Will power: fundraising through legacies

Legacy gifts are a vital source of income for many organisations and despite coronavirus, writes legacy expert Matthew Lagden, a boom in legacy giving might well be on the horizon…

Gifts in wills currently generate more than £3bn in charitable income each year, and this is forecast to rise to at least £3.6bn by 2025. This growth is being driven by the baby boomer generation, and all the evidence we have suggests that legacy income will grow at above-inflation rates throughout this decade and into the next.
Universities are ideally poised to benefit from this income. In total, more than 660,000 baby boomers went to university, and if even one in 10 of them left a gift to their university, this could generate millions in income over the next decade. If you aren’t investing in legacy fundraising, now is the time to start, because the opportunities are enormous.

Currently, around 16% of all wills include a charitable gift. Over the past 30 years legacy income has trebled, and is set to double again over the coming 30 years.
There is clearly an appetite from the general public to offer support to the organisations that are closest to them.

For many people in the baby boomer generation, going to university will have been one of the most important and significant events in their life, and they may have a desire to reflect that in their will.


“Legacies should always be a top fundraising strategy for charitable organisations and it is more important than ever that they protect legacy budgets”

Funding future work

The current uncertainty facing all businesses and charitable organisations has made it more important than ever to encourage legacy giving to help fund future work. In fact, income from legacies has already helped to support many charitable organisations at the current time when other income streams have been affected.

It is key for those at all levels of your organisation to realise the vital importance of legacies and to support those teams that are involved in generating legacy income, ensuring their skills and knowledge are up to date and that they are given the right level of support to help them optimise any future growth in legacies.

Legacies should always be a top fundraising strategy for charitable organisations and it is more important than ever that organisations protect legacy budgets, even – or especially – in times of hardship. Innovation and adaptability are particularly important for those working in legacy fundraising, and those involved in legacy marketing need to be agile and adopt new channels of communications with their alumni and others where possible.


How can universities maximise the potential of legacy gifts?

Dealing with legacy gifts is rarely straightforward, and often the teams or individuals tasked with managing legacies are juggling a range of different roles, including fundraising or administration.

We believe it can take around two years for someone to become truly proficient at legacy management, as they need to develop an understanding of the legal backdrop, as well as the complexities and sensitivities of dealing with bereaved families, solicitors and other estate beneficiaries.

Whoever deals with legacy income at your university, and whatever their roles and responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, their mission should be the same: to optimise the positive impact of legacy gifts for the benefit of your organisation, while fulfilling the wishes of the donor.

Legacy managers need to understand the complexities and sensitivities of dealing with bereaved families


Key principles when dealing with gifts in wills

Although specific situations will, of course, differ, there are certain key principles when dealing with gifts in wills that remain the same.

If you have received a legacy, it is of vital importance that you optimise its potential value. For example, if you are selling a property, could you increase its value through gaining planning permission for development? Might you be able to benefit from tax exemptions and relief?

You might need to seek legal help when issues arise, such as challenges to a will. Be sure to find a solicitor with experience of dealing with legacies, and ensure that teams dealing with legacies are fully up to date with any changes in the law.

Matthew Lagden is CEO of the Institute of Legacy Management (ILM), the individual membership body for legacy fundraisers and managers of all backgrounds. ILM’s Good Practice Guidance is a free resource for all legacy professionals and available through the website:


You might also like: https://universitybusiness.co.uk/finance-legal-hr/universities-superannuation-scheme-contributions-could-rocket-to-plug-18bn-deficit/


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