Matthew Lagden: A lack of legacy admin staff is hitting charities hard

Legacy income is vital to charities, but many of the staff involved with them feel undervalued

Last week the charity recruitment specialist TPP released its annual salary survey, which looks at more than 1,300 jobs in the sector and is based on more than 1,000 responses. The findings make for a worrying read.

In particular, the survey highlights the real struggle many charities are facing in retaining top fundraising talent, with more than a quarter of fundraising professionals saying their current role is not progressing their career and 82 per cent admitting they are either looking for a new role or would consider moving for the right one.

This chimes with research conducted by the Institute of Legacy Management, the membership body for those working in the legacy sector. Our members help to ensure that every generous donor’s final wishes achieve their greatest potential. This is vital, skilled work, and our members are proud of their role in ensuring the financial health of the 300 different causes they work for.

Earlier this year we surveyed our members about their roles, and the findings certainly reflect those of the TPP survey. Of those surveyed, 61 per cent said their place of employment lacked opportunities for promotion, and many of our members said they felt undervalued within their charity. Nearly three-quarters said they were either looking for a new role or would consider moving.

This should be of real concern to the sector. Legacy income is vitally important to charities, which currently receive about £2.8bn a year from gifts left to them in wills. This figure is growing and many charities depend on legacy income to carry out their vital work.

Yet despite this we regularly hear from our members that the work they do is not recognised within their charity and that there is a general lack of understanding about the role they play within their organisations.

Those who work within legacies are extremely skilled and need a great deal of knowledge to carry out their roles with tact, sensitivity and the relevant expertise. Each gift takes time to process, involving legal knowledge and the people skills to liaise sensitively with families of the deceased.

Yet there are currently a high number of vacant roles across the sector and, when they are filled, this is often by the same people moving around different charities. We have advertised more vacancies this year than in any of the 20 years since we were founded.

We have also observed that fewer new people are coming into legacy roles, either from outside the sector or from other parts of the charity sector.

Charities need to tackle this head on. Without trained legacy administration staff they will face delays in receiving income in the short term and will be unable to capitalise on a growing income stream in the long term.

For many charities, legacies account for a high percentage of their income: in some cases more than half of the charity’s income comes from gifts left in wills. For these and many other charities, a loss of legacy income could be devastating for the vital causes we all work so hard to support. Even delays in receiving income caused by a lack of qualified legacy administration staff can lead to cash-flow problems and other financial difficulties.

We need to see greater investment in legacy administration staff training and professional development so that staff feel valued and more positive about their jobs. Charities also need to do more internally to recognise the vital role legacy administration plays in maximising the value of this vital income stream. Only then will these roles start to become more attractive and charities won’t face such a struggle to fill vacancies.

Matthew Lagden is chief executive of the Institute of Legacy Management

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