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Nonprofit Heroes: Richard Radcliffe, Legacy Fundraising Consultant

Nonprofit Hero Richard Radcliffe is the founder of Radcliffe Consultanting and has been advising charities on how to develop legacy income for over 30 years. Read his interview here.

Nonprofit Heroes is our series of interviews with industry experts, successfully proven fundraisers, and nonprofit heroes with stories and tips to inspire your charity to use technology to your advantage and do good, better.


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What was your first job?

Advertising and marketing womens’ fashion including underwear!!!

How did you get into fundraising, and why?

Could not stand commercial “sales” environment so applied to MS Society and got job as a fundraiser at the age of 24.

You're known for being the legacy chap! How and why did you get so passionate about legacy fundraising?

About 35 years ago I joined Charities Aid Foundation as Charity Services Director, Director of Public Affairs and Chair of the Community Trust Development Unit. I developed a publication called Charity Statistics, renamed it Charity Trends and decided the only gap in the publication was information on legacy giving.

Nonprofit Heroes: Richard Radcliffe, Legacy Fundraising Consultant

So I started research and then met up with Smee & Ford and I was then asked to take over S & F! I sat my desk and thought “We are asking people to DIE – challenging!”! So, I decided to meet donors/pledgers and volunteers to see what their views were.

That was just over 30 years ago and I have now met 28,000 supporters for about 500 charities in UK and around the world! Every day is a WOW day – it is a real privilege to meet so many amazing people and then translate their views into a strategy.

You and I have been in fundraising for quite a while now! Have you seen the profession change much over the years, and if so how?

To be honest the only change I have seen is the channels used: electronic, digital, etc. When I started as Director of Fundraising and Marketing at the Order of St John (after MS and before CAF) we did acquisition mailings with response rates of 11%!!! Now it is 0.25% - that is a big difference all due, in my opinion, to over-asking. Donors have now changed their giving more than fundraisers have changed their practices BUT fundraisers are more professional thanks to the Institute of Fundraising leading on qualifications.

Is there anything which frustrates you about the sector?

The sector is still mainly focused on the short term for an instant return rather than the long haul. Many Trustees are still suffering from short-termism and so are fundraisers. We all want to feel that injection of “I’ve done it” and that does not often happen with legacies. I also truly deplore the unremitting movement of fundraisers. Moving on is great to develop your career as a fundraisers but it results in a start-stop-restart legacy strategy so progress is slower than perfect.   

Tell us about your recent book. (including why did you write it, and what will people learn from it?).

I sat down one night last spring and decided to write it. I love sharing my experiences but there is nothing better than a book you can dip into for years or even every day. I stayed up for nights on end and got it written in 6 weeks. I just yearn for people to be informed and to get on with rather than “wait another day”.  

After all in the UK 1650 people die every day (and one day it will be me!). Once you have read it you can do LOADS to get more legacies regardless of the type or size of charity. My biggest frustrations are gathered into a number of Richard’s Rants and totally heart led. But it is also aimed to be a REALLY FUN, practical bed time read which will not send you to sleep.   

What are the typical reactions when you tell people you're a legacy fundraising consultant?

A deathly hush and change of subject

It seems to me that legacy fundraising is so important in terms of what it can and does bring in, but it's doesn't get the attention that other forms do. Why do you think that is? And what can be done to change perceptions?

Nonprofit Heroes: Richard Radcliffe, Legacy Fundraising Consultant

I have been trying to change perceptions for 30 years and there are more charities asking for legacies and more benefiting. In the last 10 years alone legacy income has grown by almost a £1 billion. The low attention is due to the fact that the income comes in AFTER the trustees and staff have left, retired or died! So, motivation to prove “success” to act is very low.     

The great thing about the sector is the diversity of causes. I know this is an impossible question to answer fairly, but if you could pick one other charity whose work is worthy of our attention, which one would it be?

Always the charity I am working with. Little nuggets of brilliance appear from donors service users or volunteers, and I just want to scream “That’s it – thank you. Yippee”    

Most of us can point to someone who has inspired us in our careers. Is there anyone that has inspired you?

Michael Brophy as CEO of CAF – a truly brilliant brain! David Ford of Smee & Ford many years ago – mainly due to his knowledge and totally appalling sense of humour. BUT the inspiration mainly comes from service users I meet: patients in hospices, people with mental health problems, outrageously fabulous creative directors of theatres, alumni who express utter thankfulness for what their uni did for them, volunteers relating their personal reasons for volunteering, etc. They re-ignite my passion and determination to grow legacy income every time I meet them!  

On a lighter note:

  • How do you relax?

I adore cooking (best therapy in the word), play with the family, and love walking the dogs. Water has an incredibly therapeutic feeling. So walking on a beach with family and dogs and then to go back and cook is perfect heaven.   

  • If you could save three records / cassettes / CDs / MP3s / streams to take to the desert island with you, what would they be (and why)?

Oh god what a question! It all depends on my mood; I am so moody with my music. I have just seen The Greatest Showman and cried for two hours and love the music. Medieval choral music (Palestrina, Victoria, or Libera for more modern church music). Elton John (seen him twice), especially Your Song. Titanium with Sia for dancing with the kids (very embarrassing for them). If You Could See Me Now by the Script. Tubular Bells. I could go on forever.

  • PC or Mac user?

PC for work    

  • Is your smartphone an iPhone, Android or other?


  • What’s your current favourite app?

Pocket! I read and research every day and I sleep badly so I can be on the web at 2am and find an amazing paper which I can save straight onto Pocket.

Thanks Richard for being our nonprofit hero! 

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