‘Potential for a huge amount of missed income’ in legacy giving, says Macmillan lead

23 Feb 2023 News

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Charities have been warned that they could miss out on a large amount of income in the coming years if they do not focus their fundraising efforts on legacy giving.

Helen Hamer, senior legacy marketing manager, Macmillan Cancer Support told delegates at Fundraising Live yesterday that legacy giving is “our number one income stream, not just now, but definitely for the future”.

She said “legacy fundraising is potentially the biggest opportunity for fundraising in the coming years” but the charity sector could pass over this opportunity if it does not embrace it.

‘We need to understand more about legacy giving decisions’

Hamer noted the legacy marketplace is anticipated to grow dramatically in the coming decades, and that's mostly due to the anticipated rise in the deaths of the baby boomer generation.

“With that will come the largest ever intergenerational transfer of wealth and an expectation that the legacy market will grow to £5.16bn by 2030.”

“It obviously represents a huge opportunity for UK charities but there's also significant potential for a huge amount of missed income, unless we as a sector do more.”

Hamer noted: “Research from Remember a Charity suggested that 40% of the people in the UK would be happy to leave a gift in their will to charity, but only 6% actually do. That represents billions of pounds of missing income from the charity sector, so it's absolutely essential that we are embracing this in the coming years.”

“As fundraisers, we face the challenge of converting interest into action. And as a sector, we need to understand more about legacy giving decisions, and where and how we can have the biggest impact.”

The age debate 

Hamer says a key aspect of growing any fundraising is for charities to understand their target audience. 

“One of the big debates in the sector at the moment, and I think has been around for a while, is the question of age […] the ongoing debate around the value of targeting younger audiences for legacy fundraising”.

She said there is an opportunity there to be “influencing people to choose our charities” however Macmillan has currently decided to remain focused on the 55+ baby boomer generation. 

“That's for a number of reasons, and I will caveat that to say this may change at some point, but for now, we're sticking with it.”

“We have an ageing population that we can absolutely target,” she said, “so we believe that this is where our focus should be”.

Hamer added there were also lots of other considerations around targeting the 55+ audiences, rather than younger generations. 

Some of those are the expense and effort of long term stewardship, as though this can be rewarding for a charity, it can cost more money. She added there's the likelihood of depreciation over time, and also the length of time between investment and return.

Legacy culture 

Hamer said a legacy-giving culture should go “across the entire organisation” so “we work really closely with our fundraising teams to drip feed that legacy message into our fundraising communications”.

In terms of sending that legacy message to frontline workers, Hamer said it is “quite a sensitive area”.

“As a charity that has a really significant service offering as well as a fundraising arm, there's always a really fine line around when is it appropriate to include a fundraising ask. 

“We have to be really sensitive about that, because we've got millions of people living with cancer accessing our services, we need to be sensitive to their needs, and their needs absolutely come first.”

She added: “We will absolutely be looking at getting the legacy message out to our services team. I don't think we've been great at doing that up until now. So it's something that we're looking at, and we're working with those teams on, certainly to build an awareness, not necessarily so that they are relaying that message all the time ... but just so that they are aware of it.”

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