Legacy income for arts organisations is much lower than that enjoyed by other charities, and only a minority of arts organisations actively promote legacy giving. These are among the findings of Arts Quarter and Legacy Foresight’s first survey on legacy fundraising in the arts sector.
The survey, conducted in November and December 2010, found that only 41% of arts organisations who responded had received any gifts in wills in the past three years. Of those that had received legacy income, 77% of respondents had received fewer than 10 in that same period. Of the minority of arts organisations receiving legacy income, 51% received less than £25,000 a year from this source.
These findings support the findings in last year’s Arts Philanthropy : the facts, trends and potential, by Arts & Business, which reported that legacies accounted for just 1% of total income for arts organisations.
As Arts Quarter and Legacy Foresight point out, these figures are “hardly surprising” because only 38% of respondents actively promote the idea of legacy giving among their supporters.
Why did they not do so? The most common reasons given were lack of capacity (27%), more pressing priorities (21%), and a perceived lack of expertise (18%). In addition, 21% of arts organisations admitted that they had “never thought of working on this”.
Even amongst those organisations pursuing a legacy fundraising strategy, levels of investment are currently low: 46% of them had no specific staff provision for this activity.
Despite this lack of income and investment across the sector, half of all the arts organisations surveyed reported that legacy income will be important to their organisation in the next five years. A quarter described it as ‘very’ or ‘extremely important’.
The government would no doubt describe arts organisation’s legacy income as extremely important too. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State, Department of the Olympics, Culture Media and Sport, spoke in December 2010 about the potential of legacy giving as a key revenue source for the arts.
Best legacy performers by sector
The survey found that music and opera organisations were most likely to have received legacies, with 80% of them receiving gifts in wills over the past three years. Of these organisations, 18% attracted more than £100,000 a year in legacy income, probably because 69% actively encourage stakeholders and members of the public to leave gifts in wills.
This sector was followed by theatre groups, 43% of whom had received gifts in wills over the past three years. However, none had received more than 10 bequests over the past three years, and 71% had received no more than £25,000 a year in legacies. Only a third of theatres who responded actively promote legacy giving to their supporters or audience.
Next came museums and galleries: only 37% had received any gifts in wills over the past three years. One large national organisation skewed the sector’s total income figures, securing over £500,000 a year in legacy income. Of those surveyed, 36% of museums and galleries currently promote legacy giving. The main reasons for not doing so cited were, again, lack of capacity and perceived lack of expertise. Yet 47% of respondents considered legacies to be extremely/very/important to their organisation over the next five years.
Age of organisation
The older the organisation the more likely they were to have received gifts in wills, the survey found. Over three quarters of responding organisations founded before 1950 had received gifts in wills over the past three years, with 37% of them enjoying annual legacy income of £50,000 a year or more. Age alone might not be the sole reason for this: over three quarters of these older organisations actively promote legacy giving to their supporters.
By contrast, only 12% of responding organisations founded after 1981 currently encourage their stakeholders to leave gifts in their wills, and only 19% of them had received any legacies in the past three years. Around 27% of respondent organisations founded after 1981 said that they have never thought of promoting legacy giving.
Size of organisation
The survey found that the larger the organisation, the more likely it was to consider legacies an essential element of their future strategy. 70% of respondents with income over £5 million a year and 57% of organisations with income of £1-5 million a year considered it extremely/very/important to their organisation over the next five years.
Among the smallest organisations surveyed, only 5% ran any form of legacy promotion. Lack of awareness was the most common reason given for this, together with lack of capacity. Furthermore, 41% of respondents admitting that they had “never thought of working on this”.
Meg Abdy, Director of Legacy Foresight commented on the survey’s findings. She said: “These results come at a time when the coalition government… foresees legacies as playing a key role in improving levels of philanthropy for the arts. At present, legacy giving only features in a small number of organisations.
“By itself, more proactive legacy marketing is unlikely to provide a ‘quick fix’ to the funding issues facing the cultural community today’, but we would agree that there is real potential for growth provided that sufficient resourcing and capacity building is provided.”
The Survey was sent to 2,003 individuals working within the UK cultural sector and was promoted via Arts Council England and Legacy Foresight websites. In all, some 213 completed responses were received, providing a sample of 198 responses from arts organisations.
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