Last September Legacy Foresight presented at the Institute of Legacy Management’s inaugural Northern Irish conference. The visit gave us some fascinating insight into this small and relatively undeveloped legacy sector.

The ILM session, generously hosted by Belfast law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin (CFR) introduced local fundraisers to important legal and financial elements of legacy management. Preparing and presenting at the event showed us a number of significant differences to the rest of the UK…

The Northern Irish population is small. With just 1.8 million residents, Northern Ireland accounts for 3% of UK deaths (15,000 p.a.) and 2% of wills at probate.

It’s also relatively poor with GDP per capita 23% below the UK average. As the chart below shows, the Northern Irish property market was hit hard by the recession. In the mid noughties, house prices were rocketing, but as soon as the crunch bit, they plummeted. While there has been some modest recovery of late, local house prices are still half the UK average.

The propensity to leave a charitable legacy is low. Sector Matters (who run the local notifications service) recorded just 510 charitable wills in 2013, compared to 15,000 deaths. That means just 3% of Northern Irish deaths lead to a charitable will, compared to 7% in England & Wales. On a more positive note, according to our own survey data (Populus April & December 2013), 41% of Northern Irish people are open to the idea of leaving a charitable gift; which is no different to the rest of the UK. CFR Associate Sarah Burrows points out that while the Northern Irish population may not be as affluent as their English neighbours, they are no less generous during their lifetimes. For now, low awareness of legacy giving is the largest obstacle to overcome.

Religious causes dominate. The Sector Matters data also show that of the 1570 charitable bequests left in 2013, 37% were to faith-based organisations; with health charities (by far the largest legacy sector in England, Wales and Scotland) coming a poor second with 26%.
Local charities are small. While there are around 7,000 charities in Northern Ireland, many have yet to register with the newly-formed Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, so hard data is scant. However, according to the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), two thirds of home grown charities have income of less than £100,000 p.a.; and they are often highly dependent on grant funding – perhaps a legacy of the regeneration funds pumped into the country after the troubles.

The country has a separate jurisdiction, with its own laws and courts system. For example, one Chancery Court judge handles all contentious probate cases across the country. That said, given the small caseload, the Belfast Court tends to look to English case histories for guidance.

There is a clear desire to learn – and grow – together. The ILM conference was the latest in a series of initiatives to boost the capacity of the legacy sector in Northern Ireland. It follows the launch of the Will to Give campaign in 2012, along with the creation of a Smee & Ford-style notifications service by Sector Matters.

For more information on the Northern Irish legacy sector check out these organisations:

Cleaver Fulton Rankin www. cfrlaw.co.uk
Will to Give www.willtogive.org
Sector Matters www.sectormatters.com
NICVA www. nicva.org
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland www.charitycommissionni.org.uk