Eight per cent of sector's voluntary income 'comes from 10,000 legacies'

Meg Abdy, chief executive of Legacy Foresight, says this means the biggest impact comes from exceptionally large gifts in wills

Eight per cent of the annual total voluntary income of the charity sector comes from about 10,000 individual gifts in wills, data from the legacy consortium Legacy Foresight suggests.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s legacy conference in central London today, Meg Abdy, chief executive of Legacy Foresight, said analysis of the legacy income of the consortium’s 83 charity members showed that 8 per cent of gifts – those with values of more than £100,000 – accounted for more than half (56 per cent) of their total annual income.

And she said that 2 per cent of gifts – those worth between £100,000 and £250,000 – accounted for 30 per cent of all income.

If these statistics were applied to the sector as a whole, she said, it would mean that 10,000 gifts were responsible for 8 per cent of the whole sector’s voluntary income.

"We know that all gifts in wills are important and that they are all heartfelt, but let’s be honest for a moment," Abdy said. "The biggest impact comes from those exceptionally large gifts."

And a more diverse range of charities were benefiting from gifts in wills, she added.

"If you look back 20 or 30 years, the legacy sector overall was really dominated by just a few big brands," said Abdy. "Cancer Research UK, the National Trust, Guide Dogs, the RNLI and the RSPCA. Those charities are still really important, clearly, but their dominance is less than it was."

A decade ago, she said, the 10 largest legacy charities accounted for one-third of all legacy income, but they now accounted for just a quarter.

"What we’re seeing is smaller and younger charities gaining ground," she said.

"So the charities that were founded from 1970 onwards now account for one in every five pounds of legacy income received, and they’re growing at about 10 per cent a year."

Ashley Rowthorn, director of Legacy Voice, said the change was due to the number of baby boomers leaving gifts in wills.

"We’re seeing a new generation of legacy givers – baby boomers – choosing to remember a new generation of causes that are important to them," he said.

"To maximise on this we need to become better fundraisers, because as the market grows so does competition – long-term, relationship-based leg fundraising will win out."

Abdy said that a benchmarking exercise examining the accounts of 36 Legacy Foresight members, mostly large charities, had found that legacy income accounted for 40 per cent of their voluntary income, but legacy marketing represented just 2 per cent of their total spending.

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