Technology is bringing greater transparency and wider participation to an important but underutilised revenue stream

Gifts in wills are critical to the long-term success of many charities. According to the Fundraising Institute of Australia, 25% of all charitable income comes from death bequests. It’s a fundraising channel which is already worth an estimated $300 million a year — but the full potential of bequests is far from realised. 

Currently, more than half of Australians are without a will. In an age where almost everything can be done online, people don’t want to visit a stuffy solicitor’s office to be asked awkward questions and then pay through the nose for the privilege. This is where technology is disrupting the status quo. Namely, in the form of online wills.

The rise of online wills

By removing the barriers that prevent many people from writing wills — namely, the expense and the inconvenience — online wills are empowering more Australians to put their estates in order.

In the 12 months leading up to April 2022, there were 10,121 wills completed via Gathered Here’s free online will-writing platform. With no fee to worry about, and no need to visit a solicitor, the traditional barriers are no longer a problem.

Thanks to technology, more  Australians can access estate planning and they’re jumping at the opportunity. Year-on-year, Gathered Here has seen a 158% increase in the number of online wills being written.

But improving access to estate planning is just one benefit of death tech. Digitising the will-writing process also allows for changes that can significantly increase the likelihood of someone leaving a charitable gift in their will. 

Growing gifts in wills

When anyone writes a will via Gathered Here, they’re asked if they would like to leave a charitable gift. This simple question is often omitted from the traditional will-writing process as it can be tricky and time-consuming for legal professionals to organise. However, including the question has a profound impact on donor behaviour.

Of all the wills written via Gathered Here, 16% include a charitable gift. That’s more than double the national average of 6.5%. 

The result? In just one year, will-writers using the Gathered Here platform left an estimated $91.41 million in bequests to over 250 different charities. 

Importantly, there was one particularly generous cohort of will-writers — those who were directed to Gathered Here via a charity campaign. 

Charity campaigns

Of the will-writers who arrived at Gathered Here following communication from a charity, 81% left charitable gifts. Incredibly, these gifts were worth twice as much as gifts not prompted by charities. This is great news for nonprofits, and it proves that existing supporters are overwhelmingly receptive to the suggestion of leaving a charitable gift in their will. It might be an awkward question, but Australians don’t seem to mind. Even better, it indicates there’s real value in casting a wider net when identifying and encouraging potential gifts-in-wills donors. 

Traditionally, gifts-in-wills campaigns have been geared towards older, wealthier Australians but the rate of giving among online will-writers shows there is significant value in connecting with a broader demographic — particularly when they’re given the tools required to easily write a will. Engaging younger supporters and donors with more modest wealth profiles opens a major opportunity for charities to develop a long-term, sustainable funding stream.

Gaining clarity

Interestingly, technology is also helping charities garner more meaningful insights about donors and their behaviour. This is revolutionary for the gifts-in-wills space, which has long been hampered by uncertainty. 

Fundraisers often have to rely on guesswork whereas data collected about online will-writers can be directly shared with charities (with donor consent). On Gathered Here’s charity platform, fundraisers can create separate gifts-in-wills campaigns, track their success, analyse donor demographics, and see individual gifts — as long as the donor agrees to share that information.

The evolution of death tech, and specifically online wills, means charities can create informed and effective strategies based on relevant and up-to-date information. Not only that, but it’s bringing equity to the estate planning process, introducing more Australians to the concept of gift-in-wills, and increasing the instances of these gifts. Long live death tech! 

 

Gathered Here is Australia’s largest end-of-life services website and most trusted provider of free online wills. So far, Gathered Here working with over 100 of Australia’s leading Charities and NFPs has helped Australians pledge over $150 million to hundreds of worthy causes while also helping fundraising professionals track and analyse those gifts to create future-proof strategies.

To find out more about online wills, visit gatheredhere.com.au

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