A little about you – who you are and your ‘day job’?

The ‘day job’ involves leading on NICHS’s Individual Giving Programme which incorporates the following income streams alongside supporter care and database management ; direct marketing recruitment and retention, donations in lieu of flowers, give as you earn, in memoriam, gift aid and legacy of course! The IG Team consists of a very busy team of 5. I also line manage Will to Give’s (WTG) brilliant Development Officer, Deirdre Murphy through my role as Chair.

The status of legacy giving in Northern Ireland – how does it compare to the rest of the UK? 

It’s fair to say a broad range of factors unique to NI present both challenges and opportunities to legacy fundraising. WTG were delighted to recently host a breakfast event as part of Philanthropy Fortnight. It was standing room only when Meg Abdy, Director of Legacy Foresight shared some excellent insights on the potential of legacy fundraising in Northern Ireland. The event was supported by NI Environment Link and funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund Catalyst Umbrella Programme.
Legacy Foresight’s research evidenced that probate rates of NI estates is low at 42% of deaths compared to 52% in England and Wales. Will making is also low at 34% of these having a Will attached compared to 44% in England and Wales and 37% in Scotland. In fact 74% of LF survey respondents didn’t have a Will in place.

WTG has been keenly aware of this challenge since inception and alongside developing and promoting our Free Will Making Guide, a key focus has been to encourage every adult in Northern Ireland to have their Will written, specifically with the support of a Professional Advisor

Research from WTG’s 2016 Notification Reports reveal religious causes continue to dominate at 45%, in stark contrast to England and Wales (15%) and Scotland (19%) where health is the number one cause. Health related causes benefit most significantly in England & Wales (37%), Scotland (36%) and NI (24.7%).

One opportunity that was highlighted through the research findings is that 44% of people in NI are ‘open’ to the idea of leaving a charitable Will gift, when they get round to making their Will. A current strategic aim of the WTG Team is to improve our engagement with Professional Advisors. Our key message is for Professional Advisors to give their clients the full picture, making them aware that giving to charity in their Will in an option.  Upcoming activity includes at a series of Law Society talks in November in Newry, Enniskillen and Belfast and a PR Campaign involving Professional Advisors all across NI as part of WTG Week 2017. We also have regular professional advisor e-newsletters and blogs. 

Similar to GB, gifts in Wills are vitally important to the work of NI charities and the services. Legacy gifts have continued to be the cornerstone of NICHS’s fundraising for example, making up 56.5% of all voluntary income in 2016-17. Without gifts in Wills, NICHS couldn’t help one in three of the people who need them.

WTG – why it’s been set up, who is involved, how it works, what you are aiming to achieve?

WTG is a membership charity open to all charities operating in Northern Ireland. Our aim is to work together to promote gifts in Wills for the benefit of all charities in NI.

The group was formally constituted in January 2011 with 17 founder members.Today we have grown to 56 charities and we are very much focused on supporting as many charities operating in NI as possible. 

We are truly varied in terms of size, cause and scale – there are long established, new, national and local charities. Cancer Research to Shopmobility Belfast, Queens University Foundation to NICHS. What brings us together is that each of our member charities recognises the importance of gifts in Wills.

We undertake a varied and busy programme of activity – including a year round social media and PR campaign, awareness raising events including our annual WTG Awareness Week launched in 2016 and a robust series of training for all charities across NI. The Will Notification System developed in conjunction with Sector Matters continues to run smoothly and is of huge benefit for forward planning for charities. Our Facebook group is a great resource and content is added several times a week and it’s also a great forum for member discussion and sharing ideas and advice.

Member meetings take place once a month at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors, Belfast and we try to ensure these are as interactive and relevant as possible. For example our June meeting will include an info sharing session led by NI Hospice, Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie on Free Will schemes.

Two affordable membership options are available bringing a broad range of benefits. For a full overview go to: www.willtogive.org/become-a-member-charity/ 

As Chair, your proudest achievement to date; your personal aspirations for the campaign?

As Chairperson of WTG my proudest achievement is the group undertaking our first ever legacy fundraising awareness raising week 1-8 November 2016 reaching people all cross Northern Ireland. 

The ‘Do it for Your Cause’ Campaign asked people to consider leaving a gift to charity in their Will through a variety of marketing channels, target two key audiences; the Will-making public and Professional Advisors. The Campaign led with simple, effective messaging developed in house.

Activity included billboards, a bespoke supplement in the Belfast Telegraph, local newspaper coverage and a full-page advert in The Writ. Video on demand on ITV’s digital hub ran throughout November alongside and a bespoke social media campaign #mycause.

For the official launch we commissioned a branded large scale black chalkboard and adwalker to promote the campaign in Belfast city centre gaining press coverage with Belfast Live and the Irish News. In addition, the Institute of Legacy Management delivered a day long training session on legacy administration to charity members. WTG also dispatched a toolkit to promote charitable gifts in Wills to over 200 local charities.

The campaign was run on a limited expenditure budget (<£8k) with the majority of the activity resourced by volunteers, co-ordinated by our Support Officer. Planning is underway for our second such awareness week scheduled for November 2017.

The lasting impact on the two targeted audiences has been amazing. In a recent survey to Professional Advisors, 50% responded they first heard of WTG through the awareness week. 65% of respondents believed WTG Week really helps raise awareness of charitable gifts in Wills. Due to the success of the campaign, many Professional Advisors have offered their support of WTG Week 2017.

In a recent WTG public survey, 21% of respondents first heard of WTG through the 2016 campaign and an incredible 18% claimed they have left a gift in their Will.

Being Chairperson of WTG is a brilliant experience, it is incredibly satisfying working with people right across the sector to influence positive change for everybody living in Northern Ireland. My aspirations for WTG are for it to continue to go from strength to strength; that the group continues to be creative and innovative in our approach. It really is a crucial a platform to help all NI based charities achieve what no single charity can do alone: make legacy giving a social norm here in NI.

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