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Charity sector must prioritise legacy fundraising for future growth

A recent report co-authored by Smee & Ford, Remember A Charity, the Institute of Legacy Management and Legacy Foresight, explores how vital legacy income has been in 2020 and emphasises how charities must collaborate to grow and normalise legacy giving.

Legacy giving shapes the world around us and this has been more evident during the coronavirus outbreak than ever before. While many fundraising channels and activities ceased, gifts in Wills – the largest source of voluntary income – sustained vital charitable services across the UK.

The recent report, Strengthening Charities’ Resilience with Legacies, features views from 12 leading legacy experts and findings from a survey of over 120 charity representatives. It looks at the shape of the sector now and possibilities for the future, including recommendations on how charities should prepare their legacy fundraising strategies for more uncertainty as well as potential sector growth.

Future uncertainty makes legacies vital

Legacies really did enable us to weather the storm. Because we knew roughly what
legacy income is coming our way and because that income is such a large part of our
funding base, we felt confident that – even if legacy values dipped a little – the money
would still make it through. That pipeline has kept us going. It meant that we could plan.
It gave us the ability to manage cashflow and some certainty at a time of uncertainty.”
Jayne George, Director of Fundraising, Marketing & Media, RNLI

Despite recent news suggesting that vaccines may be available in the coming months, the global coronavirus crisis has already had a devastating impact on the sector that will be felt for months to come. It has demonstrated how vulnerable charitable income can be and how important it is to plan for the long term.

Against that backdrop, the need for charitable services and therefore legacies will be vital. The sector’s ability and willingness to collaborate will be all the more important if charities are to succeed in making legacy giving a social norm, ensuring that every charity can benefit.

Expectations of continued growth

We believe that legacy fundraising is the single biggest area of potential growth in
voluntary income at Marie Curie, so we need to continue to invest if we are to benefit
from that growth. And that’s not just financial investment, but in making sure we give it
even more focus across the organisation, so legacy giving becomes a culture and a norm
rather than a difficult subject.”
Nigel Gorvett, Head of Legacy Giving, Marie Curie

Smee & Ford data finds that the proportion of Wills that include a charitable gift has risen
by 24% over the past twenty years, and the pandemic has now created even more demand for Wills. Combined with the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth expected to be passed from baby boomers to the next generation, and rising estate values, the sector can expect to see a considerable surge in legacy income in the not-too-distant future.

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Source: Smee & Ford, 2020 (based on average legacy data comparisons from 1997-99 to 2017-19)

Modelling from Legacy Foresight suggests that over the next 10 years, cumulative UK legacy income will total £40 billion. Although people typically make decisions about legacy gifts many years before they die, decisions relating to more than £4.5 billion worth of income over the next decade will be made in the next five years. And indeed, holding off on legacy marketing for just one year could mean missing out on the opportunity to influence decisions around more than £1 billion of this income.

Recommendations for the sector and the need for collaboration

“Charities that will benefit from legacies, and see the number of
gifts grow, will be those that continue to ensure they maintain
active legacy marketing over the longer-term, both at a sector-wide
level and within our own charities too.”
Iain McAndrew, Director of Fundraising & Communications, Children’s Hospices Across Scotland

The report emphasises a need for charities to be agile and focus on supporter relationships, adjusting communications to reflect the challenges supporters are facing. Charities should also collaborate with each other to grow and normalise legacy giving. Alex McDowell, Head of Public Fundraising at RNIB, comments “It remains vital that charities also collaborate to grow the market and specifically, they do so in areas that no single charity can deliver alone. This includes working with the legal and financial sectors, the government and the wider public to help more people choose to leave a gift in their Will and make individual charities’ marketing efforts more likely to deliver a favourable response  and return.”

Comments from the report contributors included

Allan Freeman, Chair, Remember a Charity:
"In the next year alone, people will make up their minds about which charities should receive billions of pounds of legacy income. Charities that remain front of mind in the legacy market, those that collaborate to grow that market and that inspire their supporters to consider leaving a gift in their Will, will surely be those that gain the biggest share."

Polly Avgherinos, Managing Director, Smee & Ford:
Despite this year’s challenges, the combined data and insight in this report clearly demonstrate that legacies will remain a significant and growing source of income for charities. However, this can only happen if legacy fundraising teams maintain the resources to further their strategies and therefore we must all continue to collaborate to raise awareness of the importance of legacies and the positive impact they have on beneficiaries and society as a whole.”

Matthew Lagden, CEO, Institute of Legacy Management:
"We hope that this report will further our shared goal of increasing legacy income across the sector, and that it will promote a greater appreciation of legacy teams and a renewed  commitment to invest in this vital income stream for the long-term benefit of charities and
society more widely."

Meg Abdy, Development Director, Legacy Foresight:
"At a time when many of us are conscious of our mortality, and imbued with a heightened sense of community, the case for legacy giving is more pressing than ever. Now is the time to invest in the future of your charity, your values and indeed our world."

Download the full report here.

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