Despite a COVID-19 dip the long-term outlook for gifts in wills remains optimistic. With Include a Charity Week underway, here’s 6 tips to boost your bequest income.

Include a Charity Week launches

Legacy Foresight reviewed trends data from a consortium of 45 Australian charities, which in 2019 accounted for $226 million of income from gifts in wills.

Charity income from gifts in wills could stall in 2020 and 2021, because of the coronavirus crisis, says Include a Charity, a group of 80+ charities that encourages Australians to consider charitable bequests.

The charity group, working with consultancy Legacy Foresight, has revised its 20-year forecast of the Australian gifts in wills market to consider the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

But longer term, the situation is better. The Outlook for Australian Gifts in Wills report found the number of charitable gifts in wills is expected to be approximately 1.7 times higher in 2040 compared to 2019, thanks to increasing numbers of affluent and generous baby boomers passing away, as well as a growing proportion of deaths attributable to child-free women, a demographic that is more likely to bequeath gifts to charities.

The report found that, with gifts in wills driven by economic factors, including house prices, share prices and GDP growth rates, the value of charitable bequests is likely to be lower than anticipated in the short term due to coronavirus. The average value of bequests is predicted to fall by 0.6% in 2020 and a further 1.6% in 2021. However, the total income received by charities is likely to hold up over that period, due to growth in the number of bequests received.

Overall, the report found real income from gifts in wills will grow at a trend rate of 3.7% per annum over the forecast period, reaching 2.2 times higher in 2040, compared to 2019.

Legacy Foresight reviewed trends data from a consortium of 45 Australian charities, which in 2019 accounted for $226 million of income from gifts in wills. They also analysed other national demographic and economic data to arrive at their conclusions.

“The analysis also showed that the underlying tendency for Australians to leave a gift in their will on death had not grown significantly in the past nine years, so more concerted efforts are needed to boost these numbers in future,” said Meg Abdy, Development Director, Legacy Foresight. “That’s why Include A Charity is such an important social movement, raising awareness and inspiring giving across the country.”

Currently, 11% of living donors over the age of 55 with a will have included a charitable gift, according to Include a Charity.

“The coronavirus is impacting every charity. Gifts in wills remain a vital source of income for Australian charities and if they invest in marketing now to inspire a higher proportion of Australians to leave a gift, then this growth could be significantly higher,” said Helen Merrick, Include a Charity director.

This year, Include a Charity has partnered with Safewill, who are passionate about increasing the incidence of charitable gifts in wills via their will-writing platform.

Six ways to boost your gifts in wills program

Is your gifts in wills program a bit tired or underperforming? It’s Include a Charity Week, so now is a particularly good time to be thinking about how you can enhance your planned giving program.

Here are six easy tips from Include a Charity director Helen Merrick on how to go about it.

1. Tell everyone about your program: it’s not just your donors who are prospects. We will only ever know approximately 30% of those who leave us a gift, so we need to make sure we spread the net wide and talk to every one of our connections. Think board members, volunteers, beneficiaries – anyone with whom you have contact!

2. Share your stories: research shows that living donor stories are the key to attracting more people to leave a gift in their will. Hearing why someone like you has left a gift, and their motivation for doing so, is a powerful nudge in the right direction. It also helps you explain the incredible impact a gift (big or small) can have.

3. Leaving a legacy is about them, not you: ‘symbolic immortality’ is a psychological term that best describes why many are motivated to leave a gift in their will. What’s the mark you want to make on the world or the legacy you want to leave? It comes back to the donor, and it’s all about them! Make sure your comms drives this theory and lets your audience ponder on why not how.

4. Offer different ways to act on a gift: whether it’s a brochure they can download, a referral to a helpful local solicitor or a link to an online will-writing platform, make sure your supporters have a variety of ways they can act – either now or later.

5. You must get digital: if you don’t have a website page on how to leave a gift in your will to your organisation, you could be missing out. This is the primary place people will access information about your program – and don’t discount the power of social media. Digital is not just for those audiences under 60 – there’s a whole world of ‘silver surfing’ happening for you to access and be part of.

6. Be part of something bigger: working together as part of the Include a Charity social change movement helps the message about leaving a gift in your Will become the norm. It also brings you the latest research and assets to deliver your program and provides training and access to different insights and networks.


The Include a Charity report was released to coincide with Include Charity Week, which runs from 7-13 September. Include a Charity Week runs the second week of September and is a social change movement of peak fundraising body, Fundraising Institute Australia. It was created in 2011 to spark a national conversation with Australians about leaving gifts in wills to favourite causes and the form their legacies could take.

For more information about Include a Charity, visit



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