How can research help increase legacy giving?

7 July 2016

In the new world for fundraisers, where reaching people gets harder and harder due to tighter statutory data regulation and tighter fundraising self-regulation, reaching individuals is only going to get harder.

In this brave new world, raising more money from less people is going to be the mantra, and legacies will be at the heart of that.

So how can research and insight help deliver more legacies? Here are four ways:

Understanding the baby boomer surge

Baby boomers are the group of people born between 1948 and about 1960. They are a generation who grew up in the sixties, bought cheap houses and watched them grow in value, have good pensions, and substantial assets.

However they need to be treated right: they want to use their skills in retirement, and they want to be sure that their donations are being well spent. As they come to retirement and old age it will be a golden age of legacy potential: if they can be treated right.

Understanding the barriers to leaving a legacy to charity

So the question is what will unlock that wealth for charities. The key is in understanding what might motivate somebody to leave a legacy, and what might hold them back.

In all our research with the public, the biggest barrier is always that people want to leave money to their family, cited by around three-quarters of people. But there are many others too – not planning on making a Will, not thought about leaving money to charity, giving to charities in their lifetime and so on.

These need to be overcome before anybody will be leaving a legacy to charity.

Understanding what excites people about giving to their charity

The flipside of the barriers is the motivations to give. Our latest research conducted in the spring, asks those who might think about leaving money to a charity in their Will, what their reasons are.

Top of the list comes personal experience of the charity, having a small family, and wanting to make an impact after they are gone. Each donor will be different in their motivations, and understanding them on an individual level is key.

What does your charity do to increase people’s experience of a charity: visits to projects, meetings with senior staff or time with beneficiaries are all ways that a charity might increase the commitment of potential legators.

Understanding how much people think they are worth

In the spring we also asked people how much they think their estate would be worth. We are still analysing the data, but the thinking is that if people under-estimate how much they are worth, they will be likely to give less to charity.

We already know that people say they want to leave around 90% of their estate to their families. So that leaves a whopping 10% which could be given to charity.

I think research has a real role, in working out how we can unlock those donations in the difficult years ahead.

Joe Saxton, Driver of Ideas, nfpSynergy

Have you read our blog on how small charities are making the most of legacy fundraising?