REPORT | Legacy Markets and Lunar Expeditions

publication date: Feb 21, 2024
author/source: Fraser Green

My fellow Good Workers and I have just released this year’s State of the Legacy Nation Research Report – and the results are mind-blowing! Here are a few highlights of our study.

  • Slightly over half (52%) of English-speaking Canadian adults have wills.
  • But more importantly, will-making is definitely a function of age. 87% of the oldest age cohort we surveyed (The Civic Generation, aged 79+) have made wills compared with only 17% of Millennials (aged 26 – 41) who have made wills.
  • When it comes to where will-makers bequeath their money, it’s a no brainer that as a rule, family comes first. 63% have left money to their children. 57% have left money to their spouse. And, 23% have left money to other family members, like siblings and grandchildren.
  • When it comes to giving money outside the family, our poll shows that 10% have left a gift to charity in their wills – and 4% have left money to their place of worship (church, mosque, temple, synagogue etc.)

Now, let’s hone in on the 10% of will-makers who have left charitable bequests and determine what the value of those gifts add up to.

  • When we look at Statistics Canada census data, we know that there are about 26.2 million English-speaking Canadians over the age of 18. (This is the population segment that we surveyed.)
  • When we overlay our polling data on population data, we can determine that there are some 2 million English-speaking Canadians who have either already made charitable bequests or are likely to make gifts in wills in the future.
  • Our best information is that the average number of gifts in the wills of charitable bequesters is four.
  • Our best estimate as to the current average gift amount when it comes to charitable bequests is $35,000. (This number varies according to sector. Hospitals and universities often do better than $35,000, while social service agencies could do less.)
  • When we do the arithmetic of multiplying 2 million Canadians leaving charitable bequests x four gifts per bequester x $35,000 per individual gift, we arrive at a total Canadian legacy market value of $280 billion!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find a number as big as $280,000,000,000 kind of hard to absorb.

So, let’s look at this market value through a couple of different lenses:

1. According to Statistics Canada, the total amount of charitable giving in Canada today is about $11 billion dollars per year. According to our research, the legacy market represents just over 25 years worth of annual giving!

2. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m a bit of a numbers geek. I’ve done some calculations that I’m going to share with those of you who are visual learners.

Imagine that legacy market of $280 billion as a giant pile of $20 bills.
Now, let’s start lining those $20 bills up end-to-end and stretching them up into the sky.
$280 billion worth of $20 bills lined end-to-end will extend all the way from the earth to the moon—and back—five times! That’s right, five return trips to the moon on a trail of $20 bills.

Where in the world do Canadians come up with all this money to give?

At the risk of oversimplifying, you can start with a simple statistic. One third of Canadian households live in homes they rent. One third live in homes they own, but are still paying a mortgage. The final third live in homes that are paid off – and the average home value in Canada today is $680,000. This third group of (millions of) people who own their homes outright can afford to provide for their families AND to be generous to charities when planning their estates.

When we wrote the book Iceberg Philanthropy back in 2007, we sub-titled it Unlocking Extraordinary Gifts from Ordinary Donors. Based on our latest research, that idea still holds true.

Your everyday $100/year or $15/month donor could very well leave you a bequest worth tens of thousands of dollars.

If I were a fundraising doctor, I’d make a prescription for you: If you have a legacy giving program, keep investing and don’t let it falter. If you’ve been thinking about starting a legacy program, why wait? The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Good luck!

Good Works has been polling Canadians for twenty years now – asking them about their will-making and beneficiary designations. You can download the written report here and the “State of the Legacy Nation” webinar (presented by Charlotte Field and Fraser Green) here.

Fraser Green is a Principal at Good Works, one of Canada’s leading fundraising consulting agencies. At Good Works, Fraser’s focus is on legacy gift marketing strategy, donor research and, well, storytelling! Fraser is the co-author of “Iceberg Philanthropy” and “You Can’t Take It With You – The Art and Science of Legacy Fundraising” and the author of “3D Philanthropy.”

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