Remember a charity

Leaving a legacy to your favourite cause can make a huge difference after you are gone, says Jo Knowsley
We all know the importance of making a will - to ensure that whatever we leave behind benefits and protects our precious loved ones. Fewer of us, however, consider the huge difference we can make by leaving a gift to charity in our wills.
This year, Remember a Charity Week (RACW, runs from 11-17 September, and is a golden opportunity for all of us to take a moment to think how we can best benefit others after we’ve cared for our family and friends.
Currently only 6% of people leave a gift to charity in their will, but if this figure increased to 10% it could generate another £1 billion for good causes each year. RACW, which was launched in 2000 and is itself a charity, is an annual campaign that represents 200 charitable organisations. It aims to help fulfill the potential that could be unlocked by increasing the number of legacies they receive, ensuring their essential work lives on for future generations.
This year’s campaign has celebrity backing from former Blue Peter presenter and actress Janet Ellis, who appears in ‘how to’ videos on the RACW website to help people understand why they should consider leaving a gift to charity in their will - and how simple it is to do. It also works with a network of legal partners, solicitors and will-writers to make things even easier.
‘Remember a Charity Week is a great opportunity to recognise the incredible work carried out by our charities across the country, and to encourage people to support them by leaving a gift in their will,’ says Ellis. ‘I have enjoyed making these videos and hope they help reassure, educate and inspire the public to leave a gift
to a charity that is meaningful to them in their will.’
This year RACW has coined a new term - ‘willanthropy’ - to celebrate the growing numbers of people who are leaving gifts to charity in their wills. The number of adults over 40 who have left a gift to charity has risen by 43% in the past decade.
Leaving a gift is straightforward. First find the charity’s proper name, address and registered number, which will be on their website. Then contact your solicitor - or engage one if you haven’t got one already - and tell them you want to update or write a will. Finally, provide your solicitor with the details of your chosen charity or charities.
Including gifts in your will can also benefit your family. All gifts to charity are exempt from inheritance tax - and if you give 10% or more of your estate, your inheritance tax drops from 40% to 36% for your entire estate.
But with so many hugely important causes to give to, how do you decide which ones you would like to support?

Most people choose a charity with a cause close to their heart because they want to protect something they feel passionate about for future generations.
For example, by leaving a gift in your will to Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity ( will help fund pioneering research, advanced medical equipment, child and family support services and the rebuilding and refurbishment of wards and facilities. Your support will help seriously ill children now and in the future.
The charity sector relies heavily on donations in the form of legacies to further research, community programmes and campaigns. Indeed 10% of its funding comes from this source. Without them, many charities would not be able to continue with their work or research. Whether you want to help children, animals, the military or your local church, you have the power to change lives.
It’s also a chance for you to choose how you would like to be remembered and what legacy you would like to leave behind.
The Royal Voluntary Service (, for example, has 20,000 volunteers who bring company, practical support and happiness to thousands of older people. Perhaps you’d like to become one of them? Or, by remembering the service in your will, you could help its staff to create communities where everyone has company and everyone has value.
Then there’s the ‘giving circle’ option, where a group of people collaborate either formally or informally to donate their money or time to a cause or area in which they are interested. By doing this you can increase your awareness and engagement with the charity and engage with a community.
You’ll also make yourself feel good. The knowledge that you’re helping others is hugely empowering and can make you feel happier and more fulfilled.
Research has proven a link between making a donation to charity and increased activity in the area of the brain that registers pleasure - proving that it really can be better to give than to receive.
If you choose to leave a legacy there are three main types of gift you can choose. First, residuary - a percentage of the total value of your estate.
Second, pecuniary - a specific amount of money. Third, specific - an item of value, such as jewellery, valuables or property that could be sold by the charity to raise money.
Sometimes, of course, one of the most important companions in our lives isn’t a person at all. Dogs are the most common human companions, with 34% of households having one - a further 28% have a cat.
Dogs Trust (, which used to be called the National Canine Defence League, is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, with 20 rehoming centres nationwide. It promises to never put to sleep a healthy dog and cares for about 15,000 animals a year.
A spokesman for Dogs Trust says: ‘We know that the bond between you and your four-legged best friend is entirely unique. And it’s hard to imagine that anyone could care and love your dog as much as you do. But we promise we will.
‘If you become seriously ill or pass away, we will look after your canine companion, help them back on their paws and find them a home.’ When it comes to our feline companions you might want to think about leaving a legacy for Cats Protection (, which each year helps more than 200,000 cats and kittens across the UK. ‘Remembering Cats Protection in your will will help us improve the lives of generations upon generations of cats and kittens,’ a spokesman says.
‘Every year we help hundreds of thousands of cats and kittens, and we would not be able to do this without the legacies left to us by kind cat-loving supporters. These gifts make a huge difference to us and will continue to help us care for abandoned or mistreated cats and kittens.’
The RSPCA ( also has a Home for Life scheme which, once you’ve registered, promises to care for your pet and rehome them if you die before them. There is no charge for the scheme, but the RSPCA would be delighted if you made a bequest to help other needy animals.
But it is not only pets who claim a large place in our hearts.
There are also large numbers of horse and donkey sanctuaries around the UK which rely solely on public donations to run their operations. We donate more money to donkey sanctuaries than almost any other animal charities in the UK, but organisations working to save retired racehorses, rehabilitate the injured, and protect the welfare of working horses often get overlooked. Then there are charities such as the British Hen Welfare Trust (, which rehomes tens of thousands of ex-battery-farm chickens. None of these charities receive any form of government funding.
A big misconception remains that you have to be hugely wealthy to leave a gift to a charity in your will. But RACW points out that even small gifts help charities enormously. It could be your chance to leave a lasting legacy - and make a difference that will help others for generations.