Is your Board on board for legacy growth?

Published 02 September 2022

By Richard Radcliffe FCIoF Cert
Founder Radcliffe Consulting


No. That is the simple answer for many charities.

“A little bit” is the answer for many. “Can we wait until the next meeting?” is often the answer. “Leaders know we must do them but somehow other things take over as a priority” to quote one Fundraising Director.

Then there are the stupid boards. “They will come in anyway so there is no need to do anything

Finally, the “now” board: “The money will only come in after I have gone, so forget it”.

The last gift in a lifetime is the last agenda item and time often runs out.

Sadly there is little guidance from key statutory and umbrella bodies.

  • The Charity Commission hardly mentions legacies and does not mention the need for long term strategic planning. The Charity Fundraising leaflet (CC20) for Trustees only follows the remit of the Charity Commission in terms of complying with the legal framework.
  • The Fundraising Regulator refers to the Charity Commission and only looks at Trusteeship, from a compliance angle based on their Code of Practice.
  • NCVO – Trustee Role Description: there is nothing about encouraging long term planning
  • Chartered Institute of Fundraising: has nothing about Trustees and the need for long term planning.

The ONLY resource is the Trustees and Fundraising Handbook which is jointly published by CIoF NCVO CFG + ACEVO. It is five years old and we wonder how many trustees are given it.  You can download it free of charge:

So, YOU as fundraisers have little support from anyone to persuade your leaders (Trustees or Senior Management/Leadership Teams) to plan for the long-term financial security of your charity.

And yet, legacies are the single unrestricted source of income which provide financial security for your charity and security of supporting future generations of beneficiaries. How often do we hear “thank God past trustees invested in legacies.” Never. What is heard is “thank god for legacies” without any thank you for past forethought.

Mahatma Gandhi said

The future depends on what you do today”. But legacies are not gained today or tomorrow so the decision to act today is LOST.

Almost every source of money enables you to survive. It is only legacies which enable you to thrive in the long term.

I have been urging change for 30 years. The only good news is that I have worked on legacies with around 500 charities over the last 35 years and the number of charities benefitting from legacies has tripled over this time. Not all due to me I hasten to add!

It is so exhilarating to witness the new breadth of charities gaining legacy income. But in my experience, it is the boards of charities who have little or no understanding of the wonderful world of Wills and legacies that hang back from legacy promotion.   


Supporters are changing faster than their charities

Every week I meet supporters (donors, volunteers, staff and, where appropriate, beneficiaries) – and have done for 35 years.

What gobsmacks me, and excites me, is the unremitting enthusiasm of stakeholders to achieve their philanthropic dreams through a legacy. It has rocketed over the last 35 years.

Stakeholders are long term visionaries even if your leaders are not.

Time after time when I listen to stakeholders - one-to-one, or on Zoom, or face to face - I am ignited with enthusiasm by their enthusiasm. 

The majority of supporters are asking the same questions as to why they are hesitating to take action:

“I have no idea of the impact my gift will make” or “I did realise they needed them”

Why? Because the charity leaders have not agreed a tangible, inspirational, credible vision far into the future.

But many prospects assume that their own lack of wealth means they cannot leave a legacy. Legacies are perceived as big and only for the wealthy.

Why do charities promote “a donation of £5 per month can xxx”

But rarely promote “a legacy of £1000 can xxx”

BONKERS. (A GREAT English word meaning to hit on the head and make you silly)

The average legacy is £25,000 that is 5,000 months of £5 donations.

Or 416 years for a regular £5 monthly donor.

What on earth is there not to like about legacies?

We can each play our part in affecting change.

All we have to do is convert leaders into long term visionaries.

Let’s not forget that legacy income is likely to double in the next 25-30 years (as it has done in the past 15 years). It now stands at over £3 billion.


  • Feel free to copy and share this article. I am also more than happy to meet any leaders and help convert them.
  • Let’s start a campaign to affect change with the influencing statutory and umbrella bodies.
  • Give trustees every statistic you can gain from Smee & Ford. It is evidence of the whole sector which you need to back you up.
  • Inform ALL leaders, staff and volunteers of the potential.
  • Emphasise every gift makes a difference regardless of size. Give examples of the smallest and largest legacies you have ever received or (if you do not get them) the ease and affordability of Will making and legacy giving.
  • Create a long-term vision to make sure prospects know the impact they can have
  • Drip feed key phrases and statistics everywhere internally: in the toilets, canteen (if you have one) every noticeboard, every internal communication and at staff meeting. These actions normalise legacy giving.

Remember that older generations find Will making a brilliantly joyful act.

Remember that a legacy costs nothing now – perfect when your future financial needs are unknown.    

Communicating regular benefits of legacies will make it harder for leaders to ignore.


Keep every message as short as possible – then it will be remembered.

I was asked to write 1500 words. But the biggest complaint I get about legacy  communications is that they are too long.

So, I refuse to write more. I have said what I want to say and will shut up!

It also gives the editor the chance to put this article in a bigger type size – perfect for older people.

Richard runs legacy focus groups with prospects, develops simple low-cost very practical strategies and trains anyone to talk and write about legacies with ease and confidence.