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.
Nonprofit Hero Megan Veronesi is the Head of Charity Partnerships at Farewill, a digital will writing company specialising in legacy fundraising.
First, a little about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Megan Veronesi and I’m Head of Charity Partnerships at Farewill, a digital will writing company specialising in legacy fundraising. We work with charities like Macmillan, Wateraid, and Save the Children, as well as local charities and hospices, to help them grow their legacy income - and raised more than £50M in pledged income for charity so far.
What was your first job?
I was a cleaner at a local hotel in the Scottish Borders when I was 13. The highlight? When Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale came to stay!
How did you get into fundraising, and why?
After doing a law degree, I joined the charity graduate management scheme Charityworks. My first placement was as a corporate fundraiser with a mental health charity. I realised straight away I loved the people and the variety of the sector and spent the next few years in various roles across fundraising, communications and marketing before making the move to head up Farewill’s work with charities last year.
Tell us a bit about Farewill. How do you help charities achieve their goals?
Farewill helps charities to grow their income from gifts in wills using digital. We do this in two ways.
First, we help supporters leave a gift to charity through our digital will-writing product. Supporters can complete their will online in just a few minutes and we make leaving a gift easy which results in twice as many gifts being left to charity than normal.
Second, we provide charities with real-time reporting so they can test new channels, learn more about their supporters and ultimately optimise their legacy marketing campaigns. It’s historically been hard for fundraisers to get meaningful, timely feedback on legacy campaigns and we’re trying to change that.
We also help charities build their digital skills, offering tips and templates on things like digital legacy marketing using Facebook and email.
How have you managed to combine the world of will-writing with technology, and still make it appealing?
I’m not sure will writing has ever been appealing, which has been part of the problem! But technology has been a huge catalyst for change and enables us to make the process simpler, more affordable and more personal. Now people can write a will in 15 minutes, on their laptop or mobile, in their own time making it more accessible than ever before.
While we are an online product, we know how important it is to retain the human touch and demystify the process. So we’ve removed the legal jargon and broken the process down into easy to understand sections. We also have a team of specialists on hand 7 days a week if people want to talk anything through on live chat or over the phone.
Give us some stats about wills, and the significance of legacies to charities. (note: I'm thinking about how many people make wills, at what ages, gender, what happens when they don't, what legacies are worth to charities, typically etc).
Let’s begin with the fact that every year 40% of people - about 200,000 people - die without a will. For families, it’s more stressful if you die without one as they have to second guess what you would have wanted. It can be up to £10,000 more expensive due to the difficulty in tracking down lost assets and additional legal fees.
For the charity sector, it’s also a massive missed opportunity. Legacies were worth £2.8billion to charities last year but that’s only scratching the surface. A third of people want to leave a gift in their will but only 1 in 5 people actually do - so it’s in everyone’s interest to encourage more people to get their will sorted.
So legacy income is hugely important to charities, but many see it as a tricky subject when it comes to fundraising. How can we get past that?
Often we talk about death being taboo and legacy giving as a sensitive subject. And of course it’s not always easy, but if we fall over ourselves trying to be sensitive, then sometimes the legacy message can get lost.
In reality, most people know they need a will but they don’t know where to get started or never get around to it. If a charity helps them to get it done by reaching out to supporters to talk about legacies or even provide them with a professional will-writing offer, that’s a good thing they will be grateful for.
Impossible question, but if you had to pick one charity whose work is close to your heart, which one would it be?
It would have to be the first charity I ever volunteered for, Maryhill Citizens Advice Bureau in Glasgow. At that stage, I still wasn’t sure whether I would continue training to be a lawyer but volunteering there made me realise I wanted to change things further upstream and that led me to the charity world. Volunteering there also left me with a healthy respect for the amazing work of local charities and volunteers, who haven’t always had the recognition - or resources- they deserve.
Most of us can point to someone who has inspired us in our careers. Is there anyone that has inspired you?
Making a move from the charity sector to a tech start-up was a big step for me so I took inspiration from other people who haven’t been afraid to take risks and try new things in their careers. Notable examples include Jo Wolfe and Clare Montagu - both amazing charity leaders who have changed sectors, made a huge impact and still found the time to mentor and support other women to reach their potential.
How do you relax?
I travel often, play volleyball every week, and dabble in a bit of tennis. Eating is also high up there - I make a weekly pilgrimage to Theo’s in Camberwell for wine and pizza.
A few quickfire questions:
- If you could save three records / cassettes / CDs / MP3s / streams to take to the desert island with you, what would they be (and why)
500 Miles - the Proclaimers - reminds me of home, the end of great parties and always makes me smile.
50 Special - LunaPop - I’m a huge italophile and this song reminds me of my time living in Bologna and going about on the back of my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) scooter!
Banquet - Bloc Party - loved them in concert and this song never fails to motivate me to get moving.
- PC or Mac user?
Mac (though there are still a world of shortcuts which escape me)
- Is your smartphone an iPhone, Android or other?
- What’s your current favourite app?
I couldn’t live without Citymapper as I cycle a lot and have no sense of direction. If there is an app out there that includes bike parking, then I’d love to know about it!
Thanks Megan for being our nonprofit hero!