Legacy Giving

01 October 2022

Key points for your church to consider around legacy giving.

Illustration of man on books in giant hand reaching for stars

Legacies are gifts that people leave in their wills that reflect personal priorities. Over £2.7 billion is given to charitable causes in the UK every year through legacies¹, which can be an expression of someone’s faith; a sharing of their values; an act of love or a statement about how they want to be remembered.

Through generous legacies, thousands of people a year provide vital income that many organisations, including churches, rely upon to support their mission.

Benefits of legacy giving for your church

Legacy giving is growing in the UK, with more people considering leaving a gift in their will. And it is not just about a funding opportunity. It is a chance for churches to help their communities to reflect on the meaning of their lives and the impact they want to make for good.

Churches are well placed to support people with practical issues about the end of life, whether they leave charitable legacies or not. It is good to talk to people about making sure they have a will, have planned what they would like for their funeral and talked to their friends and relatives about their wishes.

Building blocks to great legacy giving

To grow legacy giving in your church successfully, these key points should be considered:

  • Why would people give a legacy to your church?
    Especially at the end of their lives, people give to the things they most believe in. A key part of inspiring people to leave a legacy is being a church with a clear vision that is making a difference in your community.
  • Learn from other charities:
    Many charities are already promoting legacy giving. Why not try:
    - Getting hold of legacy leaflets and information from some other charities
    - Sharing them with a small group of people - discuss what resonate with them and how you could inspire people to leave a legacy to your church.
  • Communicate about legacies
    Legacy giving is an expression of someone’s beliefs and values. Consider creating a legacy leaflet that encourages people to think about leaving a gift in their will. It is important to communicate that you will use the gift they leave you wisely and in a way that makes a difference. When you write a legacy leaflet, or any other type of communication about legacies, ask yourself:
    - Does this allow congregation members to express their personal values?
    - Has the impact a legacy gift would have on our church been expressed clearly?
    - Does this help to make talking about death, wills and legacies a good and normal part of life in our church?
  • Make the process easy
    The most successful legacy campaigns are those that make it really easy and straight forward for people to leave a gift to their cause, charity or church. Ensure that:
    - Any leaflets or web pages about legacies include accurate information to make sure a legacy goes to your church, rather than another church with a similar name. It is particularly helpful to provide the full and exact name of the church and your charity number, if you have one.
    - You have a list of local solicitors that can help people who want to make a will.
  • Managing Legacies
    When you are notified by someone’s solicitor that you have been left a legacy there are various legal and accounting requirements to follow. Sadly, there can be legal disputes about legacies. If so, or if there are any difficulties, make sure you seek advice from trusted solicitors or accountants.

The key to success

It's important that you can convey a compelling reason why people should leave a legacy to your church.

First, be sure to take a little time to ‘step back’ and think strategically before thinking about the detail to support your legacy giving. We have created a template to help you think about the big picture of what you want your church (and any legacies left to your church) to achieve, so that you can convey a compelling reason why they should remember your church in their will.

1 Smee & Ford yearly Legacy Trends report 2022 Smee & Ford White papers (smeeandford.com)

Church fundraising PC screen