Institute of Fundraising: Where there's a will, there's a lack of courtesy at times

As a consortium of more than 130 charities, Remember a Charity (the public face of the Legacy Promotion Campaign) is striving to increase public awareness of legacies and the importance of using a professional when writing a will.

The campaign has attracted strong support in the legal sector, with more than 600 legal firms signed up as supporters and 29 per cent of solicitors using a pro-forma that includes a charity prompt.

In return for this support and to ensure the continuing success of the campaign, the behaviour of charities when following up bequests with solicitors and the families of legators is paramount. Their actions affect not only the reputation of individual charities and the inclination of people to donate, but also the opinions of potential solicitor supporters.

Recently, negative letters published in the national press to the campaign have emphasised the importance of this issue.

Distressed relatives have complained of "hounding" and a lack of appreciation by charities, and are advising caution to potential donors. All too often solicitors say they are reluctant to support anything that will increase the number of calls they receive from charities.

Judy Dyke, a solicitor involved in administering estates at Tyndallwoods Solicitors, said: "When receiving letters from charity beneficiaries, I am always pleased to see a request for condolences and gratitude for the legacy to be communicated to the family."

A recent example of a will that included 12 different donations showed that of the six letters already received from charities, only two asked to have their sympathy and thanks passed on to the family. A couple simply confirmed their address and requested details of the donation. Charities should remember to take into account people's perception of charity and should take pains to express appreciation of any donation.

Of course, charities are bound by law to request any benefit they are entitled to, as outlined in The Law Society's 'Charities with Beneficiaries'.

However, cases should be treated individually and acted on appropriately.

For example, it should be common courtesy that if a charity has agreed to use a donation for a specified purpose, they communicate with the family when the request has been fulfilled.

There are several stages of communication involved in the administration of a will and our plea is that at all times, sympathy for the family and appreciation for the donation is expressed. This courtesy should also be extended to the solicitor executing the will. Simply by doing this you will be helping to support the campaign and in turn benefit all charities.

- Crispin Ellison is executive director of the Institute of Legacy Management and a member of the Legacy Promotion Campaign Steering Group.

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