We had an absolutely packed house for Good Bites on Thursday to talk about the legacy conversation that the charity sector is having. Or, in many cases, not having.
We need to start by acknowledging that there is a problem. Which is that, for all the wonderful legacies left to charities, and the decades of hard work that have gone into prompting them, still only 6% of people choose to leave a legacy to charity. We just haven’t made this behaviour normal.
The danger is that with changing behaviours, attitudes and demographics, that trend could go down rather than up.
So what do we need to do to change that? We need to start a new conversation with the UK public. But with who, and about what?
We started by addressing the ‘who’. Annie Moreton, strategy director at GOOD, pointed out that, as a sector focused on efficiency, we’ve tended to focus on people of will-writing and leaving age. A set of people who are always depicted as lone decision-makers, sitting at their kitchen table or in their solicitor’s office.
But actually, this is a set of people with rich, intergenerational relationships — like everyone. They’re not making these decisions alone. And in a post-GDPR world, they’re not just seeing messages aimed at them.
It’s not binary, in other words. A true conversation involves a wider group of people, and it’s time to start considering the influence of other generations on the will-making, legacy-leaving process.
But that’s not all.
What we talk about needs to change too.
Again, with a relentless focus on efficiency, we’ve often focused on what people can do for us. And started a conversation about the sharp end of the process — making a will and leaving a gift.
As Elaine Cowen, GOOD’s fundraising planner pointed out, there’s a growing conversation elsewhere in culture about the end of life. How we approach it, consider it, talk about it, plan it. In books, films and blogs, as a society, we’re increasingly ready to face up to this once-taboo subject. The journalist Rachael Bland’s recent death was just one, significant moment in that growing movement.
At GOOD we believe that charities have a legitimate reason to be part of this conversation. We can help people live their legacies, not just leave them. Doing so will give us an important role in helping this emerging trend to become a social norm. Just as divorce, cancer and (almost) mental illness are no longer taboo.
End of life conversations can and should be the next big thing to change. And if we’re not driving it you can guarantee we’ll be trying to figure out how to get in on the action later.
Get in touch if you want to start a conversation of your own.