Why We Need to Focus More on Legacy Fundraising

4th May by Richard Yorke

Published on


For many years, we as a sector have talked about how important legacies are within a fundraising programme. But anecdotal evidence from our conversations and reviews seems to show that charities still see legacy (or Gift in Will) marketing as not the priority of their fundraising.

AAW has undertaken research assessing charity web pages and how they promote legacies which shows that there is still a way to go for the charity sector as a whole with approaches to legacy marketing.

AAW Managing Consultant Richard Yorke shares the top level results of this research and gives his personal view.

holding hands

My very first job in the charity sector was as a legacy marketing assistant. From that point on, and through various roles as Head of Individual Giving, Director of Fundraising and as a consultant, I always believed legacies are an area undervalued by charities - they never seemed to be seen as core to a programme, rather an add-on with the communications around legacies to supporters just fitting around IG or community asks.

As we all know legacy income across the sector is huge – as Smee and Ford shows in its 2020 Legacy Trends report, total legacy income for charities now stands at an estimated £3bn – a new milestone that was reached in 2018 and was held in 2019.

At AAW we want to encourage charities to give more attention, emphasis and resources to legacies within their fundraising. To kickstart that conversation we've carried out an analysis of 75 charity websites and the information provided on legacies within them. Charities were chosen at random ranging from large to small and a wide range of causes.

We used a set of criteria based upon specific research into what motivates people to leave a gift in their will, to assess the information on the websites we looked at.

We looked at, whether for browsers who have deliberately sought out information on legacies on a charity page, there is an option to request more information from the charity such as a legacy leaflet or brochure. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that just under 50% of charities did not offer the chance for an interested individual to download or get through the post a leaflet with information about how they could leave a legacy to the cause. But to me this stat alone shows the massive opportunity that is being missed. Imagine a webpage promoting a fundraising run or walk with no option to get more information on how to sign up?!?

Some smaller organisations didn't offer any information on legacies at all, nor did several movement-based organisations. Many charities did not share stories from legators - a proven beneficial way to demonstrate the impact of giving a legacy and encouraging others to do the same.

The research also showed some interesting trends for example - the phrase ‘gifts in Will’ as opposed to ‘legacy’ was used by 53% of charities on their websites.

Our conclusion is that despite a lot of talk across the sector, organisations - for whatever reason – are not prioritising legacies and giving this area of fundraising the focus it needs.

Our very own Mark Astarita has strong views on the importance of legacies:  “I have said for some time that legacy giving is the one and only next big thing in fundraising, with baby boomers – the most wealthy generation ever – reaching a period in their lives when they will be considering the lasting difference they can make in the world. Currently 6% of people leave a gift to charity in their Will, but if this was increased to 10%, it could generate another £1 billion for good causes each year. Compare that to the 64% of people that give to charity in any one year and you can see it is vital that charities invest in this area of fundraising to encourage more people to provide long-term support for charities they care about into the future.”

AAW will be releasing a summary report in the next couple of weeks on our research, including anonymous overall scores for how many charities met our assessment criteria, as well as recommendations on what charities should be doing.

Register Now for a Free Report & Seminar

If you would like to receive a copy of our summary report please contact me at richard@aawpartnership.com

You can also register your interest for a free seminar AAW will be hosting in June with legacy experts from across the sector debating what we can do to improve the way we communicate with donors about gifts in Wills. 

The seminar is open to all in the sector to attend, just email me at the address above to register your interest.