£4bn could be generated in charitable legacies if solicitors just asked

28 May 2013 News

A potential £4bn of funding could be unlocked for the charity sector if solicitors were to remind those writing a will to consider giving to charity, according to a study conducted by the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team.

John Low, CEO, CAF

A potential £4bn of funding could be unlocked for the charity sector if solicitors were to remind those writing a will to consider giving to charity, according to a study conducted by the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team.

The study is one of five trials informing a report, released today by the team, to uncover ways the sector could potentially boost its income. It found that encouraging people to consider leaving a gift to charity in their will could double the number of legacy donations. It further found that creating a personal connection, by asking if there were any charities the individual is passionate about, could lead to triple the number of legacy gifts.

Currently around 7 per cent of people leave a gift in their will, despite 35 per cent indicating that they would want to. Nonetheless legacy giving provides 13 per cent of the sector’s overall income - £2bn annually.

The study found that out of a baseline group which were not asked to give to charity in their wills, 4.9 per cent did anyway. However a second group, asked “Would you like to leave any money to charity in your will?”, saw 10.8 per cent leave a gift to charities. A third group, asked additionally if there were any charities the individual is passionate about, saw 15.4 per cent choose to donate. The study suggests that by simply asking, and asking better, legacy income to the sector could be boosted to £6bn a year.

The personal touch   

The five trials together looked at how individual charitable giving could be encouraged by charities and businesses and found that giving could be increased by adding a personal touch.

A trial with HMRC found that sending staff messages from their peers who already give via payroll giving could boost enrolment, and it was particularly effective when it included a picture of the donor, doubling the number of people signing up. Another, held at Deutsche Bank, found that personalised emails from the CEO boosted the number of staff willing to donate a day’s salary to charity. The most effective boost combined this personal message with small gifts of sweets given to staff in advance of the personalised message - this raised £500,000 in one day.

The two further studies focused on automatically increasing donations in line with inflation. One used encouragement techniques and one used an opt-out auto-enrolment scheme. Both were found to boost giving substantially. Encouraging people to increase their future donations could increase a donor’s giving by more than £1,000 throughout their lifetime, while automatically enrolling individuals in a scheme which increases donations by 3 per cent a year saw 49 per cent remain opted in. If instituted across all payroll giving and direct debit schemes, this could raise £40m annually for the sector, the report claims.

Four behavioural insights

Auto-enrolment takes away the ‘effort’ element of giving, making it easy to give or give more. This is one of the four key behavioural insights into boosting giving gleaned from the research: Make it easy; attract attention; focus on the social and timing matters.

The report finds that in the corporate world personalised messages are more likely to attract attention, and that rewarding behaviour through match-funding or small gifts will also boost charity support. In addition, creating a social norm, through using prominent individuals to send out strong social messages or making gifts more visible, could inflate donations.

Timing was seen as particularly important when it came to legacy giving, as the point where an individual signs a will contract is an obvious ‘touch-point’ for encouraging giving.

John Low (pictured), chief executive of CAF, which collaborated with the Cabinet Office on the research, said: “British people are hugely positive about charities and they are already enthusiastic about their giving, but this research points to what might yet be possible if potential donors are inspired by others, connect personally to a cause and feel it is easy to give.”

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