The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Trends & Research Legacies & In Memory

Which charities are recording the highest increases in legacy income?

Data from Smee & Fordís Legacy Trends 2018 report reveals that Macmillan Cancer Support has topped the charts for the greatest growth in legacy income with a £12.9 million annual increase. The organisation has boosted its annual legacy income by an impressive 20.2%, recording a total income of £76.8 million in the financial year 2016-17; up from £63.9 million in the previous financial year.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) closely follows, with an increase of £12 million, taking the charity from £118.5 million of legacy income in 2015-16 to £130.5 million in 2016-17. This represents a 10% annual growth.

The National Trust has recorded a yearly change in legacy income of £10.1 million which equates to a percentage increase of 19.7% in 2016-17, while Cancer Research UK and The Woodland Trust note respective annual increases of £8.8 million and £7.7 million, equating to 5% and 54.5% growth respectively.

Legacy income is growing

Legacy income across the charity sector has grown significantly since 2011/12 from £1.8 billion in 2011/12 to £2.6 billion in 2016/17. The number of charities reporting legacy income has also increased: from 1,679 organisations in 2007/08 to 2,579 organisations in 2016/17 (please note that part of this rise is due to the increased number of charities reporting legacy income as the number of charities with income greater than £500,000 generally increases year on year). Just over one in five charities receive legacy income (where the total income exceeds £500,000).

Potential value for legacies in the future

If we consider that charitable estates were worth £17.9 billion in 2017, and legacy income was worth £2.8 billion, we can calculate that 15.6% of the net worth went to charities. Applying this percentage to the total estate values for non-charitable estates (i.e. those that do not contain a gift to charity), legacies could potentially be worth another £9.7 billion to the sector.

Using the total number of probated estates in 2017, if just 2,304 (1%) of those people included a gift to charity in their Will, it would have raised an additional £97 million for charities.

The number of charitable estates recorded by Smee & Ford fluctuates annually and is generally somewhere between 30,000 and 38,000. In recent years we have seen that the annual number of death registrations has fallen due to people living longer, yet the annual number of charitable estates has remained fairly consistent.

To find out more, click here to download the full Legacy Trends 2018 White Paper for free.


Excellence in Legacy Administration conference, 4 December 2018, London.

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