Legacies are often seen as one of the sector’s biggest success stories in recent years, but we have far higher to climb if we are to succeed in making legacy giving a social norm, growing the income potential for every charity. For this to happen, we need a group effort; closer collaboration within the sector and beyond.
While the number of charitable bequests is on the rise over the long-term, charities have become increasingly reliant on gifts in wills and there are more organisations competing for funds. According to Smee & Ford, some 26,000 charities have been named in Wills in the last five years alone (Smee & Ford 2018) . So it has never been as important that we grow the legacy market.
As a sector, we are moving in the right direction. Over the long-term, the number of legacy supporters is rising, with the proportion of UK Wills that included a charitable gift increasing by 31% between 2007 and 2016 (nfpSynergy, 2016). Legacy values have soared by £1 billion during that time (Smee & Ford, 2018), although that of course is heavily influenced by property prices and other economic factors.
But barriers remain and, at times, it seems as if we are just scratching the surface of what is possible. Currently around 6% of people that die leave a charitable gift in their will and that figure could be significantly higher.
Part of the challenge is of course linked to the broader issue of intestacy in the UK. The public cannot leave a gift to charity without writing a Will and recent research suggests that 60% of the public still haven’t done so.
Change is on the cards
The great news is that change is on the cards. The will-writing marketplace is in the process of being overhauled by the Law Commission, with a view to making it even easier for people to make their final wishes known. Change won’t happen overnight, but progress here is key.
Another major step forward is that government departments (including the DCMS, HM Treasury and Ministry of Justice) are beginning to work more closely together to encourage legacy giving. A joined-up approach could have a huge impact, tackling intestacy, will-writing challenges, tax breaks and more.
Primarily, however, it’s down to us – the sector – to communicate the importance of legacy giving and what a difference it makes in terms of services delivered and social good. And this is where numbers really do come in.
Strength in numbers
The more of us that work together to convey the impact of legacies, the more we can achieve. A few months ago we welcomed our 200th member to the Remember A Charity consortium, having grown from a coalition of 150 charities just four years ago.
Not only does this growth highlight the importance of legacy income to an increasingly diverse range of charities, large and small. It also reflects growing acknowledgement of the need for a collaborative approach. This means that we’re able to deliver high impact public awareness activity, particularly during the annual Remember A Charity in Your Will Week (10-16 September 2018).
But it’s not as simple as more voices make more noise, or even about shared resources going further. Ultimately, it’s about taking a collective approach to achieving real change; in government policy, the way that solicitors talk to clients about legacy giving and, ultimately, consumer behaviour.
We can’t change culture over night, but by working collaboratively, we can get closer to achieving our common goal of normalising legacy giving. And the bigger the collective, the quicker we hope to reach that goal.
Emma Bockhop is Membership & Supporter Development Manager at Remember A Charity. She has worked there since the launch of the campaign in both marketing and membership roles. She is responsible for recruiting new member charities to grow the size and diversity of the consortium, and for building relationships with its key stakeholders and for developing relationships with key supporters such as celebrities and VIPs. Previously Emma worked in Individual Giving fundraising.
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