Legacy income is expected to grow considerably in the years ahead, but what can charities do now to bolster their share and shore up income? And what can we expect from this year’s market? At the start of 2022, four of our big thinkers within Legacy Futures share their insights.
Greater investment in our legacy people and supporter stewardship – Ashley Rowthorn, CEO at Legacy Futures
In my view, the most important issue to secure the future of legacy giving in 2022 is people. While the long-term outlook for legacy giving is positive – expected to double in real terms by 2050 – there is an immediate need to ensure we have enough resource within legacy teams to manage the surge of generosity that is coming. And this resource is not merely a matter of bigger budgets for bigger acquisition campaigns, it is the need to invest in the people within our teams; to have enough time and capacity to steward every legacy donor, not just well, but brilliantly.
We know from research, including our legacy marketing benchmarks project, that charities that invest more in stewardship, convert more supporters into legacy donors, and at a higher value. But while there is undoubtedly more investment going into acquisition marketing campaigns, there is little evidence that charities are investing the necessary time and resource to steward all these new prospects over time.
This is true not just in life, but after death too. Rising legacy giving, especially at a time where the probate process is facing ongoing challenges, places increasing pressure on charities to manage the estate administration process. This is a critically important part of the stewardship journey, especially when dealing with family members who are acting as executors. Do this badly and we can cause significant reputational and financial risk to our charities. But do this wonderfully, and we can create life-long relationships that may even turn into more legacy giving in the future. To make the most of the outpouring of legacy generosity that is coming, we need to invest more in our people and teams, and place a much bigger emphasis on life-long relationship management. That means Finance Directors and Trustees being willing to invest in people, not just marketing spend.
Continued uncertainty at probate – Jon Franklin, Economist at Legacy Foresight
A key lesson from this year has been how complicated the estate administration ‘ecosystem’ is. The need for many different organisations and systems to work together has become more prominent as we’ve waited for the much-anticipated legacy surge– the expected increase in the flow of bequests as the system recovers from the delays and shortfalls experienced over the last couple of years.
Just when we think that problems are getting resolved in one part of the system (such as an increase in the number of grants of probate being issued by HM Courts and Tribunals Service), there appears to be problems or delays in another part of the system (such as Inheritance Tax processes in HMRC). When the devolved structure with different administrative offices in Scotland and Northern Ireland to England and Wales is layered on top of this then it can make it very hard for charities (or us) to get the full picture of what is happening.
Whilst we hope that the system continues to recover as we move into 2022 and that bequests continue to flow to charities, it seems inevitable that the sector will need to be prepared for uncertainty – uncertainty over when donations will arrive, the volume of work from one month to the next, and what pressure this will put on legacy administration teams.
Universities will play a bigger role in the legacy and in-memory market – Caroline Waters, Programme & Client Services Manager at Legacy Foresight
In 2021 we continued to see more specialised cause areas gain ground in the legacy market. This is great news for universities who are amongst the fastest growing of these and whose average bequest values are significantly higher than the broader sector (£76,500 compared to £29,000). For me, 2022 is the year that the education sector will make waves in the legacy and in-memory giving markets. I think we will see more legacy specialists in university development offices, increased investment in higher education (HE) legacy marketing and communications, a commitment to upskilling development teams and the inclusion of legacy objectives in strategic plans.
Alongside this, I hope that we will see a broader recognition of the significance of in-memory giving in the HE sector. Not least because donors with a known in-memory connection are three times more likely to pledge a legacy. Universities shape lives and people are deeply connected to them and subsequently they will already be receiving significant in-memory gifts, even if those gifts are unrecognised. The future potential is huge.
In-memory motivated giving can bring great benefits, both to a donor and to the charity. Good stewardship of in-memory donors is vital, and it is easy to disappoint or even alienate them. With the in-memory market potentially being worth as much as £2.2bn, universities could be missing out if they don’t have the right skills, training and experience.
This year I hope we are able to work with the sector to help address this. If you are an in-memory specialist working in higher education please do get in touch, I would love to talk to you.
Talking about death will become less of a taboo – Lucy Lowthian, Consultant at Legacy Voice
2021 began with another national lockdown and we once again saw an increase in the number of people writing their will. We have a culture in the UK where we find talking about death uncomfortable but last year, I was suddenly compelled to have those awkward conversations with my family. I didn’t want something to happen to them (or vice versa) and wish I’d known what they wanted after they were gone and what they wanted their lasting legacy to be.
Now, at the start of 2022, we have a real opportunity to encourage more people to consider leaving a charitable gift in their will. The tragedy of the pandemic is that mortality is all too front of mind. But at the same time, people are becoming more comfortable in talking about it, and making end of life plans. We need to build on this momentum to normalise talking about death and helping people to think about their final wishes – and that includes encouraging people to think about the charitable causes that are important to them. Legacy giving is a representation of our values, and it reflects our life-narrative – it is a powerful way for us to control our life-story ending. This is the time to shine a light on legacy giving and showcase the wonderful things these gifts can achieve. We need to take the time to connect with and look after our supporters, to understand their motivations for legacy giving and ensure the charities they support become an important part of their life-story.