The Church of England receives around £44 million per year through legacies with over 5,000 people each year leave a gift in their wills to support the work of their local church. Legacies are a vital source of income for our churches.
The Church of England has an excellent website about legacies at www.churchlegacy.org.uk. This has resources for PCCs as well as the ability to handle enquries from potential donors. There are booklets that can be adapted for local use and much more.
For nearly 500 years, since the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England has encouraged people to make a will. This is a basic part of human stewardship, and enables us to set out our future wishes. Since family circumstances, personal needs and wishes change over time, it is important for wills to be reviewed periodically. The first and most important key message is simply "make a will and review it regularly". Encouragement to leave a gift in their will to their local church should be a lower priority message.
How should churches promote legacy giving?
Gently is the simple answer! There are a number of ideas available from the church legacy website: parish magazine articles, sermon ideas, leaflets you can overprint or simply order. However, the most important thing that you can do is for the PCC to determine its policy on legacies and to publish it to the congregation so that potential donors will know what will happen to their gift.
A policy might be on the lines of: "The policy of the PCC is to use legacies to help fund significant development projects in the parish, whether buildings, equipment or staff. As circumstances change over the years, it may not be possible to fulfil specific donor requests, so church members are encouraged to leave legacies for the general purposes of the parish. The PCC will discuss with executors the most appropriate use of the legacy in the light of current projects and the donor's known areas of interest in the church (e.g. children & youth, music, buildings)."
In the spring of 2016 we plan to hold three training sessions about how churches can encourage legacies. As with previous training sessions, one will be held in each Archdeaconry and will be led by Eleanor Gill (the Church of England’s National Legacy Officer). Details of these training events will be publicised in the autumn.
Information about how to encourage legacy giving in your parish can be found on the Parish Resources website in the following places