Demand for charity services is at an all-time high, but gifts in wills are declining. Include a Charity Week is doing something about it.
Gifts in wills account for almost a fifth of Australia’s fundraising income. So, it’s a very real worry that they’re currently on the decline, and it’s especially bad news given demand for nonprofit services is sharply on the rise.
The pandemic is placing monumental strain on vulnerable communities and the organisations that support them. Case in point is the Australian Red Cross who are currently experiencing the highest demand on their services since wartime, or the Royal Flying Doctor Service who are providing urgent response to the growing spread of COVID-19 in remote and isolated communities.
A steady fall in gifts in wills over the past two years has coincided with the virus outbreak. A coincidence? Highly unlikely. Where this leads us is to the urgent question of what can be done about the downturn in one of our sector’s most important sources of income. Fortunately, one clever solution has been launched this week!
Founded by the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), the annual Include a Charity Week is taking place from 6 to 12 September 2021. The initiative aims to spark a national conversation that encourages more Australians to leave charitable gifts in wills by helping them understand the impact their legacies can make. Almost 100 Australian nonprofits are listed on the campaign’s dedicated site, where visitors can search by charity location or their interest in a particular cause.
This year, the campaign will pose a new question to Australians, by asking ‘What Kind of Legend Are You?’. The answer is found through a quick quiz that enables the respondent to use their own life stories, experiences and beliefs to help them decide on which causes to leave a gift to.
Someone who has already confirmed their status as a legend is Dorothy Hoddinott, shown in this UNHCR video that promotes their gift in wills program.
Dorothy feels passionate about leaving a gift in her will following a lifetime dedicated to refugee, asylum seeker and disadvantaged children and families in the education system.
A long teaching career culminated in Dorothy’s role at Holroyd High School where she was principal for 23 years. The school’s student population is mostly comprised of recently arrived immigrant, refugee and asylum seeker children. Here, Dorothy worked with many young people who had arrived in Australia with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had experienced profound trauma, loss, grief and huge gaps in their education. Their parents felt incredible despair about their children’s future.
Together with her colleagues, Dorothy was responsible for ground-breaking work that ensured the children in her school had uniforms, stationary, books, IT equipment, access to an intensive English program and, for many, breakfast several times a week. The outcomes were outstanding; in the three years before Dorothy retired, 60% of the school’s Year 12 students received first-round university offers – double that of the mainstream school population. Many of them have gone on to give back to the community and contribute to human rights advocacy.
Dorothy’s own advocacy has included persuading several universities to offer humanitarian scholarships to refugee and asylum seeker students (who have to pay full fees due to their visa status), and this – along with an early donation many years ago – meant that Dorothy found herself firmly on the radar of the UNHCR. She has now been a loyal donor for many years, believing she has a role in supporting the organisation in the absence of sufficient government funding. She appreciates their global reach, their credibility, their leadership and their willingness to work in some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions on the planet. But what has been most important to Dorothy in her relationship with the UNHCR is trust; she trusts them to make effective use of the gift in her will.
And how does she hope her gift will make impact?
“I hope my buck can work best in trying to alleviate some of the despair, worry and suffering of refugee people. Maybe it will provide protective housing, clean water or vaccinations in refugee camps.” Dorothy says.
Her advice to other Australians interested in leaving a gift in their will is this:
“When you’re thinking about where to put your money, you need to be strategic about where you’re going to make the most impact. Who will use your gift most effectively?”.
Dorothy’s message to the sector is clear. There’s no shortage of charities vying for support in the gift in wills space; their success will depend on how much donors trust them and believe their support will be used for maximum impact after they’ve passed on.
Which is why there’s no better time to get started with your gift in wills program than right now. Gift in wills have the power to secure the future of your work and be truly transformational, but bequest programs need time and nurturing before they bring you a return. Legends like Dorothy need to be nurtured if they are to trust you enough to leave you the ultimate commitment of a gift in their will.
The temptation to push ‘launch a gift in wills program’ to the bottom of the to-do list in favour of fundraising activity that offers immediate return is hard to battle, but it will be to the detriment if your long-term results.
So, what are you waiting for? Check out some inspiring gift in wills case studies and ideas on the Include a Charity Facebook page, and listen to the Include a Charity podcast. It’s time to start thinking about you’ll reach your legends.
You can take the What Kind of Legend Are You Quiz at www.yourlegend.org.au
For more information on Include a Charity Week, visit www.includeacharity.com.au