy giving is about inspiring conversations across generations. It’s about the act of passing on and protecting the things that are most precious to us. Gifts in Wills pass on the gift of the future, whilst In-Memory is the gift of remembrance. They can feel a bit contradictory when one is about the future, and the other is about the past, but both inspire people to give in the moment of passing away. 

We know that many in-memory donors develop an enduring personal connection with a charity, as it represents a link to someone they have loved and lost. (Read In-Memory Insight – key lessons from 10 years of collaboration, Legacy Foresight, May 2021)

And perhaps, we might start to see the two products as serving each other on the same donor journey, which begins in giving to an In-Memory appeal and ends in leaving a gift in your Will? This feels far removed from the free Wills-type transaction, and it makes much more sense of where In-Memory fits into the donor experience. Where In-Memory is an immediate and straightforward act of remembrance that could open up over time a warm conversation about gifts in Wills, where the decision is much more considered and profound.

In-Memory becomes less of a tactical outlier opportunity and more of a strategically important product central to the channel mix. It opens up a Gifts in Wills pathway to a much wider audience. 

“A changing of the guard” moment?

Maybe Martina is right. It’s refreshing to see new faces and hear new voices in women’s tennis, and the same is starting to happen in the men’s game. In the era of the GOAT in sport (Greatest Of All Time), we have become used to athletes dominating for long periods, which is excellent to marvel at their endurance and feel privileged to witness so much greatness. But sport is ultimately about renewal and the passing from one generation to another.

And perhaps we are starting to see this in the legacy giving sector? New voices, new leaders and talent to shake up our thinking and challenge conventions. New technology, new insights and data opportunities to maximise the reach, depth and impact of our legacy marketing. And new generations of potential legacy donors becoming more prominent.

Well done, Emma. What a story, that’s only just begun. The start of a journey to greatness and inspiration that will cross generations.

To learn more about In-Memory insights read:

IN-MEMORY INSIGHT – Key lessons from 10 years of collaboration. 25.05.2021

For more information about Legacy Futures and to stay up-to-date with the latest news and articles subscribe to our newsletter, visit our website, follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn.