Back to the future: Legacy Fundraising – an Irish perspective.

As this week is Best Will Week, organised by, it seems like a good time to ask just how important is legacy fundraising to Irish charities?

Key Trends

We first began researching legacy fundraising nearly 20 years ago. A deep dive in to our most recent research published this week shows some interesting trends:

  1. Legacy income accounted for 11% of voluntary income over the period 2012-2014 (based on cumulative totals over the three years). But that number masks the level of variation among individual charities – with Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services (39%), Barretstown (38.8%) and GOAL (35%) receiving over a third of their voluntary income from legacies.
  2. The top three causes that received the most legacy income over the period 2012-2014 were overseas aid (€20.8m); health, hospices and hospitals (€10.2 m); and children’s charities (€7.6m) – accounting for 86 % of the total legacy income received by the charities surveyed in our research.
  3. A year-on-year comparison indicates that legacy income declined over the three years from €19.6m (2012) to €15m (2013) to €10.3m (2014). Sightsavers, Threshold, Concern Worldwide and GOAL were the only charities that reported consistent year-on-year growth in their legacy income during this time.
  4. A total of 1,612 bequests were made to the charities surveyed over the three years (2012-2014) worth a total value of €44,952,559; the smallest individual bequest was €20 (Focus Ireland) and the largest individual bequest was €7,000,000 (Barretstown). Property was the main form of non-monetary bequest received.
  5. Reponses to questions on legacy administration revealed that 44% of respondents had a legacy pledge programme in place; 26% had an In Memoriam programme in place and 19% had both a legacy pledge programme and an In Memoriam programme in place.
  6. Just under one third of respondents had a partnership with legacy advisors (i.e. solicitors, accountants and financial/wealth advisers).
  7. There appears to be strong confidence among fundraisers in relation to legacy fundraising with nearly two-thirds of respondents stating that they felt they were either ‘fairly experienced’ or’ experienced’ in legacy fundraising. 
  8. 26% of respondents employed either a full-time or part-time legacy manager. Of the three charities that had the highest cumulative legacy income in the years 2012-2014 two employed a full-time legacy fundraiser and one employed a part-time legacy fundraiser. 

There’s more to legacy marketing than just will-making

Our research highlights the diverse nature of legacy giving. Your charity could for example, receive a legacy donation from someone who has never had any previous contact with the charity during their life-time. But that’s not to say you should leave your legacy fundraising to chance. It’s more likely that a well-planned legacy strategy that recognises personal giving preferences in devising contact strategies and an investment in stewarding your top donors will lead to a gift in a will. But because high-value legacy donations can also come from donors who had only ever made small donations to your charity during their life-time, regularly drip feeding your donors the importance of leaving a gift to your charity in their will might be something you should consider. By developing your legacy fundraising now you are investing in the future financial sustainability of your charity.

Take our legacy quiz!

  1. How many practicing solicitors are familiar with your charity and the impact it is having? How many of them are willing to recommend leaving a gift to a charity? (There are over 9,000 qualified solicitors in Ireland)*
    (Read our legacy associate Dr. Claire Routley’s blog to find out more about how charities can develop relationships with advisers.)
  2. Are you regularly drip feeding your donors messages about how important a legacy would be to your charity and the impact it would have?
  3. Do you have a legacy pledger’s programme and/or In Memoriam programme in place?
  4. Do you understand the influence of gender, age, marital status and religious beliefs on legacy giving?
  5. What contact strategies and materials have you developed to start or grow legacy fundraising for your charity?
  6. What is the profile of your existing donors? Are they likely prospects for legacy giving? Or do you need to recruit donors who are more likely to leave a gift in their wills?


Research has shown that donors think differently about future giving compared to how they think when deciding to give to a current appeal. Are you thinking differently about your legacy fundraising?

John Sutton is Agency Director at Persuasion Republic. John has delivered master-classes on legacy fundraising and lectured on legacy fundraising on both Fundraising Ireland’s (now Charities Institute Ireland) Certificate in Fundraising and Diploma in Fundraising programmes

*Law Society Gazette, Feb. 2015