Arts charities 'punching below their weight' in legacy fundraising

According to a survey of 116 arts organisations by Legacy Foresight and an arts consultancy, only 38 per cent of respondents received legacy gifts in the past three years

Legacy giving
Legacy giving

Arts organisations are "punching below their weight" in terms of legacy fundraising, with barely more than a third receiving legacy gifts in the past three years, new research reveals.

A survey of 116 arts organisations, carried out by the charity legacy consortium Legacy Foresight and the arts consultancy Arts Quarter, found that only 38 per cent of respondents had received at least one legacy gift over the past three years and, of these, 70 per cent raised less than £25,000 a year from the channel.

This situation occurred despite growth in the overall legacy sector, with the proportion of people leaving charitable wills currently representing 6.2 per cent of deaths, according to Legacy Foresight.

The survey, which took place online over the month of September, also found that two-fifths of the arts organisations receiving gifts in wills were left non-financial donations, primarily consisting of artistic assets such as artworks or archive materials.

Fifty-eight per cent of organisations were yet to encourage stakeholders and/or members of the public to leave gifts in their wills, and only one of the organisations surveyed had a full-time team member allocated to legacy activities.

Half of organisations had no budget allocated to legacy fundraising in the current financial year and 32 per cent had a maximum of £5,000, the survey found.

In a joint statement, Legacy Foresight and Arts Quarter said that only 27 arts organisations featured in the top 1,000 legacy charities and in 2014/15 those organisations received £14m in legacy income – well under 1 per cent of the total market.

They said that although income and the number of legacy gifts were rising, legacy giving and fundraising in the arts sector tended to be concentrated into the hands of a few large, well-known organisations.

"It appears that arts organisations are still punching well below their weight and the sector is experiencing very low levels of legacy income overall," the organisations said. "For many smaller organisations, the idea of legacy fundraising is well off the radar."

The organisations added that although it was positive that the arts community benefited from closer donor relationships than the wider charitable sector – two-thirds of the people leaving bequests to arts organisations were known supporters – arts organisations could be missing out on a wider group of occasional supporters, who represented "huge potential".

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