The inaugural 2019 Institute of Fundraising in the Health Sector Conference was an unqualified
success. It focused on hospital charities, air ambulance charities and hospices, but was relevant to
the vast majority health-focused charities.
The speakers brought an evidence-based approach to patient philanthropy, patient gratitude and
legacy fundraising. These areas are of major important to health charities (a US study showed that
88% of health charity donors were family members of patients), so credit is due to the Institute of
Fundraising for shaping the day around these topics.
As always I scribbled various notes and few actions throughout the day. My main takeaway from
the conference, however is that now is the time to get legacy fundraising right.
Whilst legacies have always played an important part in health charity fundraising, legacy don
Richard Radcliffe demonstrated how the baby boomer generation could have a transformational
impact on charity giving over the coming years, while other areas of income stagnate or decline.
In the first session of the day, Stephen Roberts – Chief Executive of North Devon Hospice, talked
about how income at his hospice had slowed from 3-4% growth per year to just 1%, highlighting a
need to innovate and work harder on growth areas. Over the last 10 years individual giving has
increased marginally from £9.3 to £9.6 billion, whilst legacy giving has increased from £1.7 to £2.9
billion. 1 in 2 adults over 55 now include a charity in their Will.
Legacy fundraising often remains an afterthought, however, despite the potential for
transformational gifts. Lesley Howells – Maggie’s Lead Psychologist explained that it is often our
own fears and timidity that hold us back talking to both families and supporters about legacies.
This often leads to staff leaving this subject matter to others or no one at all.
Betsy Chapin Taylor – President, Accordant Philanthropy gave examples of how a more pro-active
approach across all staff had led to significant income growth in American health organisations.
This included training clinical staff to respond to patient gratitude using more emotive language,
rather than “that’s fine, it’s my job.”
Richard Radcliffe also highlighted that many people making their Will do not necessarily think of
health organisations, including hospices and air ambulances, as charities in the traditional sense.
This means that we are likely to be missing out on a significant number of legacies. Health
charities should therefore ensure to use the word ‘charity’ in written and verbal communications to
remain front of mind when supporters and family members are making that all important decision in
the solicitor’s office.
What is clear is that we can all do legacy fundraising better; this involves making legacies
everyone’s job, including clinical and care staff. Good training across all teams is imperative for this
to happen in reality – it cannot be left just to the fundraising team to raise funds from family
members of patients. Innovation is wonderful, but in health charities we will be doing a disservice
to our beneficiaries if we don’t allow the baby boomers to make the big boom.