Legacy giving - always the bridesmaid

Bouquet of flowers at wedding

Guest Bloggers | 9 August 2017

Chris Millward, CEO of the Institute of Legacy Management, and speaker at the upcoming IoF Legacy fundraising conference, explains why Trustees and senior stakeholders within charities should be more supportive of legacy fundraising.

Legacy gifts underpin UK charity income - last year contributing, according to Smee and Ford, £2.5billion. 

Despite the critical role legacy gifts play in helping charities to provide their vital services, charity legacy professionals still face daily challenges in terms of lack of knowledge, support and resource from within their own organisations. 

This lack of understanding, at worst, could result in Trustees not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities or working within the law. In addition it could contribute to ways of working which ultimately mean charities are not effectively promoting or optimising this vital source of income.   

Many charities have failed to make legacy giving the internal priority that it should be - especially important given that we stand on the cusp of the imminent rise in death rates as a result of the Baby Boomer generation.  Charity legacy teams find themselves frustrated by lack of internal awareness, knowledge and resource.  Many teams are currently critically under resourced - unable to fulfill their basic duty to sensitively and successfully manage legacy gifts, let alone respond to calls for increased personalisation or the forthcoming increase in volumes.  It is the responsibility of us all to ensure that every generous donor’s final wishes achieve their greatest potential.

Guiding principles 

In February, the Institute of Legacy Management launched its Good Practice Guidance. We did this to raise awareness of the importance of legacy giving as well as to inform legacy professionals and others within charities of the role they can play in ensuring good practice is adhered to. 

We believe that legacy teams need to be empowered, equipped and supported to ensure legacy gifts are honoured and their impact optimised, whilst at the same time acting professionally, sensitively and appropriately at all times.

The guidance is based around five key principles:

  • Sensitivity
  • Transparency
  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Informed 


These principles reflect the key challenges faced by legacy professionals and act as an ethical framework for their work. We also produced detailed Guidance Notes that set out ways in which these principles can be applied to different areas of the legacy journey. You can see the guidance on the ILM website. 

We believe Trustees and other senior stakeholders need to be more aware of their responsibilities in relation to this critical income stream, and be more proactive in their support to legacy teams. 

These teams need to be professionally staffed with access to ongoing professional development to ensure they remain appropriately equipped to do their job. Charities also need to give consideration, at this significant moment in legacy giving, to the levels of resource in their teams to ensure they are positioned not just to do their jobs but to do them well. 

What can you do as a Trustee or senior stakeholder to help? 

  • Be more aware of your responsibilities - familiarise yourself with Charity Commission guidance
  • Improve your knowledge and understanding of legacy giving
  • Be more proactive in your management of this critical income stream
  • Help to nurture an internal culture that recognises and supports legacy giving
  • Ensure clear delegated authority / gift acceptance and investment policies are in place to support legacy fundraisers
  • Empower, appropriately equip and support legacy teams to enable them to optimise relationships, income and impact 


 Chris Millward, CEO, Institute of Legacy Management


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