Anyone involved in the legacy sector is intrigued to find out who the top performing legacy charities are and to understand the reasons behind their success.

Each year Legacy Foresight compiles their ‘Legacy Leaders’ list of the top 100 legacy charities, comparing their recent legacy income and 10-year growth rates. In 2018/19, these Legacy Leaders received £1.8bn of legacy income equating to 55% of the total UK legacy market.

Here I talk through the ten fastest-growing legacy brands from the latest Legacy Leaders list and share what can we learn from them.

Help the Heros

The number one spot for the second year running goes to Help for Heroes with an impressive average growth rate over the past 10 years of 24% a year, and average annual legacy income over the past 3 years of £10m.

Although Help for Heroes is a relatively young charity, established in 2007, they have worked hard to grow their brand and supporter base; positioning themselves as a leading charity with an emotive mission.

A second Armed Forces charity to retain their spot in the top ten (at number eight) is Blesma, the Limbless Veterans. Founded in 1930, Blesma made it into the top ten fastest-growing legacy brands in 2017/18 and continue to grow their legacy income at an average rate of 18.5% a year.

Despite Armed Forces being the smallest legacy sector, with two Armed Forces charities featured in the top ten, this is a cause area that resonates with the UK public. Poll research from CAF in 2019 supports this, revealing that nearly half of all adults in the UK believe we have a duty as a society to donate money to help the Armed Forces charities.

The top ten is dominated by Health charities from a mix of sub-groups including cancer charities, Air Ambulances and NHS Hospital Trusts.

Alzheimer Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK takes the third spot with an average annual growth rate of 21.4% and 3-year average annual income of £11m. Alzheimer’s Research UK is an incredibly relevant charity as more and more people in the UK are living with dementia. They have a passionate legacy team and invest in their legacy fundraising, from will writing offers to their popular legacy events.

Despite Prostate Cancer UK seeing a drop in legacy income from £5.6m in 2017/18 to £2m this year (which is closer to their five-year average), they are still fifth on the list. Prostate Cancer UK has worked hard to build their profile, investing in marketing activities including the popular campaign Movember, which has had a positive impact on their legacy income.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity appears at number six, with an average annual growth rate of 18.9%. They continue to push the importance of legacies to their cause and won Legacy Campaign of the Year at the 2019 National Fundraising Awards for their campaign, Give back to the future.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (UK) is the only international humanitarian organisation to feature in the top ten. In tenth position, they have an impressive average annual legacy income of £10m and an average growth rate of 16.2%.

The Air Ambulance Service made their first appearance in the top ten fastest growing legacy brands at number two after a fantastic year. Their legacy income has increased from £2.7m to £5.1m, with an 10-year annual growth rate of 23.3%.


Midlands Air Ambulance Charity (seventh on the list) and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Charitable Fund (fourth on the list) are also two of the top ten fastest-growing legacy brands with average growth rates of 18.7% and 21.3%.

Local health charities have gained significant momentum over the last ten years by actively talking about legacies to their supporters. Their legacy income will likely continue to grow, particularly after the support we’ve seen for NHS charities and care providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

A second new entrant in the top ten at number nine is the Jehovah’s Witness charity, the International Bible Students Association. They have an average growth rate of 16.2% per year, with an average legacy income of £3.1m over the past three years. Although they are clearly a cause close to some people’s hearts, their legacy fundraising activity remains a bit of a mystery!

So, what can we learn from the top ten fastest-growing legacy brands?

It’s fair to say all of those in the top ten are well-known brands, most of whom work hard to build their profiles and understand the significance of legacies to their cause. They invest in legacy marketing and provide clear and impactful legacy messages.

All but one of the top ten are contemporary charities founded after 1970. Newer charities are packing a punch with their legacy fundraising and the increasing competition in the market means that more established charities cannot rest on their laurels. Historically, larger charities have received the majority of legacy donations but, there is now a much wider choice of charities to support, coupled with the greater scrutiny that larger charities face.

Anyone currently working in the legacy sector understands the importance of investing in legacy fundraising due to the huge potential to increase this form of giving over the next 25 years.

Those who fail to invest risk being left behind as others rise to the challenge.

The future of legacies is an exciting one.

We need to embrace legacy fundraising as we learn from each other and celebrate our successes.

Lucy Lowthian is Senior Legacy and In Memory Giving Manager at Sue Ryder. Lucy has recently submitted her PhD thesis which examines psychological well-being and the charitable bequest decision.

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