Time to nudge

We are not far from embracing a whole load of nudges in legacies if we take Thaler and Sunstein’s book Nudge seriously.

Holiday reading is an art. You know the moment – you are in the airport and have to choose a book. One you want to read and unwind. One you ought to read and think about. I succumbed to the latter and was glad I did. We’d been thinking about ways to move will writers and those whose business is dependent on will writing to embrace the world of gifts in wills. It’s a tall order. What’s in it for them? Why get involved? The truth is simple – we want them to nudge.

Nudge is about improving decisions, health, wealth and happiness by recognising that no choice is ever presented in a neutral way. We are all choice architects – able to influence choice through simple insights and learning applied deliberately. In Amsterdam a ‘choice architect’ stencilled a picture of a fly on all the urinals in Schipol airport. As a result there was an 80% reduction in spillage – users were all aiming at the fly! Metaphorically, they had been nudged (literally would have been another story but let’s not go there…). The book outlines the many ways to nudge – creating defaults, following the herd, incentives etc. So the challenge in legacies, as we create a new social norm, is how do we nudge?


Here are five things we could do for starters. 1. Let’s find a way to train all will writers to ask every time – have you considered leaving a gift to your favourite charity after you have looked after friends and family? 2. Start talking about those who have done it and not those who haven’t 3. Create a default message in wills and in every thing we say – a percentage left to charity after friends & family, 4. Create a charity friendly mark for will writers to sign up to – they have been trained, and agree to treat donors correctly 5. Find a big market leader who wants to work in partnership and create a new product WITH charities.

We can all nudge – focus on conversations not pledges, create an experience people feel good about, put legacy messages up front, everywhere and online. But maybe its time to be more deliberate, focused and frankly radical as a charity sector to the will writing sector. Time to create a real nudge together.