We have long known that there is a link between in-memory and legacy giving, but until last year had not fully evaluated the scale or importance of that link.

The 2018/19 In-Memory Insight programme was designed to do just that. We conducted a literature review, supporter interviews, two donor surveys and an analysis of charity benchmarking data.

Before we even spoke to supporters, it was clear that losing a loved one broke down many of the barriers to legacy giving. Bereaved people had to re-make wills and became suddenly aware of their own mortality. Many wanted to give back at this time and forge connections with the people and places that had been important to their loved one. So, the conditions for leaving a legacy were improved.

But even then, we were surprised at the strength of the connection. From our donor surveys, we found that 40% of legacy donors had at least one in-memory legacy in their will and that the majority of these were in-memory donors beforehand.

The performance benchmarking (based on data from 22 Learning Circle members) showed a similar picture. Supporters with a known in-memory connection were three times more likely to pledge a legacy and twice as likely to be legacy prospects than standard regular donors. Not only that, but they also left more to their charities. Former in-memory supporters left residual legacies two-thirds higher and pecuniary legacies twice as high as non in-memory supporters.

Once in the will, in-memory legacies were highly unlikely to be removed. Supporters considered them to be special and protected because of the connection with their loved one. Removing a legacy would be tantamount to giving up on that person.

Many of the legacy donors we spoke to did not think of the in-memory charity as theirs – instead it ‘belonged’ to their loved one in the sense that the gift was all about them. This did not weaken the emotional significance of the charity or the motivation to leave to it. Some legacy donors had taken over the relationship, either because they were involved before their loved one died, or because the charity had worked hard to engage them afterwards. Although these relationships were stronger still, transferring ownership is a tricky task and may not always be possible. Some legacies will forever reside with the loved one to whom they are dedicated in the heads of donors.

We know that in-memory giving can help the bereaved to grieve and give a sense of purpose at a difficult time. For charities, we now know that it can lay a strong foundation for a legacy gift that is not only heartfelt but also of remarkable value.

Read more about our findings in our new In-Memory Briefing report, ‘Exploring the links between in-memory and legacy giving’, available to request here.

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