Will to Give is an organisation set up to boost legacy giving in Northern Ireland, supported by a committed group of charities, from local to international. We asked Chair, Elley Martin, to tell us more about Will to Give, its achievements to date and ambitions for the future.

Tell us a little about you, your ‘day job’ and how this fits with Will to Give.

The ‘day job’ involves leading on Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) Individual Giving Programme. The IG Team consists of a very busy team of 5. I also line manage Will to Give’s (WTG) brilliant Development Officer, Deirdre Murphy through my role as Chair.

What is WTG and what you are aiming to achieve?
WTG is a membership charity open to all charities operating in Northern Ireland. Our aim is to work together to promote gifts in Wills for the benefit of all charities in Northern Ireland (NI).

The group was formally constituted in January 2011 with 17 founder members. Today we have grown to 56 charities and we are very much focused on supporting as many charities operating in NI as possible.

We are truly varied in terms of size, cause and scale – there are long established, new, national and local charities – Cancer Research to Shopmobility Belfast, Queens University Foundation to NICHS. What brings us together is that each of our member charities recognises the importance of gifts in Wills.

We undertake a varied and busy programme of activity – including a year-round social media and PR campaign, awareness raising events including our annual WTG Awareness Week launched in 2016, and a robust series of training courses for all charities across NI. The Will Notification System developed in conjunction with Sector Matters continues to run smoothly and is of huge benefit for forward planning for charities. Our Facebook group is a great resource and content is added several times a week and it’s also a brilliant forum for member discussion and sharing ideas and advice.

How does legacy giving in NI compare to the rest of the UK?
As in the rest of the UK gifts in Wills are vitally important to the work of NI charities. For example, legacies are the cornerstone of NICHS’s fundraising, making up 57% of all voluntary income in 2016-17. Without gifts in Wills, NICHS couldn’t help one in three of the people who need us.

It’s fair to say a broad range of factors unique to NI present both challenges and opportunities to legacy fundraising. WTG was delighted to recently host a breakfast event as part of Philanthropy Fortnight. It was standing room only when Meg Abdy, Director of Legacy Foresight shared some excellent insights on the potential of legacy fundraising in Northern Ireland. Their research showed that probate rates of Northern Irish estates are low, with just 42% of deaths going to probate, compared to 52% in England and Wales. Intestacy levels are also higher in Northern Ireland – one in five of probate applications here don’t have a will attached. In all. just 34% of deaths lead to a will at probate, compared to 42% in England — and if you don’t have a will, you can’t leave a charitable legacy!

WTG has been keenly aware of this challenge since inception and alongside developing and promoting our Free Will Making Guide, a key focus has been to encourage every adult in Northern Ireland to have their Will written, specifically with the support of a Professional Advisor.

Research from WTG’s 2016 Notification Reports reveals that religious causes continue to dominate at 45%, in stark contrast to England and Wales (15%) and Scotland (19%) where health is the number one cause. Relatively small cash gifts are also far more common than the more lucrative residuals, accounting for 60% of all legacies received (compared to just half in Great Britain).

One opportunity that was highlighted through the research findings is that 44% of people in NI are ‘open’ to the idea of leaving a charitable gift when they get round to making their Will. A current strategic aim of the WTG Team is to improve our engagement with Professional Advisors – our key message is for Professional Advisors to give their clients the full picture, making them aware that giving to charity in their Will is an option.

As chair, what’s been your proudest moment to date?
It has to be the group undertaking our first ever legacy fundraising awareness raising week in November 2016. The ‘Do it for Your Cause’ Campaign asked people to consider leaving a gift to charity in their Will through a variety of marketing channels, targeting two key audiences; the Will-making public and Professional Advisors.

The Campaign led with simple, effective messaging developed in-house. Activity included billboards, a bespoke supplement in the Belfast Telegraph, local newspaper coverage and a full-page advert in The Writ. Video on demand on ITV’s digital hub ran throughout the month alongside a bespoke social media campaign #mycause, we also gained press coverage with the official launch. The Institute of Legacy Management delivered training on legacy administration to local members and we also dispatched a toolkit to promote charitable gifts in Wills to over 200 local charities.

The campaign was run on a limited expenditure budget (<£8k) with the majority of the activity resourced by volunteers, co-ordinated by our Support Officer. Planning is now underway for our second such awareness week scheduled for November 2017!

The lasting impact on the targeted audiences has been amazing. In a recent survey to Professional Advisors, 50% responded they first heard of WTG through the awareness week. 65% of respondents believed WTG Week really helps raise awareness of charitable gifts in Wills. Due to the success of the campaign, many Professional Advisors have offered their support of WTG Week 2017. In a recent WTG public survey, 21% of respondents first heard of WTG through the 2016 campaign and an incredible 18% claimed they have left a gift in their Will.

And what’s your vision for the campaign in five years time?
Being Chairperson of WTG a brilliant experience, it is incredibly satisfying working with people right across the sector to influence positive change for everybody living in Northern Ireland. My aspirations for WTG are for it to continue to go from strength to strength; that the group continues to be creative and innovative in our approach. It really is a crucial platform to help all NI based charities achieve what no single charity can do alone: make legacy giving a social norm here in NI.

For more information about Will to Give and details of the affordable membership options available to those wishing to join, visit:

To see Meg’s presentation from the WTG event during Philanthropy Fortnight, click here