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Number of charities named in wills rises 10%

Number of charities named in wills rises 10%

The number of charities named in wills rose 10% last year, according to data from Remember a Charity and Smee & Ford.

The new legacy data shows that the number of charities benefiting from gifts in wills from 2014 to 2015 rose from 9,019 to 9,910 across England, Scotland, and Wales. There was also a significant increase in the number of charities named as legacy beneficiaries for the first time.

Of the 9,910 organisations that were named in a will in 2015, 4,410 (45%) of them had not previously been named as legacy beneficiaries since Smee & Ford first started recording every charity beneficiary in wills in August 2012. From August 2012 to the end of 2015, a total of 19,261 charities have been named in wills.

Almost half of the charities (47%) included in a will for the first time last year represent religious (18%), culture & heritage (12%), community (10%) or educational causes (7%).

The data also shows an increase in the number of health charities named in wills, with 195 entering the legacy register in 2015. Fewer animal charities were added to the list however.

Mark Pincher, data analyst at Smee & Ford said:

“Considering the whole charitable population totalling over 180,000 organisations in the UK, it is true that there is a small group which attract the majority of bequests. However our research shows that annually there are up to ten thousand charities mentioned in wills which is much broader than we initially perceived.

“Of the 19,000 organisations we have identified since 2012, nearly half (49%) have only been mentioned once, meaning that around 9,500 organisations have been mentioned twice or more. It is certainly positive to see the number of charities supported increasing by 10% in 2015.”

Longer-term, the number of charitable estates is also on the rise, growing from 28,982 in 2007 to 36,226 in 2015, against a falling death rate, which declined from 560,038 to 555,478 within the same timeframe. One in six people (15.6%) whose wills go to probate include a charitable bequest.

Legacy income figures for 2015 will be published by Smee & Ford in late 2016. Last year, Smee & Ford revealed that legacy income had grown by 8% from the year 2013 to 2014, to £2.208 billion, despite a 1% decrease in the number of people that died in the same period.

Smee & Ford are currently running a series of webinars on legacy fundraising, which can be joined at





Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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