BLOG: Executive support needed to build on increasingly important legacies

Everyone has a different take on how the fundraising regulatory changes will impact the market, but if there is one thing for sure, it is that legacies will become increasingly important to the sector. What is more, it is down to charity leaders, not only their fundraising team, to enable this to happen and ensure their organisation is on the receiving end.

Why am I so convinced that legacies will become more important? It’s not so much about the increased restrictions that the Fundraising Preference Service may bring to public fundraising or even the longer-term corporate and statutory funding cuts that mean charities must find new income sources. It is about opportunity.

Just last week, Smee & Ford revealed record levels of donors leaving a gift to charity in their will (over 37,000) and, earlier in the year, they announced a 10 per cent growth in charities benefiting from legacies annually. Near on 10,000 charities are now named in Wills each year. But, there is far greater scope for charities to benefit; both in terms of growing the number of legacy donors, as well as for individual charities to fulfil their legacy potential.

Currently, just around 6 per cent of people who die leave a charitable gift in their Will, but our research indicates that 35 per cent would be willing to do so. Bearing in mind that this minority generates an estimated £2.5bn annually - the largest single source of voluntary income to the sector, imagine what a difference further growth of the donor market could make.

How best can charities grow the market? At Remember A Charity, we are already doing what we can to make this happen, running a high profile legacy awareness campaign and working with the legal sector to ensure that solicitors are informing clients about the opportunity to include a gift in their Will, among other things.

But this is only possible due to a truly collaborative approach that sees charities working hand-in-hand with one another to achieve what no single organisation could do alone; normalising gifts in Wills.

This week, during Remember A Charity in your Will Week, we see the sector’s collaboration at its best. Around 170 charities, over 1,000 legal advisers, Government and many others are all coming together to talk about the importance of legacies at the same time.

With a collective voice, the campaign has the potential to reach millions of people across the UK and inspire them about legacy giving, giving charities a reason to get legacy conversations started, ideas to share and the tools to make it happen.

Continued and closer collaboration within the sector is the key to growth and this is just as important internally as it is externally. For charities to achieve their full legacy potential it requires engagement from all staff and that of course means leadership from the very top.

When I talk to many charities who have made a real success with their legacy fundraising programme, time and again they tell me how important their CEO, fellow directors and trustees have been. Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, Water Aid and many more have all said the same; that the backing and commitment of their CEO and senior colleagues was instrumental in inspiring staff to come together and champion legacies across the organisation. At the same time, many other charities talk about the challenge of engaging senior staff with the programme.

So, if there is just one thing that I could ask of charity leaders, particularly during this week, it would be to use your voice to get behind your charity’s legacy drive and ensure organisation-wide commitment to the programme. Consider the importance of your legacy programme as it stands and what more you could do to support your fundraising team.

Legacies may be a long-term game, but the need for funding has never been greater and the potential for growth in gifts in Wills is immense.


Rob Cope is director of Remember A Charity, the UK’s legacy consortium of over 160 charities working to make legacy giving a social norm. During Remember A Charity Week, the consortium is calling on the public to pass on something legendary, tweeting their advice for future generations using #MyWisdom and remembering a charity in their Will.

Find out more about Remember A Charity or follow @RememberCharity

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