Legacies are a potentially huge source of income, and no charity, however small, should be without a proactive legacy programme. CAF reports legacies amount to 33% of voluntary income to the top charities in 1993.
In a survey in 2010 Will Aid found that only 5% have left a legacy to charity. The proportion climbs to 11% in the 55+ age group.
Of those who intend to leave a legacy, the best prospects are the young. 34% of the 18-24 year olds and 22% of the 25-34 intend to leave a legacy.
People who have re-married are the most likely marital group to have left a legacy (9%) but single people are the most likely to intend to do so (29%).
Only 1.6% of respondents with dependent children have left a legacy although 12% intend to do so. Of those without children 5% have already left a legacy and a massive 27% intend to do so.
11% have discussed the possibility of leaving a gift to charity with their family. Almost 80% would not be upset if their own parents left some of their money to charity.
So we have a long way to go and a great deal of opportunity in a market which is wide open.


Legacies (or gifts in wills) form the foundation of charities in the UK. Many charities depend on legacies, without them, they would not exist.
Remember A Charity was formed in 2000 and now has over 140 members who work together to encourage more people to consider leaving a gift to charities in their will, after they’ve looked after their family and friends.

Link: Remember a Charity

Legacy leaflets and advertising

To reach your supporters, a legacy leaflet is standard fare. This often goes to all members as an insert in the newsletter and then to all new members in your new member’s pack.
Before you write this it is well worthwhile pulling together groups of your supporters and talking them through the whole process of leaving legacies, especially what words and sentences are acceptable to them so that you use a language and approach they will appreciate in your legacy material.
Consult your charity’s legal adviser about the current state of taxation and legacies.
Incentivise the return coupon.
Set out sample wording for a will to help people to see how straight forward this can be, but make sure you also make it clear that a standard wording will not suit everyone.
Advise people to consult their solicitor before writing their will. It is very easy to make a simple mistake in will-writing and so fail to achieve what you set out to do. You may have solicitors who are supporters of your charity and could offer an advisory service to members.

Including a list of the times in life to consider making a will or adjusting a previous will can set dates for people to get down to the task. At marriage, for example, previous wills are no longer valid. Other dates include:
– buying a home
– the birth of your children
– divorce
– retirement
– the birth of grandchildren
– the death of family or friends
– receipt of a windfall or inheritance
– taking up a dangerous job or hobby
– planning your estate and tax position.

But it is the drip-feed approach that works in the long run. To achieve this you need to advertise in a small but readable way in each newsletter then occasionally in any other publication you produce. That way your supporters become accustomed to the fact that legacies can be left to you, and their memories are also jogged on occasion, so that when the time comes to make out their will they cannot forget that you are interested.
Some people worry about the effect a legacy programme may have on their older supporters, but the thought of death is not necessarily a problem for old people. They have had a lifetime to get used to the subject, and you need not be shy about writing about legacies and wills. If you do encourage someone to make out a will you will probably have done them and their family a favour.
Visiting officers
The most progressive organisations now employ visiting officers, who contact the older members or supporters and offer to undertake any light services that they can provide, like shopping, or just calling in for a chat. This help is frequently deeply appreciated by older people, who are increasingly living on their own without an extended family to help them, and who may have contributed considerable sums to the charity when they were working.
Naturally, this is no time for a hard sell, and any decision to leave money in a will must be taken spontaneously, but it can be a very rewarding process for all those who take part. Local group members often make lasting and valuable friendships with national supporters, and vice versa.
Another team activity is visiting solicitors and bank managers to mention that your charity can recieve legacies and to leave leaflets and posters. A small volunteer team (best composed of retired solicitors and bank managers!) gradually covering the country in this way has proved invaluable to several organisaitons, including Oxfam.
One service you should definately subscribe to is that run by Smee and Ford Ltd, Paulton House, 8 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7LB.
They will let you know the details of any legacy left to your charity and any open legacy, where it is left up to the trustees to decide which charity shall benefit. This is a potential goldmine, though in practice charities have had very mixed success.