Charities need to think about how they are engaging with younger people in order to continue benefiting from legacy giving, sector experts said at a conference yesterday.
A panel, chaired by Meg Abdy, development director at Legacy Foresight, discussed a new report, Giving Tomorrow: Legacy and In-Memory 2045, which predicts that donations from legacies to UK charities will be worth twice as much in real terms in 25 years’ time, at an event organised by the Institute of Fundraising yesterday.
By 2045, a third of all deaths will be people from generation X or younger and the panel were asked if charities should be targeting those people now.
Shah Alam, legacy manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said “for our charities to be left with a gift we need to be in the hearts and minds of these people” so we must “turn the dynamic upside down”.
He added that “if we want people to leave us a legacy it has always been a marathon not a sprint”.
Matt Smith, legacy marketing manager at London's Air Ambulance, said: “I think we should be targeting people earlier” to “plant the seed”.
Smith said “you are never going to get the larger gifts from the younger audience” but “that gift can be developed over time, and it can be developed into something really substantial”.
Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said that he did not think it would be a good idea for charities to spend large amounts of marketing money on younger people, and instead said the sector should “encourage normalisation around will making”.
He said there were exceptions, but “by and large charities should not be spending the majority of its investment around that age group”.
‘Technology has a fantastic role to play here’
The panel discussed the role of technology in legacy making, and suggested that this might enable younger people to leave legacies in their wills.
John Brewer, founder of Bequeathed, said “technology has a fantastic role to play here” with online wills “there is no incremental cost” so therefore charities “are not needing to invest a lot of money in someone who is 35” but technology gives charities “an indication of their affinity with your charity”.
Cope said through technology “we should start to drive that consideration, that's how we start to grow the market”.
He said there were “nuances between what the sector should do and what individual charities should do”.
The panel were also asked whether they thought artificial intelligence and technology would replace traditional will-making.
Brewer said there was "a risk of oversimplification of the will-writing process". He said “the drafting of a will is actually relatively straight forward” and can be done through technology. But the “analysis of someone's needs” is difficult to achieve through a computer.
He added that there is not an “economic case” to develop the technology to do this process. “There is not enough money in will writing for anybody to want to invest in artificial intelligence,'' he said.
Alam said that we are seeing “machines replacing complex operations”, but “the issue is how do you monetize it”.
Craig Fordham, director of legacies at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “I just wonder whether wills will exist in the way they do now.”
He added: “I think people will leave a text message, a video will, any expression of interest which says this is what I want” so “I think the actual concept of wills as they are will be obsolete”.