Working together to accelerate your legacy income

At the Air Ambulance Fundraising Conference in June 2023, Ashley Rowthorn, CEO of Legacy Futures, spoke to air ambulances about how they can pool their knowledge and resources for greater impact when it comes to legacy fundraising. Here’s a roundup of Ashley’s expert advice and tips that he shared on the day.

Unlike many forms of fundraising, legacy giving has the unique benefit of being able to weather many an economic storm. Even in times of economic downturn and the bleakest house price-drop scenarios, legacies are predicted to remain resilient, with the number of gifts showing consistent growth. That, combined with the rising death rate (as the oldest of the baby boomers reach the end of their lives), makes legacy fundraising a vital, reliable and sustainable source of income for charities. But only if they work together to help generate this income.

The strength of legacies

In the last 40 years, legacy income has quadrupled and that’s despite recessions and a worldwide pandemic. The number of bequests are up by two thirds since 1992 and by 2050 legacy income is predicted to reach £10 bn/year. That’s a growth of 250% on the 2022 figure of £3.85 bn.

The scale and resilience of legacy income offers charities some much-welcome certainty, allowing them to plan for the future and manage cashflow. Some single legacy gifts can be very substantial, meaning that it only takes a few of them to make a big impact. On average, 56% of a charity’s legacy income is made up of just 8% of gifts left by donors whose estates are worth over £100k.

The rise of Air Ambulances

Air Ambulances are the fastest growing charity sub sector in legacy terms, experiencing impressive growth over the last 20 years – from a standing start to owning 5% of the entire legacy giving market for health charities. In monetary terms, that’s £55m – 24% of the total Air Ambulances sector’s income.



Air Ambulances are therefore already in a strong position. However, although bequests are growing, so is competition, and charities should not rest on their laurels if they want to continue to see success. For Air Ambulances, there is still plenty of room for growth and the key to embracing that growth is through understanding baby boomer behaviour.


The boomer generation is relatively very wealthy and generous, making them highly likely to leave a gift to charity in their will. 20% of boomer women do not have children and are statistically much more likely to leave a gift to a charity. The trigger point for making a charitable gift in a will is at retirement and other life changing moments when people start to think about what kind of legacy they want to leave behind.

Engaging effectively with boomers is therefore critical for Air Ambulances. Research shows that boomers want…

  • Tangibility. They want to be able to picture what difference their money will make
  • Transparency. They want to trust that their gift will be well managed and not get lost in the system
  • Control. They want a say in exactly how their donation is spent

So, what can Air Ambulances do to accelerate growth?:

  1. Get prepared. It’s vital to put the right team together who are on board with building your legacy income. This includes everyone from volunteers to senior leadership.
  2. Get your messaging right. Who are you? What do you do? What do you stand for? This has to be clear to potential donors so they can decide whether they feel aligned to your cause.
  3. Get digital. 82% of 55–64-year-olds use social media daily. Make social a key part of your legacy marketing strategy.
  4. Get nurturing. Good stewardship is vital for communicating with donors and retaining their support. If a donor feels disengaged or unloved, they will find another charity to align themselves with.
  5. Get together. Air Ambulance charities are non-competing. They operate in different geographical areas, meaning there is no conflict of interest. Work together to strengthen resources and share ideas and best practice so that everyone will benefit.

Legacy Futures is a group of gifts in wills and in-memory giving consultancies, comprising Legacy Voice, Legacy Foresight and Legacy Link. The group is dedicated to helping charities worldwide harness the transformative power of legacy giving. Legacy Futures is a registered company (09876015) in England and Wales.