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It was a Tuesday morning in October. Unseasonably cold for the time of year, I woke up to thick frost blanketing the garden and ice crystals covering the car windscreen.

Despite being over 6 years ago I remember it really clearly: what I was wearing, the TV show I stayed up late watching the night before, even what I had for dinner.

Because on that day my life changed forever.

I had a sense of what was coming yet at the same time had absolutely no clue about how radically life would change for me. Literally in a second.

It was on that day that my first daughter was born – a beautiful bundle of joy. Completely terrifyingly amazing.

My wife and I had no clue how took look after her. Sure we’d been on the ante-natal courses and read the books, but nothing really prepares you for what you’re supposed to do, for what cry means your baby is tired or hungry or needs changing,  or just wants to cry. But slowly and surely, day after day we became more adjusted and even confident about looking after our newborn. And it’s amazing the instinctive feelings you get toward your baby – the need to protect and look after them.

Something else happened the moment my daughter was born. The statistical likelihood that I would leave any money to charity in my Will plummeted.

55% of all legacies to charities are from childless people Legacy Foresight

Because those same instinctive feelings that help you care for your children when they are born, don’t leave you the moment they start to grow up. In fact they become stronger and stronger. You want them to have the best environment to grow up in, the best education, probably a lift up the housing ladder, maybe pay for a wedding. Then life might bring you some grand children and the expensive circle of life starts over again.

It’s not that people with children aren’t charitably minded, it’s just that the need to provide and protect your children is a very real and present barrier to leaving a legacy to charity. And rightly so, particularly when children are dependent on their parents it could be seen as negligent if you weren’t to adequately provide for them in your Will.  In fact, in many countries it is unlawful to disinherit children either partially or completely.

So how can we overcome this barrier if we are to achieve the goal of making legacy giving the normal thing to do?

Firstly I would suggest that time of life matters a lot. The first Will that is written is usually when children are young and need providing for. Were the parents to die, it is right that the bulk of the estate should be available to care for the children and to support any remaining partners. So we are going to struggle if our strategy is aimed at getting people in their thirties and forties (with families) to leave a legacy to our causes. But by the time the second Will is written – probably coinciding with retirement – the pressure to provide for children lessens as they become independent and successful in their own right.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your supporters about legacies if they have young families. Many charities use a ‘family first’ approach to overcome this barrier, by making it clear that you can still leave a gift to your favourite causes once loved ones have been provided for. The British Red Cross have used this approach very effectively in a recent TV campaign, by suggesting that after providing for loved ones, just 1% of what’s left could make a real difference in the years to come.

Even if this messaging doesn’t immediately result in more legacies to charities it does help to open up consideration from people who may otherwise dismiss the idea. Then over time, as the idea becomes more normal and the time of life changes, people may become more open minded about the idea of leaving a gift to charity in their Will.

Having said all of that, it’s not all doom and gloom. 

Childless people are 5x more likely to leave a gift to charity in their Will Legacy Foresight

After decades of decline, the numbers of childless people are set to rise. In the UK, 20% of women aged 45 have not started a family – a direct result of improvements in access to education and well paid careers that the 1950’s housewife could only dream of. So even if we fail to convince everyone to leave a legacy charity, there are still going to be plenty of people without families looking to pass their wealth on to their favourite causes.

That’s if we can overcome barrier number 2 – apathy. But we’ll leave that to another day!