Arts Organisations Still Punching Below Their Weight in Legacy Giving

Arts Organisations Still Punching Below Their Weight in Legacy Giving

Meg Abdy has been analysing the legacy market since 1994 when she coordinated the first ever legacy forecasting project, now known as Legacy Monitor. Today she is responsible for programme management and is a Director at Legacy Foresight. She has particular interests in in-memory giving, international markets and donor research.

Legacy Foresight and Arts Quarter LLP recently teamed up to research legacy fundraising in the UK arts community. We looked to explore how practice and perceptions have shifted in fundraising activities over the past six years and gained responses from over 100 organisations. The UK legacy sector overall is growing, with the proportion of people leaving a charitable will rising to 6.2% of deaths today; but it appears that arts organisations are still punching well below their weight. Just 27 arts organisations feature in the top 1,000 legacy charities and in 2014/15 these organisations received £14m in legacy income – well under 1% of the total market.

 Whilst there have been some gains in terms of income and number of gifts, legacy giving – and fundraising – still tend to be concentrated into the hands of a few large, well-known organisations. The sector is experiencing very low levels of legacy income overall, with just 38% of organisations receiving any gifts in wills over the last three years. Of this 38%, 70% earned less than £25,000 p.a. in legacy income. Just five of the organisations surveyed received income averaging £250,000 or more p.a. and only one averaged over £1m p.a. 

In terms of strategic focus and resource allocation, there is still much that can be done. 58% of organisations stated that they were yet to encourage stakeholders and/or members of the public to leave gifts in their wills. Just one of the 116 organisations surveyed had a full-time team member allocated to legacy activities, and 48% had no discrete staff allocated. Furthermore, 50% of respondent organisations have no budget for legacy fundraising in the current financial year and 32% of those who promoted legacy giving, have just up to £5,000. For many smaller organisations, the idea of legacy fundraising is well off the radar.

However, compared to other charities, arts organisations are significantly more likely to know the supporters leaving them a gift in their will. On average, two-thirds of the people leaving a bequest to arts organisations were known supporters, suggesting that within the arts community specifically, there are closer donor relationships than in the wider charitable community as a whole, where approximately half of all legacies come from people who are completely unknown to the charity concerned. Of course, whilst it’s positive that arts organisations know so many of their legators, they may be missing out on a wider group of supporters from their interest groups. 

We hope our findings will help arts fundraisers to benchmark their current performance against their peers and provide inspiration for those looking to generate new income through this vital form of giving. We invite fundraisers who are interested in finding out more about legacy fundraising, both in their sector and the wider market, to contact Legacy Foresight for a free copy of the full report.