Legacy spotlight: A closer look at Finland, Austria, and SpainDecember 13, 2023
Annabella Priester: Secrets of successful legacy fundraisingDecember 13, 2023
For this month’s legacy focus, we provide an overview of legacy giving in countries across the continent, sharing recent data along with insights into the market in each.
Across Europe, the income the nonprofit sector receives from legacies varies widely. In some countries the market is well developed with this valuable and resilient form of income benefitting nonprofits of all shapes and sizes; in others it’s smaller but growing, and in still more it’s barely off the starting blocks.
Early days for Slovakia
In Slovakia for example, while some nonprofits are benefitting from gifts in wills, legacy giving is not yet commonplace, nor (in the main) actively promoted, as Eduard Marček, chair of the Slovak Fundraising Centre, explains:
“Though there are already cases of successful NGOs who have obtained gifts in wills, only a very few organizations are proactively promoting this option of support. The market still lacks a nationwide campaign which would not only increase awareness about writing gifts in wills, but also encourage the public to do so. It poses a big challenge for the Slovak Fundraising Centre to start such an initiative together with other organizations.”
As he notes, the key to increasing legacy income is raising awareness and acceptance of this form of giving. But in many countries low engagement with will writing presents an additional challenge, as we will hear in this article. In both cases, collaborative legacy campaigns are having a significant impact.
Norway – raising awareness of will writing
In Norway for example, legacy giving also remains low – accounting for 2% of organisations’ income and reaching €50,987,500 in 2021 among a group of 50 nonprofits surveyed by Deloitte.
The main reason for this is a legal requirement for two thirds of an individual’s estate to go to family members. And, if there is no family or no will written, the estate goes to The Norwegian Children and Youth Council, an umbrella organisation for 102 Norwegian children and youth organisations.
As a result, few people see the need to write a will. In 2018, just 10% of Norwegians had written one, with 4% of these leaving a legacy gift (0.4% of the population). However, since the national legacy campaign Det Gode Testament (Good Will) campaign started in that same year, awareness and acceptance of will writing and legacy giving have both started to rise. In fact, legacy gifts increased by 2.7% between 2019 and 2021, while figures from 2023 show that 15% of 45-year-olds have written a will with 32% considering it and another 15% saying they would like to leave a legacy gift.
Currently though, most legacy gifts go to just two charities – Salvation Army, and the Cancer Association, something Det Gode Testament is working to change.
Øivind Christensen, leader of its steering group and head of inheritance affairs at the Norwegian Salvation Army, says:
“About 40% of legacy income in Norway goes to just these two organisations, which means what currently goes elsewhere is microscopic. Last year at the Salvation Army we received approximately 150 million Norwegian krone (almost €13m), and the Cancer Association a record 186 million (almost €16m) – just from legacies. They provide such a major source of income that legacy fundraising has got to be part of every organisation’s strategy. You can’t just sit and wait for legacies to come in, and that is our message to other organizations – so it’s good to participate in a joint campaign.”
Interest in legacy giving on the rise in Finland
Over in Finland, the market is more developed but still quite small, says Tessa Robertsson, communication and advocacy coordinator at Finnish Fundraising Association VaLa, which coordinates legacy campaign Hyvä Testamentti (Good Will).
“Legacy fundraising income is on the rise in Finland, although relatively small compared to many other European nations,” she says. “The most popular methods of contributing are one-off donations and monthly giving. Legacies, as a percentage of overall private fundraising, stand at 5%, with a growing number of nonprofit organizations in Finland initiating legacy fundraising.”
A challenge here is low awareness of the option of leaving a charitable bequest, although this too is changing. In 2015, only 1% of those surveyed by Hyvä Testamentti expressed a willingness to include a charitable bequest, but this had risen to 10% in 2022.
Now, almost a fifth of Finns (19%) have made a will, rising to 34% of those aged 55+ according to its surveying. Interest has also grown over the past year with 37% of Finns saying they have considered making one, up from 15% in 2021.
Hyvä Testamentti has been integral to this shift as can be seen in a study conducted with VaLa. This found that 15 organizations affiliated with the campaign had collectively received €18 million in legacies over the preceding three years, whereas 17 organizations that were not part of the campaign acquired legacies worth €1.5mn during the same period.
Huge rise in interest in Spain
Spain’s joint campaign, Haz Testamento Solidario, started in 2007. As with Norway, a legal requirement to leave something for the family with only a third able to be given to unrelated individuals or charities, means that historically people often haven’t bothered to write a will. In fact, nearly 40% of people used to die without one, says Leyre Ayastuy, who leads the campaign, and is also senior creative consultant at Daryl Upsall Consulting. Numbers have increased in recent years, hastened in part by the realities of the pandemic.
“Since 2007, the average annual growth in will writing has been 1-4% but in 2021, it grew by 15% year on year as people were confronted with their mortality before dropping in 2022 back to pre-COVID rates. As a result, they now better understand that a will is a document that will solve future problems for their family.”
Gathering information from its 22 member organizations, in 2022 Haz Testamento Solidario’s data showed that the number of people interested in legacy giving and reaching out to organizations had increased by 154% versus 2021. Legacy income for these organisations increased by nearly 35% in 2021 compared to 2020, and last year it was up 22% on 2021, reaching €40.9m.
Netherlands – legacies a social duty
In the Netherlands, the public is also coming round to the idea of legacy giving. Since 2017, national legacy campaign Toegift has focused on engaging 50-70 year olds who are known to have some affinity for charities. It’s working – in 2023, its research found that 56% of this target group has seen the campaign, up from 41% in 2022. The public has also become increasingly warm to the idea of legacy giving – in 2017, 57% of those surveyed said that they admired people who included a gift in their will, rising to 90% in 2023. Increasingly too, Toegift says, people are considering leaving a legacy gift because they see it as their social duty.
Record-breaking year in the UK – but short-term problems ahead
Legacy awareness continues to rise in the UK too: earlier this year research from the national legacy awareness campaign Remember A Charity revealed that 20% of UK charity supporters aged 40+ now say they have left a charitable gift in their will compared with 14% in 2013. The research also found that those familiar with Remember A Charity were almost twice as likely to have left a gift in their will, at 32% compared to 17%.
Legacy Foresight (part of the Legacy Futures group) provides an annual market briefing based on its Legacy Monitor annual benchmarking research programme. Its data shows that 2022/23 was a record-breaking year for legacy income in the UK, reaching an estimated £4bn for first time with bequest numbers at almost 140,000.
However, it’s not all plain sailing. While legacy income has reached record levels for two years in a row, the current medium-term forecast is more subdued due to a projected fall in house prices. Problems with probate (the process of getting official permission to carry out the wishes in a will) present another challenge, with many wills stuck in the system due to a backlog beginning in the pandemic and exacerbated by record applications and staffing issues.
Over the next four years, Legacy Foresight expects legacy income to drop 5%, to just under £3.8bn in 2025/26, before returning to accelerated growth and a predicted £6bn+ a year by 2050.
Legacy Futures CEO Ashley Rowthorn comments:
“While the UK market has recently witnessed record levels of giving, the future short-term forecast is more challenging. Falling house prices, continued economic instability and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis mean many people are reluctant to make big decisions, such as will-making, until conditions improve. That said, the Baby Boomer generation, the wealthiest to date, has reported feeling less sensitive towards economic crisis and so charities need to increase, not lessen their efforts in communicating the impact of gifts.”
Austria – legacy fundraising takes off
In Austria, legacy income growth is particularly strong. The Vergissmeinnicht (Forget-Me-Not) initiative reports that legacy income has risen sharply in a decade, from €55 million in 2007 when the campaign began, to €120 million by 2022. For every 9 euros donated in Austria, 1 euro now comes from a gift in a will.
Markus Aichelburg-Rumerskirch, Vergissmeinnicht’s project manager, comments:
“Legacy fundraising in Austria is really taking off. More and more Austrians now realise that they can do a lot of good by leaving a donation in their will. The progress in legacy fundraising in Austria is a bright spot and a sign of growing generosity.”
Awareness has also increased significantly in recent years. Vergissmeinnicht reports that in 2018, around 76% of people aged over 40 knew they could leave money to a charity in their will, rising to 91% in 2021.
Strong growth in France & Ireland
Growth is healthy elsewhere too. In France, the most recent figures currently available from the Panorama National des Générosités show that in 2019, French nonprofits received an overall €1.353bn in legacy income: 27% of their total income from individual giving. Overall, the data shows that legacy income grew by 41% between 2013 and 2021, with an average annual growth of 5%.
Over in Ireland, 2023’s Legacy Insights Ireland report from consultancy Campaign Solutions identifies a total of €87.2mn verified legacy income for charities and religious organisations in 2021, up from €34.6mn in the report’s first year (2015). However, it also estimates the actual total for 2021 to be higher than €100mn, due to legacy income data being unavailable for many of the country’s nonprofits, in particular religious bodies, universities and independent schools.
A positive picture
Overall, the picture looks positive for legacy giving. While there are some challenges still to overcome and countries remain at different stages of development, in many awareness is growing, and with it, legacy income, helped in a large part by the work of national campaigns. It’s this raising of awareness and collaboration that’s the key to ensuring as many nonprofits across Europe as possible – of all shapes and sizes – get to benefit from this valuable source of income, not only now but in years to come.
For a more in-depth look at three of these countries – Austria, Finland and Spain – click here.