Forecasting future legacy gifts with Charity Intentions

Howard Lake | 15 February 2021 | Sponsored posts

Charity Intentions

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What is it with jobs that are important yet not impending? Why do we procrastinate unless we have a deadline? When it comes to writing a will a whole host of things come into play.

The biggest reason given for not having one is that “I’ve not got around to it.” Writing a will is important but usually, not urgent.

Yet last year, in view of the current Covid-19 crisis, lots of people did make it a priority. According to online will writers Farewill 6th April was the day in 2020 when most people found the motivation to write a will, the day when Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care.

Conversely, the day that the vaccine was approved in December, Farewill reported a big drop in the numbers of people writing wills.

It’s clear that we have an awkward relationship with end of life planning, it’s not something we like to do.

However, getting our affairs in order helps our loved ones when we no longer can. Making a charitable gift in our will extends this assistance to the causes that most closely align to our living values.

Good news for legacy fundraisers

The good news for legacy fundraisers, like me, is that it is estimated that around one hundred people decide to include a charitable gift in their will every single day in the UK.

That’s impressive, although when you see that the total value of charitable estates in the UK is valued at £17.6 billion and £3.4 billion of this goes to charity, it also means over 80% of wills do not contain a charitable gift. You could see that as a problem, or you could see that as an opportunity. It’s certainly a lot of people to convince to do a thing.

More good news, from my perspective, is when someone does include a charitable gift, they tend to get generous. It’s common for people to remember more than one charity in their bequest, making the number of gifts a lot higher than one hundred a day, research suggests the average number of charities remembered in an individual will tends to be between six or seven upon average.

Thanks to Legacy Foresight’s analysis and the recent Legacy Resilience Report from November 2020 by Remember A Charity, Legacy Foresight, the Institute of Legacy Management and Smee & Ford we have an impressive set of findings to learn from.

Okay, so let’s break this down a little further, or expand upon the information because it means right now, more than 36,500 bequests are created each year in the UK and if you apply the average of six charities remembered in each, that’s at least 225,300 gifts.

Now maths is not my strength, I’m a lot more of a blue sky and rainbows kind of gal, as opposed to a voracious number cruncher. However, even I can see that’s a lot of giving and in total, these close to a quarter of a million gifts amount to £3.4 billion which in turn can be translated into 16% of all funds raised by the third sector in the UK.

So, when you ask fellow fundraisers about legacies, almost two thirds recognise the importance of gifts in wills and many know that for some charities, legacy income can account for more than 30% of their annual voluntary income. Legacy Foresight predicts that the number of charitable gifts in wills is going to increase by 23% in the next decade and in real terms that means income will double in value.

This is certainly good news to hear as a legacy fundraiser, and it is also good to see the confidence charities are showing with an increased focus on the promotion of this kind of giving, something I find to be both heartening and timely.

Time to celebrate the impact of legacy gifts

However, legacy fundraising has historically been the Cinderella of fundraising income streams. We legacy fundraisers have also been an odd bunch, questioned over budget and, like the mechanism of the way we obtain our resources, we’re seen as important but aren’t necessarily dealt with right away. Yes, everyone knows that gifts in wills are royalty in the making, but as they’re hard to predict, take a long time to arrive and when they do, are often a surprise, legacy fundraising can have a tough time.

Many smaller charities will admit they ought to pay more attention to generating gifts in wills, but they get a faster fix rolling up their sleeves and creating campaigns with immediate effect.

It’s understandable and even more so when you know that across the board charities report between 40-60% of legacy gifts come from supporters they haven’t been in contact with. Thinking about it, it’s hardly a surprise as the legacy pipeline is years in the making, between 6-20 years latest figures say, so the work we do with our wonderful messages now, will often only be realised in terms of our cause benefiting from a bequest many years later.

All the same, gifts in wills are expected to contribute a higher proportion of charities and voluntary income in 2021, more than in former years and with other revenue streams crippled by Covid-19 legacies are revealing themselves to be a fundamental part of the UK giving landscape. As a result, those legacy messages cannot be left languishing at the bottom of our to-do-list. It’s time to celebrate impact and attract more.

So what can we do?

In the past we could invite potential legators to face to face events, share a cup of tea and a piece of cake along with a chunk of gratitude for future gifts.

Charity Intentions' proposition
Benefits of Charity Intentions

We can’t do that right now. So I’m proud to have persuaded the brilliant team behind Ema Giving, the visual fundraising solution that generates fantastic virtual fundraising campaigns, to turn their hand to bringing Legacy fundraising into the 21st Century. I challenged them to create a way to reveal future gifts now, allow a
charity to showcase a short video of how much they care that their supporters care and most importantly, record information so we can continue the conversation.

Charity Intentions
Charity Intentions helps fundraisers and supporters visualise their future legacy gifts

As a result on the 15th February Charity Intentions launches, which is the new legacy fundraising tool, powered by Ema but geared specifically towards legacy fundraising.

There are some great benchmarking features, including a way to debunk the myth that our potential legators are not online and research the link legacy between in-memory, lottery playing and volunteering.

More than simply a tool for fundraisers to play with though, Charity Intentions intends to create a virtual yet vibrant community for supporters to share their reasons why their chosen charity is going to receive a future gift. It will clearly show intentions and enable charities and supporters to connect and celebrate progress being made with the causes they care about together.

I’m looking forward to seeing this leap in legacy fundraising solutions reveal more about future gifts and help us effectively reach out to those who we have always known cared, but didn’t necessarily know who or where they were.

Clare Sweeney is a Digital and Direct Fundraising Consultant at Keepace Consults.

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