Legacies are the staple crop of hospice income. A bumper harvest means a bumper year overall. By contrast, a fallow year for bequests and the accounts will probably look bleak.
I have previously argued that hospices are in danger of falling behind other charities who promote legacies more actively. I’m pushing the farming analogy too far here, but sometimes it seems the sector has taken to thinking legacies will ‘self-sow’ and need little nurturing (i.e. marketing), whilst other charities are adding fertiliser to boost their crops.
There is now clear and undisputable evidence of a significant fall in the share of total legacy income received by adult hospices. This is shown by these figures produced by Legacy Futures, with whom I run the Hospice Legacy Circle, which are produced from the audited accounts of the top 1000 legacy receiving charities.
As the graph above shows, adult hospices had 7.4% of the total legacy market in 2015/16. But by 2020/21 this had gone down to 6%. This represents a loss of market share of almost 25% over the five year period. By contrast, children’s hospices saw their share rise from 1.1% to 1.3% in the same period.
All forecasts are that charitable legacies are going to rise in the years ahead as the baby-boomer generation begin to die in greater numbers. Indeed, Smee & Ford recently reported that the total value of charitable estates in 2022 was an all time high of £21.3bn. But there are many more charities trying to get their share of the harvest, with the likes of Air Ambulances and Wildlife Trusts seeing rapid growth in legacy income.
If it’s true that you really do reap what you sow, now is the time to plant your legacy crops and invest in your legacy promotional budget.