Growing legacy giving in Australia

21 January 2016

Australians are leaving significant legacies to charities, with gifts in Wills contributing around 20% of all charitable giving.

Like the international experience, the percentage of those leaving gifts in their Wills indicates legacy giving is far from standard practice. This does not reflect the number of Australians who would like to leave a lasting legacy.

Research from “Giving Australia” 2005 reported 58% of adult Australians have a Will, of which 7.5 per cent include a charitable bequest. This extensive national research is currently being repeated and will provide a snapshot of whether legacy giving has changed over the last decade.

Positive growth

Quantitative research conducted by the Include A Charity campaign indicates a positive upward shift in legacy giving. This improvement can largely be attributed to an increase in proactive legacy marketing, enhanced donor stewardship and the work of the cross-sector campaign to drive social change in the public’s attitude towards legacies.

The campaign has also focused on influencing the legal sector to explore people’s charitable giving as part of their Will-writing activities. However, these key stakeholders have proven to be more entrenched in their ways compared to the shifts we’ve seen in public attitudes.

Creating a social norm

The ‘unrealised gap’ in Australia is that, when asked, 29% of people say they’d be willing to leave a gift in their Will once family and friends had been provided for.

We’d like to see the 7.5% in 2005 double to 15% in 2020. A positive factor influencing our goal is that there is a high percentage of the population making a Will, and increasing resources for improving legacy fundraising practices.

The focus of the social change campaign has been to increase the number of those who would consider including a gift in their Will. Our research indicates that the most receptive audience to this message is female Baby Boomers, with assets of more than $500,000.

This audience will naturally expand over the coming decades, but it is vital that we understand their motivations now to influence future behaviour.

Addressing future barriers

The challenge we face into the future is that our legal and financial environment still creates limitations. These include different legislation by State and Territory, no legal notification service for charitable beneficiaries and little to no tax incentives to include a gift in your Will.

Structural limitations in the regulatory environment for bequests will be a major focus of the campaign in future. Now that Include A Charity is part of Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), the campaign has capacity to broaden its scope of influence.

Strength in numbers

Closer collaboration of charities will be vital in delivering improvements to the health of the sector.

Equally important is the strengthening of the global legacy network to enhance our understanding of donor motivations. As well as sharing best practice for legacy marketing amongst charities.

Maintaining the public’s trust and improving the transparency of charitable activities will be key focuses that we all have a responsibility to deliver.

We look forward to a generation of globally-connected fundraisers, collaborating and innovating to improve the positive outcomes for our sector and beneficiaries.

Karen Armstrong, Campaign Director at Include A Charity

Find out more about Remember A Charity’s international partners.