Legacy Monitor Netherlands is now approaching its fourth year, with 15 leading Dutch charity members who together account for almost half the top 100’s legacy income. Here Arjen van Ketel, Legacy Monitor Netherlands’ Programme Manager, gives an insight into learnings from this year’s research and what’s to come for the Dutch legacy market.

The Dutch market in numbers

As in the UK, gifts in wills are a significant source of funds for major Dutch charities. In 2015, the 100 largest legacy charities received €270m in legacy income; representing 23% of their fundraising income and 10% of total income. Over the last ten years legacies’ share of fundraising income has been gradually increasing: up from 21% in 2005 to 23% by 2015.

Health charities, led by KWF (the largest cancer research brand) and Hartstichting (the leading Dutch heart charity) account for 40% of the top 100’s legacy income; the second largest sector is development aid and human rights charities, who receive a 26% share.

Like Britain, a few ‘extra-large’ brands dominate the sector, but smaller and younger charities are enjoying faster growth, with their share of the legacy market increasing gradually.

From 2006 to 2015 the 100 largest Dutch charities saw their legacy income grow by an average of 2.6% p.a. Our model of the Dutch legacy market suggests that over the next ten years growth will be faster than in the recent past, due mainly to rising deaths and the strength of the Dutch economy. From 2016 to 2025 we predict that legacy incomes will rise by 3.4% p.a. (or 2% p.a. when taking into account inflation).

Legacies attract far fewer fundraising resources than income would suggest. Across our Consortium legacies account for 29% of fundraised income; but just 3% of total fundraising spend and 9% of fundraising staff is dedicated to promoting legacy giving - suggesting that additional investment in legacy fundraising could generate yet more income in future.

Attitudes towards will-making in the Netherlands

This May, we commissioned a consumer survey on will-making behaviour and attitudes, which questioned a sample of over a thousand adults aged 50+.

The survey confirmed that despite apparently high awareness, the number of people open to the idea of writing a charitable will is very low compared to the UK - just 4% had written a charitable will, and another 13% would consider doing so in the future. However, childless people, the comfortably-off, and the most engaged charity supporters were all significantly more open to the idea than the rest of the older population.

The survey also showed that today’s 50-70-year-olds (the Dutch Boomer generation) were more open to the idea of making a charitable will than the older 70+ group – which is reassuring news given the size and wealth of this cohort.

It also emerged that 40% of older people do not plan to ever write a will, clearly representing a major obstacle to charitable legacies! For respondents with children, many think that they don’t need to write a will, as they are covered by Dutch inheritance laws. For those without children, the sense that they don’t have enough money to need a will is the most common barrier, followed by the perceived high cost of writing a will.

Interestingly, many were open to the idea of alternative will-writing approaches, particularly if they meant a reduction in cost – 55% of people who had already written or would consider writing a will agreed that “I would make a will online if it saved half the cost and the quality was guaranteed”.

We also were interested in attitudes towards public notaries. In general, the research showed that public notaries are trusted, especially by those aged over 70, but that they are not seen as experts on charities. People expect them to mention the possibility and tax advantages of leaving a charitable legacy – with pledgers and ‘considerers’ being especially open to this guidance – however, there was a strong sense that the idea of leaving a gift to charity should not be ‘forced’ upon them.

With regards to ‘free’ will programmes - a well-established activity in the UK and Canada - a third of those who would consider leaving a charitable will agreed they would be more likely to include a charity in their will if the public notary or charity covered the cost of writing that will.

Plans for 2018

Our research this year has uncovered much potential for Dutch legacy giving, particularly if charities choose to collaborate and invest in new initiatives such as awareness-raising campaigns and free will schemes. To understand these opportunities in greater depth in 2018, we’re planning to undertake research focusing on the obstacles to will-making, trust in Dutch charities’ legacy administration and the ethics surrounding legacy management.

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