20 years of col­lab­o­rat­ing to grow lega­cy giving

Remem­ber A Char­i­ty was born twen­ty years ago by char­i­ties work­ing togeth­er. But today, we take a look at the huge impact this ini­tia­tive has had on lega­cy giving.

Written by
Rob Cope
January 07, 2021

It may feel like a world away from the events of 2020 but take your mind back to the start of the year 2000 for a moment. We were moving into a new millennium – a time when the world feared that the Y2K bug would cause a mass collapse of anything computer-based, the Olympics was about to be held down under (Sydney) and the first crew was preparing to move into the International Space Station. 

I was just starting out in the sector and, as far as I could see, legacies weren’t particularly high on the sector’s radar. They were – or certainly seemed to be – largely the preserve of the biggest, most well-known charities. Some were starting to build a more regular flow of legacy income, but those organisations were relatively few are far between.

All in all, there was very little noise about giving from your Will. In fact, broaching the topic was seen as something of a taboo, whether that was within the office or boardroom, let alone when talking with treasured supporters. But for those charities brave enough to make the ask and those starting to invest in legacy-focused teams and legacy marketing, the impact on their voluntary income was already – in many cases – considerable. 

Against this backdrop, RNLI fundraising director, David Brann, clubbed together with other leaders in the field – all of whom had the shared belief that the sector was only scratching the surface of what could be achieved with legacies. They were used to working together behind the scenes as donors often name more than one charity in their Will. But they wanted to do more; to change attitudes and normalise legacy giving, so they formed a consortium and Remember A Charity (then known as Legacy Promotion Campaign) was born. 

Iain McAndrew, now director of fundraising and communications at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS), and one of the founding members says: ‘It was a no brainer – the only way we could grow legacies was to grow the size of the market. None of us could shift attitudes alone, so to achieve that vision we had to work together.

Fast forward twenty years and – while there’s much more potential still to be achieved – there has been a significant shift in the market. Legacies have become one of the most consistent and sizeable areas of growth for UK fundraising, now accounting for over 16 per cent of charities’ total income – over £3 billion annually. The proportion of people leaving a legacy has grown by 24 per cent and now, there are more than 10,000 charities named in Wills each year. That income has played a huge part in helping charities’ weather the storm of the pandemic. And collaboration has been a major factor in driving change.

Why collaborate?

When we work together, we shift the dial away from competition, partnering with one another to combine our strengths and share ideas, accelerating learning and change. We can be bolder, braver and generally a great deal louder. We can break down barriers, busting legacy myths and taboos, so that we’re not just raising awareness but building understanding. We can combine our insights, test new channels and strategies, laying the foundations for charities to deliver their own innovative appeals, opening up their own legacy conversations and creating a more level playing field for organisations with smaller budgets. 

By collaborating, we can convince government that this is an area of giving that they really do need to continue to protect, and we can engage professional advisers in making their clients aware of the option of giving from their will. All these levers are critical when it comes to growing the market and creating space for every charity to benefit.

And while the income is of course urgently needed, the crux of it is that a legacy is a truly special way for people to give and be remembered, and for charities to connect with supporters. For many supporters, it’s their only opportunity to be a major giver. As the first consortium director, Simon Turner of Insight Consulting, recently said: ‘It’s their best possible chance to change the world and influence the future of the causes that they care about.’

Working across international borders

In the legacy field, there’s an immense appetite to share ideas and learn from one another, and that’s by no means unique to the UK. The consortium model has been replicated across the world, throughout parts of Europe, in Canada, South Korea, Australia and the US. Cultural differences apply, but we are all taking a similar path, combining resources to build awareness of legacy giving and using a range of levers to inspire behavioural change.

Across the consortia network, we collaborate too, sharing our campaign creatives and other ideas like Will-writing fairs, together with campaign results and insights. International Legacy Giving Day is held each September, alongside many of our own awareness weeks and campaigns, including Remember A Charity Week. And we look at what strategies and campaigns are most effective in each market and take inspiration from one another. 

For example, having seen how the inheritance tax break encourages UK legacy giving and, perhaps most importantly, encourages solicitors, Will-writers and financial advisers to discuss charitable bequests with clients, South Korea’s new legacy consortium – the National Council of Charity Korea – is now working closely with their government to lobby for a similar tax incentive. When Australia launched its Include A Charity campaign, they licensed one of our TV adverts. Why reinvent the wheel?

Similarly, we took inspiration from the simple, but striking Belgian campaign this year, which normalised legacy giving by communicating how many people are now writing a gift into their Will each day. Incidentally, we also love the humour of their Facebook posts during the pandemic this Spring, (pictured below).

The thought bubble reads ‘I’m leaving my collection of toilet paper to…’

Looking to the future

If there’s anything that 2020 has shown us, it’s that collaboration is all the more important in tough times. So, as we head into 2021, there’s never been a greater need to combine our strengths and support one another. 

Bearing in mind the predicted £40 billion boom in the UK legacy market over the next 10 years and the surge in interest in charitable Will-writing, legacies are undoubtedly going to be a crucial part of the sector’s recovery and growth. 

See more in our new joint report, ‘Strengthening Charities’ Resilience with Legacies’ produced in collaboration with Legacy Foresight, the Institute of Legacy Management and Smee & Ford.

About the author: Rob Cope

Rob is an experienced communicator, campaigner and fundraiser who is driven by creating social change.

He is director of Remember A Charity and director of development at the Institute of Fundraising.

His specialties are PR, communications, marketing, behaviour change campaigning, charity fundraising. 

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