The legacy market continues to grow, with the number of Wills including a charitable gift exceeding 37,000 for the first time, a 7 per cent increase on charitable estates from the previous year. However, while there has been a steady increase in the number of people choosing to include a charity in their Will, we are far from a place where legacy giving is the norm. Our research shows that while a third (35%) say that they would be happy to leave a gift in their Will, only 6.3% of people actually do so.
One of the biggest challenges for legacies is that people often think it’s not for people like them. There are widely-held misconceptions that gifts have to be large amounts or that the donor has to choose between giving to their family or to their favourite charities.
The legal sector has a crucial role to play here. Our previous work in this area with the Cabinet Office and Co-operative Legal Services has already confirmed that mentioning legacy giving as part of the Will-writing process can have a significant impact on giving levels.
Our new research launched by Remember A Charity last month at the Law Society of England and Wales shed new light on the way that solicitors can best raise the option of legacy giving with clients.
The two-year study, carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team and the University of Bristol, is the first of its kind to explore the most appropriate and effective ways for solicitors to make their clients aware of the option of donating through their Will in a face-to-face setting.
The Legacy Giving and Behavioural Insights Report was based on trials involving eight firms of solicitors and over 2,600 client interactions across the UK.
The study found that people’s likelihood of including a charity in their Will is affected by the language legal professionals use, concluding that specific framing used in conversations can make a real difference to the way that people respond in a face-to-face setting.
Social norming was the most effective for clients who were writing a Will for the first time, with a 40% increase in the number of first-time testators choosing to include a charity compared to a control group.
Crucially, we also found that both solicitors and customers are comfortable with the concept of giving to charities being presented as part of the Will-writing process.
Over two-thirds (69%) of people surveyed as part of this study said that they would be happy to have a solicitor mention charitable giving during the Will-writing process and almost half (46%) said that solicitors have ‘a duty’ to make clients aware of the option of legacy giving.
This is crucial evidence when trying to convert the remaining third of solicitors who currently never mention charitable giving to their clients.
Attitudes are changing, thanks to our work. Only 53% regularly prompted five years ago. But there is still much more to do.
Our next challenge is to build on this evidence, forging further relationships with the legal sector. If we can collectively create a social norm for solicitors to mention charity, then it has the significant potential to raise further billions for good causes.
Rob Cope is director of Remember A Charity, a consortium of more than 160 charities working together with government, solicitors and the corporate sector to make gifts in Wills the social norm. To join the campaign, visit http://www.rememberacharity.org.uk/for-charities/join-us/