Arjen van Ketel is Holland’s leading legacy fundraising consultant, and author of the best–selling Handboek Nalatenschappen (Legacies Handbook). We’ve been working with Arjen and his colleague Jerry Smit to develop a Dutch Legacy Monitor. We’ve found many similarities between our two markets – and some unexpected differences.

The Netherlands has a population of 16 million people (a quarter of the UK). There is a well-developed fundraising culture. Due to our good banking infrastructure and postcode system, direct marketing has flourished over the past 50 years. Demographic developments are also quite similar to the UK, with a growing number of elderly people and a large cohort of affluent baby boomers entering the ‘legacy stage’.
But in some ways the Dutch legacy market is different:

  • Dutch donors spread their giving over a large number of organizations. Forty or even more is not exceptional! Legators choose to share their estate with an average of seven non-profits.
  • The many local church communities are sustained by their members, not by the state. A large part of donations and legacies will go to the church, though exactly how much is still unknown.
  • Only public notaries can prepare wills. This makes will marketing costly and adds an extra obstacle.
  • Children can only be partially disinherited, and can claim up to 50% of the estate.
  • Until 2004, charity legacies were taxed at 11% – this tax has now been discontinued.

Contemporary causes most popular

Most organizations in the Dutch legacy top 10 have a British equivalent. Big number one is the Dutch Cancer Foundation, followed by the Heart Foundation, MSF, Animal Protection, UNICEF and the Dutch National Trust. But we also found some significant differences. For example, the percentage of legacies given to international aid charities is more than double the UK figure. Dutch legators are far more likely to opt for younger organizations than British legators, with most legacies going to charities founded after World War Two.

Most charities rely on direct marketing

Legacy marketing began in the 1990’s with leaflets in the offices of the public notary. This proved to be ineffective, as most will-makers had made up their mind before their visit. A public awareness campaign based on the ‘Remember A Charity’ approach, ended a few years ago.

Nowadays, nearly all larger charities use a soft sell direct marketing campaign, targeting their own large group of elderly donors. Magazines, mailing and telemarketing are the main channels.

One notable programme from the Cancer Research Foundation (among others) offers a free booklet that donors can use to describe their wishes and can also be used when preparing their will. This effective approach gives the organizations the chance to start legacy communication at exactly the right time.

The newest trend is to focus on developing stewardship programs and events.

From stagnation to growth

In the nineties there was a big increase in legacy giving, driven mainly by strong economic growth. Since 2000 the market appears to have been fairly flat. Until recently, Dutch deaths were falling, while stock values and later house prices dropped sharply during the recession (between 2008 and 2012 Dutch house prices fell by 11%).

The coming years promise significant growth; new analysis by Legacy Foresight predicts a 3.8% growth p.a. from 2012 to 2020. This is based on the recent recovery of stock and house prices, along with a projected growth in the number of deaths. As in the UK, from 2020 onwards this will be boosted by a growing percentage of childless elderly people.

The years ahead hold promise

All Dutch nonprofits are aware of the importance of legacies. As massive direct marketing approaches become less effective, there is more attention on the quality of existing relationships. Organizations will try to differentiate themselves, and will use more personal contacts and face to face meetings.