Why these are challenging times for hospice legacy income

Categories: Fundraising.

Richard Hill, programme manager for Legacy Futures’ Hospice Legacy Circle, explains why these are difficult times for hospices and shares his top five tips for how a bleak outlook can be made brighter

Hospice legacy income is currently worth £249 million (Legacy Foresight, NCVO Charity Commission Data 2021/22) and is a vital source of income for hospices, who are more dependent on legacies than many other sectors. Funds from legacy gifts make up 47% of total voluntary income, compared to 42% for the health sector, and 29% of all charities (NCVO).

What is concerning is that income growth over the last 10 years for the hospice sector has started to lag behind other local and specialist health charities. For hospices, the figure stands at just 4.4%, which appears unfavourable when compared to air ambulances at 12.5% and all heath charities at 5.0%.

The hospice sector share of the legacy market peaked in 2015/16. Since then, however, the figures have been declining. It went from owning 25% of the health sector legacy market share to just 20% in the five years that followed. This is a worrying trend, and one which hospices must face head on by arming themselves with the knowledge to implement change so that the pendulum starts swinging in the opposite direction.

What can hospices do to reverse the trend?

Changing patterns in legacy income is not something that can be achieved overnight. However, there are things that can be done now to help turn the tables for the foreseeable future. Here are some practical suggestions for hospices who are keen to increase their share of the legacy market:

1.Use the data available

There is plenty of market data available which will allow you to gain a clear perspective of the legacy market and see how other charities are benefiting from gifts in wills. Accessing and understanding the data gives you the opportunity to benchmark legacy data and see how your hospice fares in comparison with other charities. This data intelligence could open your eyes as to what is possible when it comes to legacy fundraising and inspire you to take action to grow your share.

2.Make legacies central to fundraising

Despite the area of legacy fundraising being a huge potential source of income for charities, many still shy away from it, believing there to be a stigma around the topic. Even hospices, who deal with death and dying on a daily basis can be reluctant to broach the subject of legacies with supporters. The charities who make legacies a major component of their fundraising efforts are those which benefit the most from legacy income.

3.Build knowledge and skills

Legacy fundraising can be a minefield, especially if you have not done a great deal in this space previously. There are the ethics to consider, the legalities and the sensitivities around the language, for instance. That is not to mention the administration and marketing. Undertaking training on these subjects can help enormously with building a tangible toolkit and with creating the confidence to carry out a legacy fundraising campaign. Specialist organisations such as Legacy Futures exist to help charities navigate the complex world of legacies.

4.See how other charities are doing it

Once you have built a level of know-how, it is worth researching some case studies to see how other, similar, charities go about their legacy giving operations. A great (and free) resource for this is The Legacy Showcase. Collated by Legacy Futures in collaboration with SOFII, The Legacy Showcase is a library of videos in which fundraising professionals talk about their favourite legacy campaigns.

Case studies like these are highly effective at inspiring creative ideas as to how your hospice can build its own legacy income – all which can be used to inform your legacy fundraising strategy.

  1. Collaborate with peers

There is no better way to help you achieve your legacy potential than collaborating with others who face the same challenges. Our Hospice Circle, in partnership with leading hospice consultant David Burland, is now in its second year. We have 19 members, with a good mixture of adult and children’s services (some combined), covering the length and breadth of the country, who come together to learn and share about all things legacy.

The programme delivers best-of-class training in legacy fundraising and administration, expert technical advice, and access to valuable market intelligence through our interactive data dashboards.

Members talk about their experiences related to legacy giving, how they have gone about implementing a campaign or strategy and the effect it has had on their hospice. We even have individual time with each member to talk about what is keeping them awake at night — challenges that are common to the sector but more importantly to their specific hospice as well – and help them create strategies to overcome these.

The Hospice Circle programme runs from October to September. More information can be found at https://legacyfutures.com/hospice-legacy-circle/.


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