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A third of our patients are cared for by Gifts in Wills – so why wouldn’t we invest?

Posted on 9th September 2021

Matt Smith

People are often surprised that gifts in Wills contribute so much to enable us to provide end of life care in Dorset. Once we have got over the barrier that hospice care is not completely funded by the government, most people think that coffee mornings, marathons and selling someone’s trousers that no longer fit is where all our income comes from. Of course, all of those things are really important. But when I tell people that without gifts in Wills, 420 patients each year would not receive end of life care in our community, they are amazed.

Just like many hospices across the country, Weldmar Hospicecare in Dorset relies on gifts in Wills – without them our services would look very different. This was the very conversation that I had with our Board of Trustees some years ago. We had always been ‘lucky’ and extremely fortunate that gifts in Wills just happened every year. But on further analysis, we identified that the majority of these gifts in recent years were from supporters who were involved when our charity was established, some 27 years ago. Over the coming years, the number of those supporters who will be living will decrease and therefore, so will our income from gifts in Wills. But the cost of our services (and indeed the demand) will only continue to grow. Doing nothing was not an option and investment was key.

Our greatest ever investment is always going to be via gifts in Wills – but we needed to do exactly that…invest! The Board of Trustees very quickly understood that this wasn’t about ‘expenditure’ but about investment. Investing now so our services were secured in the future.

We introduced our first Make a Will Month back in 2019 and our Trustees agreed to invest 1.5% of our annual legacy income back into marketing gifts in Wills (that was £24,000). Through various platforms across a 12-month period we increased our legacy pledges whilst securing an entire estate which included a high value property. In year two we invested 2% of our overall legacy income resulting in more legacy pledges including two entire estates worth over £1M – all prompted by our legacy marketing messaging. And this year our legacy investment stands at 2.5% of our overall legacy income and we are just about to enter our third annual Make a Will Month.

The next 30 years are going to absolutely key for charities, especially hospices, to increase awareness around legacy giving and we, as a sector, need to do more. We are much stronger when we all work together. The standard of knowledge and expertise amongst over 220 hospices is phenomenal and we are all aiming to achieve the same goal. So why would we not work together?

When I first heard about the Hospice Legacy Circle I was delighted. If this had been formed over three years ago, it would have really been a great support to my hospice. But even some years on, we don’t know it all – we haven’t got everything right. And without increasing our gifts in Wills over the coming years, the cost of our services is going to far exceed the income we are generating. It is about time we prioritise gifts in Wills, promoting a constant programme of communications and messages and invest in the future of our hospices.

Whether you are just starting your journey with investing in legacies, you are some years down the road and have a number of successes, or really just don’t know where to start – the Hospice Legacy Circle will bring together everyone from hospices across the UK to support each other, us all to prioritise gifts in Wills as part of our own unique hospice strategies.

If you are just starting to consider investment here’s my one greatest tip. It’s easy for your Board of Trustees to gasp when you first ask for investment for gifts in Wills when it’s not immediately measurable by instant income. Start by thinking how you can drip the legacy message across all your existing communication platforms and the ones that you might need to invest some money into. Once you have worked out the level of investment, think about what percentage this is in comparison to your annual legacy income (promote the % rather than the £ to your Trustees!) and finally, think about the measures that you can report on; from increase in web page visitors to enquiries and pledges. It really is that simple.

Finally – good luck. Hopefully I’ll see you at a Hospice Legacy Circle meeting soon.

Matt Smith

Director of Fundraising and Marketing, Weldmar Hospicecare
Trustee of Hospice Income Generation Network

Twitter – @WeldmarMatt
LinkedIn – @CharityMatt