Legacy fundraising has undoubtedly been one of the biggest fundraising success stories from the past decades. Historically the most resilient form of giving, legacy incomes have more than doubled over the past 25 years, despite death rates falling for much of that period. Even when times are tough, income from legacy has only fallen six years out of the last thirty.
And this resilience is likely to continue. There’s good news on the horizon for legacy fundraisers, with forecasting models predicting at least 11% growth by 2027. Whilst the real value of gifts may be squeezed short-term, as with all donations, and an expected fall in house prices putting pressure on the value of residual gifts in the near future, the sharp upwards trend of increasing death rates is likely to offset (and then some) all of these challenges. Essentially, though the average value of gifts may dip slightly in the near future, annual legacy income stands to grow over the next decade.
But that doesn’t mean that legacy fundraising should remain complacent. The market is becoming more crowded, with new sectors such as institutions of arts and culture, higher education, and hospices all embracing legacies as well. The pie may be getting bigger, but your slice could be getting smaller regardless.
Charities will need to understand changing markets and audiences, and how these shape their supporters’ needs and wants, in order to secure legacy income for the future.
With this in mind, let’s look at five of the key takeaways from the report.
Investing In Legacy
Legacy remains a reactionary area of the sector. With most organisations feeling the pressure from the cost of living crisis and focussing on short-term ROI, as well as legacy’s historic resilience, long-term investment may be left to the wayside. But as competition for a piece of the pie increases, traditional legacy fundraising may not cut it anymore. Investing in legacy is investing in the future of your charity, and ensuring that you’re able to innovate in this area to be a competitive presence in the changing market.
Avoiding ‘Older’ Stereotypes
In the immediate future, we’re primarily preparing for the Baby Boomer audience. As the largest generational cohort in the UK, they’ll account for two thirds of all deaths by 2040. Overall, this audience is living longer and healthier, with more time to pursue self discovery and purpose, and are even driving the rise of a new life stage known as ‘gerontolescence’: the stage between 50 and 75, where adults can pursue interests or careers that may have been pushed aside by their previous professional or familial responsibilities. To speak to this audience, we need to move past outdated stereotypes on ageing that could limit innovation. We risk grouping millions of people into a single ‘older’ demographic, and try to engage them based on supporter segments that are no longer fit for purpose. How are you innovating your legacy strategy to better engage Boomers?
Looking Towards Younger Audiences
And what of Gen X and Millennials? Both demographics are eager to start their financial planning at younger ages, yet are often left to the wayside when it comes to legacy marketing. These generations are unlikely to have picked a charity to leave a gift to, yet show enthusiasm when it comes to leaving gifts. Yet only 30% of Gen X say they’ve seen a legacy ad before, or received any information about will gifting. There’s an opportunity for charities to begin building relationships with these younger potential donors in order to secure their support later on. For example, 37% of Millennials report being keen on using free will-writing services. Is there a potential to use these to kick-start the legacy conversation with these younger audiences?
We need to stop avoiding death and start driving open conversations about it. Legacy fundraising is still held back by the antiquated idea that mentioning death decreases a potential donor’s interest in leaving a legacy gift. But appetites are changing. On one hand, 41% of survey respondents cite feeling uncomfortable about death as the main reason they had avoided talking to their loved ones about their post-life wishes; on the other, research by Macmillan shows that 64% of people think we don’t talk about death enough in the UK. As a society, we need to shift towards a more open and less stigmatised way of approaching the reality of death. The added benefit being that by breaking down these stigmas, we could potentially be driving more conversations about end-of-life wishes, and the legacy opportunity that comes with those. How can your organisation lead the charge on normalising open dialogue by refreshing the way you approach death?
As with most charity campaigns, showing impact is at the heart of legacy fundraising. But it can be difficult to show the value and impact of a legacy when gifts aren’t received until many years, maybe decades, later. With marketing historically erring towards the message: “You supported this charity throughout your life, continue to support it after you pass,” how do we change the message to “what are your values during life, and how do you keep representing those after you die?” Especially as we begin seeing the increasing importance of value-alignment across all sectors, how do we change the mindset around demonstrating value towards the idea of continuing to embody our values after we pass?
Exploring Digital Assets
Currently, the value of digital assets in the UK has been estimated to be worth a whopping £25bn. Your supporters are amassing increasing amounts of these valuable assets, from crypto investments, to NFTs, to valuable web3 purchases. Yet only a tiny fraction of people include digital assets in their wills. For charities, understanding, valuing, and managing digital as well as physical estates is going to become an increasingly large part of legacy management in the future. Do you have the skills and expertise to support your donors in this area? Have you got the due processes in place when it comes to accepting and transacting in digital assets?
The full report also considers the meaning of excess deaths for the sector; trends in will writing; digital fundraising, and cross-sector inspiration for what makes a good legacy campaign, different ways of talking about death, as well as new technologies and their potential impact on in-mem and tribute fundraising.