Charities and arts organisations need to "get their act together" to increase legacy giving, according to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Speaking at an Institute of Fundraising conference on legacy fundraising yesterday, Hunt said that whereas three-quarters of people in the UK gave to charity, only 7 per cent left money to charities in their wills. An increase to 11 per cent could lead to an extra £1bn of funding a year, he said.
"If we're honest we've got a long way to go, we just don't do it as well as in America," he said about legacy fundraising in the UK. "We need to get our act together."
Hunt recognised that "it’s not always the easiest thing to talk about death as a business opportunity", but insisted that "there is a language that works" and urged charities to start by approaching existing donors.
Hunt has been a vocal supporter of changes to inheritance tax, due to come into effect on 6 April, which will mean that people who leave 10 per cent of their wealth to charity will benefit from a cut in inheritance tax from 40 per cent to 36 per cent. He said his primary aim as minister was to "boost the financial resilience of arts institutions".
Roland Rudd, chairman of the public relations firm RLM Finsbury and founder of the Legacy10 campaign to encourage people to leave 10 per cent of their wealth to charity, said the changes will mean the UK has "the most generous tax system in terms of legacy giving in the world".
He said Legacy10 would join forces with The Daily Telegraph in the run-up to 6 April to encourage readers – whose average age is 58 – to leave money to charity in their wills.
Rob Cope, director of legacy campaign group Remember A Charity, said that the legal change would affect only the richest 3 per cent of potential donors who are eligible for inheritance tax, and that charity chief executives and fundraising directors needed to pay more attention to attracting legacy funding.
"In difficult economic times people tend to focus on the short term; legacies sometimes get forgotten about," he said. "But to be financially stable in the long run, charities need to diversify their income."
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said he had been in talks with the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insight team, also known as its ‘nudge unit’, about certain points in life, such as marriage or retirement, when people might be prompted to think about leaving legacies to charity.