Don't push government into lifetime legacies, warns Joe Saxton

The co-founder of nfpSynergy tells the Institute of Fundraising's Legacy Fundraising 2011 conference that it should not use up its political capital on a 'complicated method of giving' that yields little

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy
Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy

The voluntary sector should be wary of using its political capital to try to persuade the government to introduce lifetime legacies, delegates at the Institute of Fundraising’s Legacy Fundraising 2011 conference heard yesterday.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, questioned whether the sector should push for the incentive, which would allow donors to give assets to charities but retain the right to benefit from them during their lifetimes.

"My worry is that we lose our political capital on this," said Saxton. "And it will release very little indeed because it’s a very complicated method of giving."

Saxton said there was a gulf between fundraisers and philanthropists, who were "deeply in favour of lifetime legacies".

"The fundraising sector needs to work out what it needs," he said. "Philanthropists have the ear of government; put crudely, fundraisers don’t."

Saxton said he was worried that with lifetime legacies could lead to fraud. "The problem is that when someone does die in 30 years’ time, there are all sorts of fraud implications," he said. "If you have a donor who can give you money today, then get them to give you money today."

But Adrian Beney, partner at the fundraising consultancy More Partnership, told the session that the government needed to make it easier for people to give away assets before they died.

He said the main problem was that the sector was not speaking with one voice on the issue of lifetime legacies. "The Treasury will not do anything about it while this is happening," he said. "I would beg for those who are sceptical to drop their opposition."

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