Rob Cope: Tenth Remember A Charity Week celebrates sector collaboration and innovation

09 Sep 2019 Voices

At the start of Remember A Charity Week 2019, and as part of a series of articles to mark the week, Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, highlights the importance of collaboration to accelerate innovation in legacy fundraising and to grow the donor market.

Ten years ago, the sector’s first Remember A Charity Week took place; a high-profile consumer campaign and photographic exhibition celebrating the impact of legacy giving. For the 140 charities behind the campaign, the intention was to deliver a week’s worth of awareness-building activities that would inspire people to consider leaving a gift in their will. 

Research in the planning phase identified that 35 per cent of the over 40s said they were happy to leave a gift in their will (TNS, 2008). Annual income from gifts in wills amounted to around £1.8bn and, as a sector coalition, we represented many of the largest national charities who had invested collectively to grow the legacy market. 

The first awareness week made real inroads in getting people to open up conversation about legacy giving and the decision was made to aim for bigger and better over the years that followed.

Collaborating for change

So, what’s changed? Over the past decade, we’ve seen greater appetite for legacy giving – 40 per cent of the over 40s say they’d be happy to leave a bequest (One Poll, 2019) – legacy income is valued at over £3bn a year and 15.8 per cent (Smee and Ford, 2018) of wills that go through probate now include a charitable gift (up from 12.2 per cent in 2007). It certainly feels as though there’s been a real gear shift in public spirit, but that doesn’t mean the road has been easy to navigate. 

Back when I joined the team (in 2010), many charities were nervous about offending supporters or their board by broaching potentially sensitive topics like legacies or using digital to do so. Our fundamental viewpoint was that we needed to make more noise about legacies and we faced quite a lot of resistance to this. To drive change, we knew we needed to be bold and disruptive, but also to be inclusive to the full range of charities and causes across the sector.

Today, many of the same challenges remain. While a collective campaign offers strength in numbers, we continually have to test, learn and adapt to see what approach will be most successful in engaging the public and legal sector. But charities’ willingness to collaborate and innovate is exceptional, and is surely a key driving factor behind creating a more receptive legacy environment and comfortable talking point. 

The coalition has grown to represent over 200 charities, enabling us to make even more noise about legacies year on year. The consortium model has since been replicated all over the world from Finland to France, Australia to South Korea, with consortia sharing best practice to accelerate innovation in the field.

Increasingly accessible world of legacy fundraising 

Here in the UK, the legacy fundraising world has become far more inclusive and accessible. Social and online channels enable charities to extend their reach at relatively little cost, meaning that smaller organisations are increasingly turning to legacies. They understand that a successful legacy programme could be transformational for them, even if it does take a good few years before returns are likely to be seen. 

At Remember A Charity, almost one in five of our members are now small or local charities. As statutory funding has dwindled, museums, hospital trusts, hospices and universities are among a broadening range of causes now increasing their emphasis on legacies. In fact, 2018 saw a record 10,428 charities named in wills in 2018 (Smee ad Ford, Charity Trends Update 2019).  And our recent research into the past ten years of legacy income showed that charities in Wales and Scotland are seeing considerably faster growth than the UK market as a whole.

Moving awareness to action

We are now in a place where only 10 per cent of the over 40s say they are unaware of the option of leaving a charitable gift in their will. They know they can do it, but there is a disconnect between the level of people that know about it, those that want to do it and those that actually go on and leave a legacy. 

As a behaviour change campaign for legacies in the UK, the level of action – in other words, the number or proportion of wills that include a charitable gift – is the key figure that we continue to drive upwards. Awareness is important certainly. However, we need to build understanding of legacies if we – as a sector – are going to succeed in growing the donor market and normalise legacy giving, so that this vital income stream is protected, no matter what the future Brexit environment may bring!

For me, this year’s campaign is my favourite yet because it brings together our learnings from over the past ten years; the importance of nostalgia, humour and deeper demographic insights. It provides the framing to open up conversation and address many of the nation’s misconceptions about legacy giving, breaking down the barriers and inspiring action. We hope that charities across the country (and beyond) will make the most of this opportunity to talk legacies with their supporters and convey the vital impact of gifts in wills on their cause. 

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Rob Cope is director of Remember A Charity


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