Welcome to our September 2020 Monthly Briefing

This month:

  • Co-op data shows gifts in Wills up 56% in last 12 month
  • Remote witnessing of wills – new legislation
  • Covid impact could see text donations fall next year
  • Tributes paid as CAN founder dies


Co-op data shows gifts in Wills up 56% in last 12 month

Data from Co-op Legal Services reveals that charitable donations in Wills have increased by 56% in the last 12 months.

Legacy gifts from Co-op clients increased by 81% from mid-March to June (the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic) compared with the same period last year.

For the third year running, cancer charities were the most common cause for UK adults to leave gifts to and these saw an increase of 77%.

Local causes have overtaken animal charities to become the second most common charity UK adults are choosing to leave gifts to, having also seen a significant increase in donations in the last 12 months.

In 2019 the top ten causes for Co-op clients were: cancer charities at number one, followed by animal charities, international charities, children’s charities, health, wellbeing & local causes, help for the elderly, rescue organisations, religious causes, poverty and homelessness, and hospices.

This year’s data shows cancer charities are still at the top, followed by local causes, then animal charities in third place, followed by international causes, children’s charities, hospices, rescue organisations, religious causes, poverty and homelessness, and at number ten, help for the elderly.

James Antoniou, Head of Wills for Co-op Legal Services said:

“It’s moving to see that at such a difficult time for so many, people are still including gifts to charities within their wills. Interestingly, in addition to monetary gifts, we’ve seen some unique personal effects such as a collection of guitars and a classic red mini being left to charity through Wills.

This increase in generosity will make a huge difference to charitable causes and just shows why it’s so important for people wanting to make this difference that they do put a will in place.”

Remote witnessing of wills – new legislation

Currently, the law states that a will must be made “in the presence of” at least two witnesses. However, while isolating or shielding some people have understandably turned to video link software as a solution.

In July, government ministers acted to reassure the public that wills witnessed in such a way will be deemed legal, with legislation to be passed this month. The legalisation of video-witnessing is the biggest change that has been made to will writing in nearly 200 years.

Strict procedural rules will apply to witnessing via video conference; two witnesses will still be required and the quality of the sound and video must be sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time. Wills can currently be legally witnessed in person from a safe distance as long as everyone has a clear line of sight. This could be done through a window, in a garden or in a separate room through an open door. Detailed guidance on the rules that will apply can be found on the government website.

The measure will be backdated to 31 January; the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK. The change will remain in place until 31 January 2022, or as long as deemed necessary, after which Wills must return to being made with witnesses who are physically present.

The Government has stressed that wills should still be witnessed in person wherever possible, with video-witnessing only used as a last resort.

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said:

“The government’s decision to allow wills to be witnessed remotely for the next two years will help alleviate the difficulties that some members of the public have encountered when making wills during the pandemic.

“The Law Society is glad to see that guidance has been issued to minimise fraud and abuse. We look forward to working with government to ensure the reform is robust and successful.”

Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, said that the move could be major step forward for legacy giving, provided safeguards are met. He commented:

“But, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. The Will-making environment needs to have rigour, with sufficient safeguards in place to protect the public, particularly those who may be vulnerable. Video is a great option when witnesses can’t be physically present, but it does needs to be treated cautiously, with care and consideration. And the role of legal and financial advisers will be critical in helping the public finalise their wishes legally, minimising the likelihood of dispute.”


Covid impact could see text donations fall next year, PSA warns

The PSA (Phone-paid Services Authority) has said that it expects charity donations by premium SMS to be slightly higher in 2020-2021, partly due to Covid-19, which has seen new fundraising events and campaigns introduced (e.g. BBC’s Big Night In) and partly again because of the seasonality of major telethon events.

This is according to its Annual Market Review which draws on a survey of 9601 consumers conducted between March and April 2020, as well as in-depth interviews with executives in senior positions across 17 organisations in the phone-paid services industry.

It does warn, however, that the spike in donations seen in response to Covid-19 during Q1 2020-2021 may have a displacement effect with households cutting back on donations in 2021-2022, while the impact of the economic crisis on households’ incomes may also mean that consumers are less willing or less able to donate later in the year, when larger telethons are held.

The review shows that in 2019-2020 consumers in the UK spent £646.1 million on phone-paid services. £40.1 million of this was raised by charities via premium SMS; a drop of 19.2% on the previous year.

This drop was largely due to the biannual nature of telethon fundraising events such as Red Nose Day. However, charity donations increased compared with 2017/2018, up by £2.6 million (7%) due to the introduction of a higher spend cap per donation in late 2018, from £20 to £30.

According to PSA, raising the donation cap addressed the risk of individuals being constrained to making smaller donations via premium SMS than through credit cards.

The survey suggests that 52% of the UK population aged 16 or above used at least one phone-paid service in 2019/2020, with the key drivers, including convenience, affordability and impulse purchasing, remaining largely unchanged compared with last year.

Tributes paid as CAN founder dies

Third Sector reported yesterday (15th September) that the founder of the charitable office provider CAN and the charity Education Saves Lives has died at the age of 96.

Helen Taylor Thompson was instrumental in a number of charitable and social causes throughout her life, starting with her election to the board of London’s Mildmay Hospital in 1952.

She later fought against its closure and became its chair when it reopened in 1988 as the first hospice in Europe for people living with Aids.

In 1995, Thompson’s organisation of The Great Banquet, when 33,000 people in London sat down together for a meal with others from all backgrounds, led to the launch of CAN, which today provides services including office space for charities and social finance.

She continued her work with the foundation of Education Saves Lives in 2000, which was a response to the growing numbers of people being diagnosed with HIV in Africa and Asia, providing DVDs with important information and education about serious illnesses.

She was awarded an MBE in 1990, and OBE in 2005, in recognition of her far-reaching charity work.

The BBC also included her in its “100 Women” list of inspiring and influential women from around the world in 2018.

Clive Dove-Dixon, chief executive of CAN, said: “Helen’s legacy will live on, not just through her founding of CAN and Education Saves Lives, but also through the many other charitable endeavours she was responsible for over her long career.

We are incredibly grateful not only to Helen, but also for her.
She will be very sadly missed by all who knew her, but we take some comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on for years to come.”

Thompson requested that any donations in her memory be sent to Education Saves Lives, which was her passion in her later years.

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Monthly BriefingSeptember 2020 – Monthly Briefing