How to make more out of death

How to make more out of death

Guest Bloggers | 20 November 2019

Phil Zeidler, Co-Founder of DeadHappy, looks at why charities need to have more blunt conversations with their donors about legacies and death, and explains why charities should be talking about legacies with much younger donors.

Most charities make money from death. With charitable legacies now exceeding £3bn per year according to Smee & Ford's June 2019 Legacy Trends data, it’s an unavoidable fact. Despite this, many of the charities we’ve spoken to are uncomfortable with such blunt language. exists to change attitudes to death, and we think doing so will have a profoundly positive impact on society, and significantly for you, on people’s attitudes to legacy. To explain why, here’s 5 things we believe:

1. Death is far too taboo in our society

People are uncomfortable with death. We use niceties and euphemisms like ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to a better place’. We don’t know what to say to the recently bereaved. When our family start talking about what they want to happen when they die, we tell them we don’t want to hear it because they’re not going to die. This is unhealthy. If people don’t think or talk about death they certainly don’t plan for it. When someone does die unexpectedly, their loved ones are left with a whole heap of nasty admin and gut-wrenching decisions, on top of trying to grieve.

2. A different approach can make death more approachable

We think the best way to effect change is to tackle the topic head-on. We’re very straightforward about death. We use the ‘D-word’. Our logo is a laughing skull. In a very British way, we use a bit of humour on top. This is certainly not for everyone, but you can’t change opinions by doing something everyone likes. So far our customers seem to like it.

3. It’s the emotional stuff that really matters

When it comes to planning for death, of course people want to make sure their families are financially looked after. Our platform allows people to create their very own ‘deathwishes’ and things like paying off the mortgage and paying the bills are the most commonly created wishes. However, it’s the smaller, more emotionally driven wishes that really engage. Things like sending their family on the dream holiday they could never afford, or leaving a donation to a cause they really care about are the things that people spend most time on and share the most with their friends and family

“I would like to help the homeless again, so please spend ¬£1000 on sleeping bags, food, toiletries etc. Then deliver it to a homeless charity or deliver yourself.”

"Go to Japan. Do everything. Stay in a ryokan, go to the ghibli museum, go on the Indiana Jones Ride at Tokyo Disney sea. Pray at a temple for me”

4. New approaches bring new opportunities

A different way of approaching death, and products that help people to think differently about it brings new opportunities for legacies. Legacy marketing has always been focussed around the creation of a will, but what about other death products? No-one has ever thought to include charities as one of the beneficiaries of an insurance policy before, but we’ve found that people are very open to the idea when you prompt them to think about it. We think this approach opens up a whole new fundraising channel to a very different demographic… every single one of our life insurance customers has at least £5k of cover allocated to a charity

5. Getting in early will boost charitable legacies in the long term

Whereas the typical age of someone writing a charitable legacy into their will is 77, the average age of our life insurance customer is 33. On top of the legacies received directly from insurance claims, getting people in their 30s or 40s to think about charitable legacies early can only have a positive impact on their propensity to leave a legacy later on in life. The more death becomes a socially acceptable topic of conversation, and the more we can prompt people to think about what they want to happen when they die, the brighter the long-term future for legacies.

For more information visit

Phil Zeidler is Co-Founder of DeadHappy




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