Discover the secrets of a legacy fundraiser as Ros Fry, Regional Legacy Manager for Cancer Research UK, talks to AMA Associate Editor Sara Lock about her journey to becoming a legacy fundraiser.
Introducing Ros Fry
I started my career at The Commonwealth Institute, a museum in London about non-western culture. I became Head of Marketing, Press and Sponsorship before moving on to mainstream culture as Senior Press Officer at the Southbank Centre.
Moving to the South West in 1994, I devised the first arts marketing courses at Dartington College of Arts and dozens of CPD courses. I have trained 3,000 students, artists and arts managers, run two literary festivals and curated a creative industries exhibition.
In 2011 I became a fundraiser for Cancer Research UK and am now Legacy Manager for the South West. I moved sector because two very close friends developed breast cancer and I wanted to do something to help.
How did your previous experience lead you to becoming a Regional Legacy Manager?
Working as an arts marketing and leadership consultant/trainer I have travelled around the South West a lot so I am familiar with the geography, demographic and activities of the
region and its communities.
Building rapport with audiences/supporters is relatively instinctive for me. I had no experience of developing legacy giving but I had eighteen months as a community fundraiser in Cancer Research UK before becoming a Legacy Development fundraiser.
Throughout my working life I have been interested in learning about new things... other
cultures, classical music, contemporary dance... and now cancer research. Asking questions,
not being afraid of saying I don’t understand something, and then translating those messages effectively for audiences we are communicating with is how I always work.
I was unfamiliar about Wills or gifts in Wills but soon became fascinated once I found out
how much income they can provide and what a difference that can make to beating cancer. Gifts in Wills fund a third of our work. It is the biggest source of funding and has the greatest return on investment.
How did people react to your new role?
Some people feel awkward talking about Wills because they’re inextricably linked to the end
of our lives. Colleagues might joke about ‘angel of death’ or see it as a rather old fashioned way of fundraising. It’s not innovative, not especially digital or twenty-first century.
How did you overcome that ‘angel of death’ perception? How do you stay motivated and keep making what many fundraisers consider the most awkward or difficult ask?
I always enjoy a challenge and so changing those stereotypes or allaying those fears is very motivating and I love it. My most blunt way of overcoming the perception is to show how much money can be raised and to point out how hard it is to raise that money in the ways that other fundraisers might be using.
£15 million was raised in my region last year... show me the money!
I stay motivated because every day in my role I talk to cancer survivors who thank me for what our charity is achieving. Our approach is to treat everyone who uses our free will service equally, even if they are leaving us nothing or very little. We are very careful not to be pushy or impatient. Sometimes I talk to supporters for more than an hour. I never put the phone down until they are happy with the way the call has gone.
Once you have got through the ‘end of life perception barrier’ then arguing the case for making a Will becomes an easy ‘product’ to promote. It is something that can help people in