Think of all the incredible work that charities do around the world. The research and fundraising they do; the care, help and support they give; the way they raise awareness about little-known issues, and the life-saving differences they can make to people and communities.

Then think what would happen if that all just... stopped.

And it really could, says Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, an organisation that collaborates with UK charities to raise awareness about gift-giving in Wills. Because the fact is that all charities rely on donations in order to survive, much less thrive — and in these financially hard-pressed times, many of them are struggling.

 

Charities are struggling and actually rely on gifts in Wills

 

That's why they rely on financial gifts left to them in Wills, which is the largest source of all the voluntary income they receive. Statistics show that health charities benefit from the largest proportion of gifts in Wills (38% of total legacy income), followed by animal charities (15%), and conservation and disability charities (each receiving 8%).

Of course, we could put our blinkers on and pretend that charities are only used by other people, says Cope. But all of us, at one time of another, have relied on charitable services, whether we've realised it or not.

 

Anyone could need help from a charity at some point

 

“Charities are the glue that holds the fabric of society together,” he notes. “Many of us will use them on a day-to-day basis. It might be the local hospital charitable trust, or organisations that carry out research into health issues that touch us all in one way or another, such as cancer or dementia.

When we think about charities, we tend to think of big, national organisations. But what about small local charities? Charities can be museums, art galleries, and youth services, too. All of these organisations are increasingly dependent on gifts that people leave in their Wills.”

 

A search engine, made by charities, for life’s big questions

 

To get this message across, 200 charities recently launched the world's first charity-powered internet search engine, called, Human. This invites the public to type in a variety of questions and get video responses from charities, their supporters and beneficiaries.

“People want answers to some of life's big questions,” says Cope. “Alongside more philosophical ones such as, 'are we alone in the universe?' and, 'what is love?', the search engine attempts to answer practical questions such as, 'how can we provide clean drinking water for everyone?', 'how do we ensure that no-one has to sleep rough?' and 'how can we stop children dying from preventable causes?'”

Ultimately, the idea is to underline what charities do, and what people can do to support them. “It's a way to reach out to the public to get them to explore some of the biggest challenges facing humanity — and understand how charities are working to solve them,” says Cope.

The good news is that more of us do realise the importance of charitable organisations because the numbers of gifts left in Wills is going up. In fact, charitable gifts in Wills  raised £2.96 billion for good causes in 2017 and is predicted to reach £3.4 billion by 2022.

 

We need to normalise gift-giving

 

 “Just under 16% of all Wills have charitable gifts in them, which is fantastic,” says Cope. “But there is still a way to go. What we have to do now is 'normalise' gift-giving in Wills so that it becomes second nature to everyone.”

Research shows that increasing numbers of people are aware of legacy giving; but, plainly, many still have reservations about it. “If someone doesn't have much to leave, they might assume that their gift wouldn't make any difference,” says Cope. “But that's exactly the point, because if everyone left a charity something, no matter how small, it would make a massive difference. It's great to think about what really matters to us in life, and then pass on a gift to ensure those services can endure for the next generation. What's more, it's something everyone can do.”