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What is legacy funding?

This is the term used when someone leaves a sum of money to a charity in their will. Typically, the funds these donors nominate when alive will be related to their work, hobbies, passions and/or beliefs.

A legacy gift can be a specific amount bequeathed on the donor’s death or a percentage of their estate once it’s been sold and divided up as per the instructions in their will.

Though this sounds like something only the very wealthy would do, knowing their nearest and dearest would still be well taken care of with the amount of money in the estate to go round, it’s actually more common than you think.

There could be a few reasons why someone would include a legacy gift to a charity in their will.

  • The money they wish to donate is tied up in property/other assets and will only be released on their death

  • The donor may not wish to donate a lump sum whilst they’re alive, in case the funds are needed to cover any care costs (an issue that would become irrelevant upon their death)

  • Towards the end of their lives, it’s more common for people to think about what mark they may leave on the world when they pass

  • Leaving a financial gift to a charity in your will can reduce the amount of inheritance tax your estate incurs. Whilst a legacy gift wouldn’t necessarily put more money in the pocket of your loved ones, it can stop it going to the tax man…many people would agree that he gets enough of our hard-earned during our lifetimes

  • Sometimes, it can be quite late in life when a legacy wish is added to an individual’s will, as a way of thanking an organisation for the care they received in their final days—it’s common for people to leave a financial gift to MacMillan nurses or to the hospice they spent time in, for example

  • Another reason for a legacy gift may be because of a family fallout. Leaving everything to charity may seem the best option for some individuals if children or siblings are at war

  • For people who don’t have family to leave their estate to, a legacy gift is a positive, worthy way to dispose of their assets

Now that you know why people may arrange legacy gifts, you can use this information to your advantage and ask them to choose/include your charity in their bequest.

Inform and educate

People may not be aware of some of the above points, e.g. that legacy gifts can reduce inheritance tax. When you talk to people about legacy funding, it’s unlikely that anyone would have a problem with such a gesture—it’s more likely that most people have just never even thought about leaving money to a charity in their will.

Talk about legacy funding on your website, in your marketing literature and when out amongst the public. They may not sign up to a legacy gift there and then, but you will have planted the seed; next time they’re evaluating their will, they may include a clause that benefits your charity.

Join forces

Make a point of meeting all the funeral directors, hospice managers, vicars and crematorium caretakers in your local vicinity; these are the places where such conversations occur, and they’re a natural home for your legacy marketing materials. Also approach your local healthcare practitioners (e.g. hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, etc.) about leaving information about legacy gifts in their waiting rooms.

The same goes for accountants and tax specialists in your area, who could promote your charity when talking to their clients about ways to reduce the burden of inheritance tax.

Memoriam markers

The individual who dies may not be the one who chooses to initiate a legacy gift, it may be their loved ones instead. They may wish to remember their mum, dad, brother, sister, etc. with a memorial or tribute of some sort. For example, a hospice may plant a tree in the name of the deceased for a relatively-sized donation or install a bench bearing a plaque with a dedication in their garden. Can you think of any similar ideas that align with your charity?

Choose your language

How you discuss a legacy gift is important, and much more successful when the gift is framed as a celebration of the donor’s life that demonstrates their wishes and gratitude once they’ve passed. It can be a subject some fundraisers shy away from, in their belief that no one likes to be reminded about their mortality nor think about their death. Whilst I agree that this is a sensitive topic, it’s quite attractive to think how well people may talk/think about you after you’re gone because of the selfless, thoughtful and generous bequests you make when alive.

Make an example of other legacy givers

If you know that a supporter has included a legacy gift to your charity in their will, ask if they’d be happy to share the reasons behind their decision. Such case studies could influence others into doing the same and help to dispel myths, such as legacy gifts only being a consideration for the wealthy or that it’s a complicated procedure to arrange.

With each generation the rich/poor gap widens, and many people don’t have the ready cash to make meaningful donations to charities whilst they’re alive, however much they may wish to. A legacy gift may not be something they’ve thought much about, but once they know what’s involved, they may like the idea and be heartened at the thought of something so positive coming from their passing.


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