Alex McDowell: Remember A Charity Week is a cause for celebration, not complacency

10 Sep 2018 Voices

At the start of Remember A Charity Week, and as part of a series of blogs to mark the week, Alex McDowell, chair of Remember A Charity, says that although total legacy gift values have risen by more than one billion pound since 2009, such rapid growth in gift values can’t be taken for granted.

The start of this year’s Remember A Charity Week – the sector’s national legacy giving awareness drive – is a timely moment to come together and celebrate the importance of legacies for the sector.

When we first piloted a week-long awareness drive in 2009, gifts in wills contributed around £1.8bn of funding to UK charities. Now, according to the latest figures from Smee and Ford, total legacy gift values have risen by more than one billion pounds.

I want to dwell on this for a moment, quite simply because it is a phenomenal shift. Legacies account for 70 per cent of voluntary income to Arthritis Research, more than a quarter of all funding to the Woodland Trust and half of the RSPCA’s work, to name but a few.  And perhaps one of the most exciting changes is that we’re seeing so much diversification in the size and types of charities benefitting. Since 2012, more than 26,000 charities have been named in wills, with 3,000 named for the first time in 2017.

Of course, the value of the legacy market has been influenced not only by the rise in the number of gifts, but their value. The proportion of charitable estates going to probate has increased by 27 per cent since 2012 and, as for the buoyancy of legacy values, we can thank property prices and the stock market for that.  

But, with Brexit looming on the horizon, we’re also all too aware that such rapid growth in gift values can’t be taken for granted. That’s what makes a continued focus on collaborating to increase the number of gifts given even more important. It’s also why so much engagement with Remember A Charity Week is a cause for celebration, not complacency.  

Rather than waiting and hoping for charitable legacies to roll in, there is growing recognition of the need to promote legacy giving and to start the conversation. And that of course is what Remember A Charity Week is all about. It’s a chance for charities large and small, to come together, raise awareness of the importance of gifts in wills and to encourage supporters to consider doing so in a way that is warm and puts them and the things they care about at the heart of the message.

The Human Search engine

This year’s consumer awareness drive is unique. While we’ll be reaching out through a range of consumer channels to highlight the opportunity of legacy giving, we’ll also be launching a ‘charity-powered’ search engine, showcasing how charities address so many of life’s biggest challenges. 

Through the Human search engine, the public can ask over 150 questions, such as how to cure the deadliest common cancers or how to ensure no one has to sleep rough. The answers are provided by charities, supporters and their beneficiaries, showcasing what they are doing in response and how leaving a legacy could enable them to help resolve those issues.  We’ve also provided our member charities with the tools they need to personalise the campaign to their cause and their audiences.

This campaign really demonstrates just how pivotal charities are in addressing the world’s problems and all those things that supporters are so passionate about. It reminds the public that charities are here to do exactly that; to find solutions to or help with life’s biggest problems.

So, this Remember A Charity Week, we’re encouraging every charity to celebrate the impact of legacies with us and to use this as a springboard to start the legacy conversation with supporters.

Remember A Charity goes on

While a week of activity is a great opportunity for the sector to come together and make some noise around legacies, it’s important that the conversation and drive continues throughout the year. 

Here at Remember A Charity, our public awareness activities are being extended at key points across the calendar year. Behind the scenes, we’re continuing to work with our network of over 1,400 solicitors and will-writers who have committed to highlight legacy giving to their clients, ensuring that – at the very moment that people prepare their Wills – the option of including a gift will be raised. 

And we’re strengthening our interaction with the legal community, employers and government, helping to create the conditions that will best support further growth of the legacy marketplace.

Now, with over 200 charities working together through Remember A Charity, there is a huge sense of collaboration and momentum, and we’re looking forward to seeing just how charities can make this year’s campaign their own. 

Alex McDowell is chair of Remember A Charity and head of public fundraising at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.


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