The gift to the future

17 December 2015

In his opening speech at last week’s UN Conference on Climate Change, Prince Charles spoke about the importance of recognizing the rights of the next generation.

“I urge you to consider the needs of the youngest generation, because none of us has the right to assume that ‘for our today they should give up their tomorrow’”.

I agree that it is vital for us to consider the responsibility we have to shape the future of the next generation.

The needs of today and tomorrow

My charity Population Matters works ‘for a sustainable future’. Our strapline reflects our concern with the consequences for societies and biodiversity of increasing consumption and population, with a doubling of population over the last half century alone.

Much like the aims of the Paris conference, we are concerned about the impact of these trends on future generations. Their consumption will be necessarily greater, their natural resources will be much less and they will have to cope with a climate very different to that which we have enjoyed.

Our case for legacies is thus an easy one. It is asking people to give a gift to the future by helping us to make the case for mindful consumption and smaller families, which will make the lives of future generations happier and more prosperous.

Pump priming and unexpected consequences

As a small charity, we are a good example of the difference legacies can make. A single large legacy by a longstanding member some years ago enabled us to relaunch our website and employ our first full time staff members, putting us on the upward trend we have been on ever since.

More recently we have been, with the example of Remember A Charity, more direct in our encouragement to members to leave us a gift, including offering free wills. Many members did respond by putting us in their wills and letting us know that they had done so.

‘Why wait ’til I’m dead?’

However, the campaign also had an unexpected but highly welcome side effect; some members were prompted to say ‘Why wait ’til I’m dead?’ and gave us large one off donations instead. Many also pledged a legacy.

With such encouragement, we have been expanding our fundraising into other areas. Our annual members’ appeal recently funded our Zombie Overpopulation short video, set in London’s near future…

For us, just as one makes bequests to children or grandchildren, legacies are a way in which our members can ensure that our work to make the world a better place for future generations will continue after they are gone.

Find out more about leaving a gift in your Will

Simon Ross, Chief Executive at Population Matters