Charities should target major donors in their 50s, legacy consultant Richard Radcliffe says

He tells delegates at the International Fundraising Congress that most charities ask people in their late 60s for gifts, but wealthier people tend to make their wills a decade earlier

Richard Radcliffe

Charities should target major donors for legacy gifts when they are in their late 50s to get ahead of the majority of organisations that ask when people are in their late 60s, the consultant Richard Radcliffe has told delegates at the International Fundraising Congress

Speaking at the event in the Netherlands last week, Radcliffe said that although most people typically made their second wills at the age of 68, high-net-worth individuals tended to make their wills a decade before this.

This meant that charities that sought legacies from wealthy people when they were in their mid to late 50s would have an edge over the competition, he said.

"High-net-worth individuals make their wills in their mid to late 50s," said Radcliffe. "That is when you are perceived to be at your wealthiest, and it’s the forward-planning will before you retire. This means that you have to get your major donors to commit to legacies in wills before all the other charities ask at 68."

Radcliffe said a charity should ask a major donor for the gift only after they had made their second major gift to the charity – something that almost a third of major donors do – which indicated their confidence and trust in the organisation. He said the best prospects were those that took small investment risks with their wealth.

Radcliffe also spoke about the challenge faced in securing legacies by organisations that have mostly male supporters, because over the past 40 years 70 per cent of gifts in wills had come from women.

He said that several charities were exploring the value of forming a relationship with the wives of their male supporters, because the women typically died later.

Radcliffe said that the fastest-growing groups of legacy givers were baby-boomers, men and people with families. Education and arts and culture were the fastest-growing cause areas, he said.

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