The private philanthropists

23 May 2017

When we think back to last year, the legacy of 2016 will at a mere mention remind us how many well-known, creative names we have lost.

And though we have a right to feel robbed of these treasures, perhaps we should try to shift our focus and look instead at the legacy of these talented beings.

There is not time or space to list them all. We are left now with the dulcet tones of Alan Rickman. His distinctive voice and screen presence could leave you transfixed whether he is Professor Snape in Harry Potter or dancing seductively in a 90’s Texas video.

We remember the otherworldly presence of Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We are also left with handsome George Michael singing along to a haunting saxophone solo.

Continuing to do good

What is it that links them other than the tragic year of their demise? The simple answer is charity. Not just in their lifetime but what they chose to leave to continue doing good after their deaths.

Not only have they gifted the world with their talent. Many of these private philanthropists used their Wills to carry on supporting causes that were close to their hearts.

George Michael shocked everyone with his sudden passing. What also came as a revelation is how charitable he was and how no one knew until it was too late. George left the royalties from selected songs to the Terrence Higgins Trust. A gift of support which is likely to continue on and help numerous people suffering with HIV in the UK.

The late David Bowie also supported a wide variety of causes during his lifetime.

Alan Rickman left £100,000 in his Will to dramatic arts and to facial reconstruction charities. Though Gene Wilder’s Will has been kept as a more private family affair it is expected that he will have left a substantial amount to cancer charities. But every gift, however large or small, makes a big difference to the causes we care about.

Generous gifts

So perhaps when you look back on the passing of these inspiring figures, you can remember that wonderful things have come from the gloom.

We can also see that the deaths of these people haven’t been in vain. They have left generous gifts which will make such a difference to the lives of others. Whether they are facing a terrible disease or trying to become the next Alan Rickman, they have even more support to do it.

Even more if we spread the word about their ongoing generosity, perhaps we could inspire others to follow in their footsteps and leave a gift to charity in their Will.

Find a charity you’d like to remember in your Will.

Jenny Peake, Individual Giving & Data Manager at St Barnabas Hospice