Between 2013 and 2018 legacy giving for UK charities increased at a fairly rapid rate: an average annual increase of more than 5% per year. The positive drivers during this period included:

  • Strong growth in legacy income since the UK emerged from the 2008-12 recession
  • Significant, and unexpected, increases in the number of deaths per year contributed to a more rapid growth in bequest numbers during the 2010s than in the 2000s and 1990s
  • The UK’s healthy economic growth – and especially a rising housing market – meant the value of residual bequests left to charities increased at a fairly rapid rate

However, there are now significant threats in the external environment that might act to restrain growth in legacy giving:

  • Overall UK legacy income is expected to increase during the next five years, but at a slower rate than in the recent past
  • As the baby boomer generation ages, it is inevitable that numbers of deaths will increase, however, they are unlikely to reach the unusually high death rates of the past five years (there were nearly 620,000 deaths across the UK in 2017/18), and so, bequests growth will be slower than in recent years
  • The UK economy, like most other major world economies, will be less buoyant than in the past five years, leading to slower growth in the average value of residual bequests
  • The ongoing process of the UK leaving the EU represents a clear threat to future growth in legacy giving: there is a clear downside risk to all charities in a post-Brexit economy that is significantly weaker than in the recent past

Faced with a much-less-benevolent external environment, it is critical that charities act on the areas within their control.

Legacy Foresight recommends that charities plan their legacy strategy by thinking about the following 5 steps to legacy health:

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