In the lead up to Include a Charity Week, a study reveals solicitors are becoming more likely to give bequest information when asked. Liz Henderson outlines some key discoveries.

A survey of solicitors and Australians aged 55-plus has revealed interesting shifts in attitudes about bequests.

The study was completed in September 2013 by Paradigm Shift Research and has been released in the lead-up to Include a Charity Week on September 8 to 14, when a group of around 140 Australian charities will join in a national awareness campaign to encourage more Australians to consider including a charity when they prepare their will or next update it.

Highlights of the research findings include:

1. Attitudes of solicitors towards charities in general have remained similar to those among the general public over time. However solicitors are increasingly likely to engage with charities, with 52% of respondents indicating they participate in charity events compared with 28% in 2006 and 46% reporting that they volunteered their time compared with 29% in 2006. They are also more likely to have considered a charitable bequest with 40% saying they had thought about this in 2013 – a large lift from 17% in 2006.

2. Interestingly, this more proactive personal attitude of solicitors has translated into them raising the issue more with clients. While 45% in 2006 said they never mentioned bequests to clients, only 17% said this in 2013, and 87% indicated they provided information about bequests when asked, compared with 55% in 2006.

3. Solicitors indicated a belief that their colleagues raised the issue of bequests less often than themselves which suggests an opportunity for charities to try to normalise the behaviour.

4. Magazines and newsletters as a mode to communicate to solicitors are seen as less effective with only 21% of solicitors surveyed indicating this was the best way for them to receive information compared to 46% in 2006. Meanwhile education events are rising in popularity, being seen as the best communication method by 42% of respondents compared with 26%.

5. Among the general public, the perception of a charity’s capacity is foremost with 64% of study participants agreeing it is important to give money to charities that help others. Following this, 54% of respondents agreeed or strongly agreed it was important to give to charities that had helped them or someone they know.

6. Under-65s are more comfortable with solicitors discussing gifts to charity by will, with 51% saying this was an appropriate topic for solicitors to raise, compared with 31% of over 65s. This is something charities can communicate to solicitors as they may not be aware of the difference in expectations of younger generations compared to older Australians.

While 70% of Australians support one or more charities during their lifetime, in 2012 only 7.5% of people who passed away included a charitable gift in their will. Include a Charity is seeking to double the number of Australians aged over 60 who include a gift in their will by 2020.

During Include a Charity Week there will be local events in charity offices nationwide and a digital campaign showcasing participating charities and their vital role in Australian communities.

Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

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