Leaving a lasting legacy by including a charity

Karen Armstrong.jpg

Thanks to Karen Armstrong from FIA and More Strategic for contributing a guest blog on including charities in wills. More information about the Include a Charity campaign can be found at the Include a Charity website and this week is Include a Charity Week.

This week, more than 100 charities are coming together, united in promoting a single cause: to encourage more Australians to leave a gift to a charity in their will.

While 87% of Australians support charities in one way or another in their lifetimes, only 7.5% actually follow through and leave a gift in their will to charity (Giving Australia 2005).

There is a perception that gifts in wills are only for the wealthy, but that’s not the case. Including a gift to a charity, no matter how big or small, can help charities continue their work into the future and really make a lasting difference. While we often only hear about gifts in the millions, the mid-point for a specified gift is $7,000, reflecting that Australians every day are demonstrating their generosity. Equal numbers of Australians are leaving smaller and larger gifts than $7,000 (Baker 2014).

Watch our giving to charities video about three Australians leaving gifts and you’ll see a common theme of a personal connection to the cause, or an inherent altruism, seeking a brighter future for the next generation. We also know from James’ research that in practice one’s visual autobiography is activated in the brain when one talks of leaving a gift in a will (2013). Connecting the autobiographical story of our supporters to our charities is absolutely key to any discussions we have with people considering including a charity.

IaC Week Launch at Taronga Zoo Sept 16_0

Include a Charity Week at Taronga Zoo.

Many of Australia’s most respected charities support the week-long campaign including the Australian Red Cross, Cancer Council, Compassion, RSPCA, World Vision, Salvation Army, The Smith Family, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Vision Australia, The Heart Foundation and the list goes on. Together, we work to do what no single charity can do on their own – change the way Australians think about including charities in their will.

Since Include a Charity launched in 2011, we have witnessed an upward trend in the number of people who plan to leave a gift in their will, and then actually follow through. If the percentage of Australians leaving a gift in their will increases from 7.5% to 15% by 2020, this could contribute over $1 billion in donations per year, having an incredible impact on the future of Australia. Imagine what could be achieved.

Let’s encourage more Australians to have more conversations about leaving a gift in their will. Talk to your families, your loved ones, and your favourite charities and remember to include a charity in your will when you next visit your solicitor. Watch these fabulous stories from Nancy, Pam and Annelie.

Include a Charity also works with the legal community to encourage solicitors to ask their clients if they would consider gifts to charities in their wills, hoping to raise the percentage of solicitors who ask their clients about including their favourite charities in their wills from 27% to 40% by 2020. UK research has shown that gifts in wills double when individuals are asked if they would like to include a charity in their will and treble when adding a social norm (Sanders and Smith 2014).

Paul Evans, a partner with Makinson d’Apice Lawyers,  who also provides pro bono services to the Include a Charity social change campaign, says that until recently, many solicitors didn’t ask their clients about leaving charitable bequests.

“Many clients are open to the idea of charitable bequests. They not only assist charities to continue their good work, they also allow clients to make a personal statement of support about causes that are important to them. Solicitors raising the issue of bequests at the time of drafting a will could generate millions of dollars of support for Australian charities,” he said.

The Include a Charity campaign encourages more solicitors to talk to their clients about leaving a gift in their will by simply saying “many Australians are leaving a gift to charity in their will. Is this something you would like to consider?”.

During Include a Charity Week we will be holding events in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, to spark a national conversation about the impact leaving a gift in your will can have.

For more information about Include a Charity and how you can be involved you can contact us at includeacharity@fia.org.au. You can also join the conversation on Twitter at #includeacharity or find us on Facebook.

Karen Armstrong is the Campaign Director of Include a Charity, Fundraising Institute Australia. She is also a Senior Associate at More Strategic.

 Karen is a marketing expert with over 15 years’ experience across Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and NFP marketing. Karen is a consultant with More Strategic and is the Campaign Director for Australia’s bequest campaign – Include a Charity. She was a founding board member of Include a Charity and has held multiple committee roles with the Fundraising Institute Australia.

 Karen has undertaken positions in Australia and the UK, most recently as Director of Marketing and Fundraising at Cancer Council Australia. During her time with Kraft Foods, Brand Manager Vegemite, Karen was recognised internationally for the best integrated sales and marketing campaign and best Asia Pacific brand campaign.

 Karen has extensive experience within federated structures and focusing on consumer insights and organisational vision to unify teams. She is a CFRE and completed a B.Comm and a MA (Sociology), publishing a thesis on refugees and social change.


ACOSS. 2005. Giving Australia: Research on Philanthropy in Australia: Summary of findings. Canberra: Prime Minister’s Business Community Partnership, Department of Family and Community Services, Australian Government. http://www.ourcommunity.com.au/files/GivingAustraliaSummary.pdf

Baker, Christopher. 2014. Encouraging Charitable Bequests by Australians: Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment & Philanthropy, Swinburne University of Technology. http://www.swinburne.edu.au/business/philanthropy/documents/ECBA-Final-Report-Feb2014.pdf

James, Russell. 2013. Inside the mind of the bequest donor: A visual presentation of the neuroscience and psychology of effective planned giving.  South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Sanders, Michael and Sarah Smith. 2014. A warm glow in the after life? The determinants of charitable bequests, Working Paper No.14/326. Bristol: Centre for Market and Public Organisation. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/cmpo/migrated/documents/wp326.pdf

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