A VITAL source of income for charities comes from legacies left
in wills: the UK legacy market generates more than £2 billion a
year. Only six per cent of people leave a legacy in their will, but
this six per cent provides 13 per cent of all income to charities
in the UK.
Death rates are lower now than they were a decade ago. In 2013,
there were 21.9 per cent fewer male deaths in the UK, and 19.2 per
cent fewer female deaths compared with 2003. Nevertheless,
charities are not reporting that legacy giving has slowed.
The Children's Society receives about £7 million a year from
legacy gifts (about a quarter of its income). The head of
fund-raising and marketing, Simon Burne, says that the situation is
positive. "At the moment, most charities are reporting at least
stable levels of legacy giving, if not a slight growth." This is
because, he says, the two main assets that people have - property
and shares - are both rising in value again, meaning that estates
are of greater value than they were in previous years.
The legacy marketing manager at Christian Aid, Alison Linwood,
agrees that legacy giving is healthy. "We've seen legacy income
nearly double from about 2006, when it was just over six per cent
of our income. Last year, it was worth about £12.8 million."
Miss Linwood attributes this to more communication with
supporters on legacies, and the charity has boosted its community
fund-raising team (staff who go into churches to speak about the
impact of legacies).
Legacies make up between five and ten per cent of Tearfund's
income. The charity was founded in 1968, which makes it relatively
young, the UK Director for Church and Supporter Relations, Andrew
McCracken, says. "We have a relatively young average supporter; so
we'd expect that, as those supporters grow older, our legacy income
would generally trend upwards. . . I think that the age of the
charity is a big factor."
Demographic shifts are going to mean further opportunities for
charities. From 2020, the "baby-boomer" generation - people who
were born between 1946 and 1957 - will start to die in increasing
numbers. This group represents 22 per cent of the population of the
UK. From 2020 onwards, deaths will start to climb, peaking in
A consultancy that analyses the legacies market, Legacy
Foresight, ran a research project into the boomer generation on
behalf of a consortium of UK charities in 2007, updating its
results in 2010 and 2014. The findings were that the legacy
market's value will grow to a value of £5.16 billion by 2050: more
than twice what it is now.
SO, IS the golden age of legacy giving about to dawn? The
director of Legacy Foresight, Meg Abdy, says that there are other
factors to consider: namely, that "boomers" have become more
cautious since the 2008 economic crash.
"We're a very small part of a global society, and it's much more
risky than it used to be," she says. Boomers feel that their
families' futures are "by no means predictable. . . That sense of
needing to protect your family is still very strong in people's
Many will, undoubtedly, want to help families pay for university
fees, or get a foothold on the property ladder, through their
wills. Charities are sensitive to this. Mr Burne says: "Whenever we
[at the Children's Society] talk to anybody about legacies, we
always say 'You must think about your family first. You mustn't
leave them suffering as a result of your generosity.'"
Rising care costs for the boomer generation could potentially
erode legacy gifts, too. If people are living longer, with high
care costs, Mr Burne says, it is possible that, when they die, the
amount of money left will be reduced, because assets will have been
remortgaged or sold off. "So there's a risk, but it's difficult to
The director of Remember a Charity, Rob Cope, agrees, but says
that the outlook for charities is still very good, overall: "The
cohort is so big in terms of baby-boomers, we feel very confident
that, actually, growth will still be quite significant,
irrespective of those other factors."
Childless people currently represent more than half the legacies
market by value, Ms Abdy says. A growing group of childless people
(particularly women), dying from 2025 onwards, represents a
significant future opportunity for charities (in 2025, childless
women will represent 13 per cent of all deaths, rising to 17 per
cent in 2050).
But Ms Linwood says that Christian Aid, for example, would not
target a group such as this specifically, and would always discuss
legacies as part of a more general ongoing conversation. "I'd be
reluctant to say that, because somebody fits a certain
categorisation, they deserve a very tailored message. It's more
about having conversations with people, giving a sermon in church,
and [having] a chat with people afterwards."
CHARITIES are not the only organisations to benefit from
legacies. The Church of England receives more than 5000 legacies
each year, worth about £44.2 million. How does it view the
impending changes in society?
The legacy fund-raising officer at the Church of England,
Eleanor Gill, says: "We are aware that people are living longer,
and the cost of living is increasing, and we will always encourage
individuals to remember their family first.
"But, no matter how large or small, each gift can make a
significant impact on a church's mission and ministry. People have
chosen to support the work of their church through legacy giving
for hundreds of years, and I believe that they will continue to
show that support."
Like many charities, the Church of England is talking more
openly about the importance of making a will and leaving a legacy.
"As a sector, we're communicating more effectively, and sharing
stories where a legacy gift has made a real difference to our
work," Ms Gill says.
But, as it grows, the legacies market will become increasingly
competitive. Charities will need to work harder to encourage people
to remember them in their wills, and new and younger supporters
will become the legacy givers of the future.
TEARFUND is engaging with people in their twenties and thirties
in ways that are not just about giving money, since people in that
age-bracket often have less '"spare" income to give. They ask them
to pray, campaign, and make lifestyle changes, for example through
their online community "Rhythms", which encourages people to make
small lifestyle changes every day, such as organising a clothes
swap or picking up litter. "How we live influences how people in
poverty live around the world," Mr McCracken says.
"It's a bit of a myth that younger people are less generous than
older people," Simon Burne, of the Children's Society, says.
Rather, they are generous in different ways. "While older people
might be more loyal to an organisation, younger people are more
loyal to a cause." This means that a young person might support a
specific campaign, but not sign up as a regular giver. Charities
need to negotiate this "fickleness".
The way to do this is to communicate a much broader vision, Mr
Burne says, rather than just ask for money: "It's about engaging
people so that they believe and understand how we can best serve
the most disadvantaged children and young people in Britain, and
make a difference in their lives."
The viral community is important to younger supporters. As with
the recent Ice Bucket Challenge (News, 5 September), people see
campaigns on Facebook, or other initiatives on sites such as
JustGiving, and want to be part of something much bigger.
GIVING in memoriam is set to grow, too, Ms Abdy says,
"because of the rising death rate, and because charities themselves
are becoming more conscious of it". Often, people will give in
memoriam gifts at funerals if the person who has died was a
volunteer for, or supporter of, a particular charity. Mr Cope says
that this kind of giving can sometimes lead to a legacy gift
further down the line.
"Fund-raising is evolving," Ms Gill says, "and there will always
be new and innovative ways to support your favourite causes; but
legacy giving will never be replaced, and it will certainly never
Many people put off making a will. Research done by Will Aid in
2013 suggests that, of the 50 million adults living in the UK,
almost 28 million (56 per cent) do not have a will. The organisers
of this month's Christian Legacy Week say that the percentage of
Christians with a will stands much higher, at 80 per cent.
Ms Abdy believes that some people are delaying because of
economic uncertainty. "They can't imagine what'll happen next week
or next year, much less than in 20 years' time." Initiatives such
as Remember a Charity in Your Will Week, and Will Aid's Make a Will
Month (see box) are working to remedy this, besides the efforts of
charities' legacy marketing managers.
There is huge potential for legacy giving to increase, Mr Cope
says, if people take the time to make a will and plan ahead: "If
you survey people, about 35 per cent of the UK would be happy to
leave a charitable gift in their will, once they've taken care of
their friends and family." There is "massive potential", he says,
to help charities right now.
THERE are tax incentives, too. Since the 2011 budget, if at
least ten per cent of your estate is left to charity, inheritance
tax will be levied at 36 per cent of what is left rather than 40
But tax savings will never be the sole reason why someone leaves
a legacy: will decisions are generally emotion- and value-driven.
And, for Christians, Ms Linwood says, legacy giving has a spiritual
dimension. "We know that everything we have doesn't belong to us:
it's a gift from God. It's loving your neighbour. . . It's another
way of extending that love that we have."
Daniel Jones, of Stewardship, one of seven charities behind
Christian Legacy Week, says: "We all know how important it is to
give time and money to good causes. While many of us can be pretty
sure our gifts, given throughout our lives, have saved lives, we
often overlook the opportunity for us to continue to do good after
we have died.
"Christians, whether they leave a large or small gift to charity
in their wills, can have a real impact, ensuring that the good work
of Christian charities continues, and that the values of the donor
continue beyond their lifetime."