The Invisible Legator project set out to investigate the many charity legacies which apparently arrive out of the blue; whether from known supporters who had not disclosed their gift, or from people who cannot be traced on charities’ databases.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that many charitable bequests are from people with no clear connection to the charity concerned, and this startling statistic was confirmed in Legacy Foresight’s 2016 Legacy Marketing Benchmarks study. Analysis of 34 leading legacy charities’ data showed that half of all the legacies received were from people apparently ‘unknown’ to them; a further third of all gifts in wills were from supporters with no obvious legacy interest. This was the starting point for our research.

While the legacy groups vary, the reasons for choosing a charity do not


The Invisible Legator project aimed to quantify, profile and understand the motivations driving four types of legacy donation:

  • Disclosed bequests – already made known to the charity
  • Undisclosed bequests – from known supporters who have not told the charity
  • Unrecognised bequests – from those who consider themselves supporters but are not recognised as such by the charity
  • Unknown bequests – from those who have never had any relationship or contact, even though they respect the charity and/or feel an emotional connection

The project took place between April and November 2017 and was funded by a consortium of 34 leading charities.

Our research was in two phases. The first phase identified, quantified and profiled the four legacy groups, in the largest-ever survey of UK legacy donors, interviewing 1,021 legacy donors, who had included a total of 2,039 charitable bequests in their wills. The second phase explored the four groups in more detail, using focus groups and depth interviews.

The research uncovered just why invisible legators are so hard to detect; and in doing so, challenged many deep-rooted assumptions about how legacy fundraising works.

Some of our clients: