Charities lose millions of pounds worth of potential legacies

1 March 2017

Charities in Scotland are missing out on millions of pounds a year because supporters are not being made aware of the opportunity to leave a gift in their Will.

Research launched by Remember A Charity at the Law Society of Scotland this week reveals that while 40% claim they are open to leaving a legacy, far fewer are actually doing so.

The event was the first opportunity for legal and charity sector leaders in Scotland to hear the findings of this important work.

The research found a disconnect between the 40% claiming they are open to leaving a charitable gift, and the 3.8% (Legacy Foresight) doing so. This creates a gap which could be bridged by more legal professionals raising awareness among clients.

If the 40% left a gift in their Will the income for charities north of the border would be closer to £1 billion.

UK leading the way with legacy giving

The research, carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team and the University of Bristol, also found that Scotland is behind other UK nations in terms of legacy giving.

Research from Legacy Foresight indicates that Scotland only accounts for 6% of gifts in Wills, despite accounting for 9% of deaths in mainland UK. In addition, more than 6% of people in England and Wales who die leave a gift in comparison to 3.8% in Scotland.

Collaborative approach

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, believes charities and solicitors need to work together to make it the norm for people to leave a gift in their Will.

He urged charities to promote legacy giving better and for solicitors to implement better techniques when talking to clients about charity.

“One of the biggest challenges for charities is lack of salience amongst the Will-writing public,” Cope said.

“There are also widely-held misconceptions, with many believing that gifts have to be large amounts or that the donor has to choose between giving to their family or their favourite charities.

“The reality, however, is a very different. Even a small amount can make an enormous difference and the donor should always be encouraged to protect their loved ones first – and then consider their favourite charities.”

Language is key

The number of solicitors referencing charities during the Will-writing process is on the rise. Remember A Charity’s annual benchmarking survey, conducted by nfpSynergy in November 2015, indicates that two-thirds of solicitors and Will-writers said they reminded clients about legacy giving, up from 53% in 2011.

The language used by solicitors was found to be key in driving legacy giving. The two-year study found that people’s likelihood of including a charity in their Will is affected by the language legal professionals use, concluding that how solicitors raise the charitable option can play a major role in legacy giving.

The Legacy Giving and Behavioural Insights Report was based on trials involving eight firms of solicitors and over 2,600 client interactions across the United Kingdom.

Social norming

Normalising charitable legacies by communicating that this is something that others do, was the approach most likely to encourage clients to leave a gift to charity in their Will.  However, the impact of social norm messaging varied according to clients’ circumstances.

Social norming was most effective for clients that were writing a Will for the first time, with a 40% uplift in the number of first-time testators choosing to include a charity compared to a control group.

Find out more about the research