Legacies through the lens of faith

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In an increasingly multicultural world, how we engage and inspire people from different backgrounds and different faiths is all the more pertinent. For many people, faith is a huge part of their lives. It’s weaved into their identity; it fires their inspiration and it guides their decision-making. And it’s fascinating to explore the unique traditions and beliefs that underlie those faiths; none more so than the way in which religion frames philanthropy.

Our recent members’ webinar explored legacy giving through the lens of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, looking at the touchpoints between those faiths and legacy giving. The session aimed to give fundraisers an overview of the philanthropic traditions embedded within those faiths and to help them to connect with and inspire people of faith to consider leaving a gift in their Will.

Our guest panellists, Kerry McMenamin (Legacy Fundraising Lead at Christian Aid), Adam Overlander-Kaye (former Director of Fundraising at Jewish Care), and Na’eem Raza (Charity Consultant at Kube Squared) talked us through their key insights. Here we share some of our top takeouts from that session:

Understanding takes time

If you’re not part of the faith community you’re speaking with, it’s important to begin by taking the time to get to know your audience – as individuals, but also within the context of their faith.

If you have existing supporters of that faith, talk with them about their beliefs. This will often be something they are passionate about and keen to discuss. It’s an opportunity to build relationships while strengthening your knowledge and understanding. Researching the key religious festivals can help to pinpoint appropriate moments to open up conversation about gifts in Wills.

It’s important to note that there is there is a range of different religious denominations within the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, which may require a different approach and sensitivities around aspects such as appropriate imagery or language.

But all this came with the caveat from our panellists that no two people are the same. No matter which faith people may be part of, we cannot make assumptions that their needs and interests are the same. These supporter relationships will need stewardship.

The concept of giving is intrinsic within many faiths

Adam conveyed that in Judaism, “Tzedakah” the act of giving to charity is deeply rooted within Jewish values; it’s an act of making your community and the world around you a better place and is seen as a mitzvah (a commandment or good deed).

This concept by no means unique to the Jewish culture. The Islamic faith has a similar word and tradition “Zakat”, which Na’eem explained is one of the five pillars of Islam, and a religious obligation to give - making charitable giving compulsory for Muslims. All Muslims with excess wealth must pay Zakat, which amounts to 2.5% of all net savings being given to charity each year in order to “purify” their wealth. And the importance of Wills is emphasised heavily too: “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequeath not to let two nights pass without writing a Will about it.” (Bukhari)

Within the Christian faith, Kerry explained that people are compelled to give by the Bible and particularly through the teachings of Jesus – including that the principle that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Some Christian traditions also practice tithing, where they set aside a portion of earnings to the church and good causes. And legacy giving is one way in which Christians can demonstrate faith in action through generosity.

Common themes of love and charity

The Torah encourages Jewish people to give in a way that’s personally meaningful and “moves your heart”. Meanwhile, throughout the Bible in both the New and Old Testaments, Christians are told that love is the greatest commandment and to “love your neighbour as yourself”. In some translations love is replaced with the word ‘charity’ – the terms love and charity are interchangeable. Islam too talks about the importance of charity and having compassion towards fellow human beings. So, wanting to leave the world a better place for the next generation is a powerful common theme across each faith.

Partnerships and collaboration are key

There’s a strong foundation for faith communities to become legacy donors, as the propensity to give and be generous is intrinsic to many faiths. However, that doesn’t mean that legacy giving is normalised within those faiths and there’s consider room to grow giving within those communities. But cultural change takes time and needs a collaborative approach.

Kerry highlighted the opportunity for charities to work together and accelerate change through organisations like Remember A Charity, taking a collective approach to faith-based giving in order to promote the legacy message for the benefit of all. She added: “If you grow the pie in general, then everyone gets to benefit from a larger piece of that pie.”

Find out more about joining Remember A Charity and working together to grow legacy giving nationwide.


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