Hanna Vinckers is a master’s student in Art and Culture Studies, focusing on art policy and art business at Radboud University in Nijmegen. Her interests lie in the museum sector and the challenges of engaging diverse target groups in museums, as well as financing and programming. In partnership with LVWB Fundraising, she conducted a study examining the motives of people who pledge and those who do not pledge to make gifts in wills to cultural causes.
To explore the reasons behind people’s decisions to leave or not leave a legacy for cultural institutions and causes, I conducted six interviews with a total of four pledgers and two non-pledgers. Furthermore, this research is grounded on a literature review of sociological research that has explored different motivations for giving.
Motivations for leaving a legacy
The motives for gifts in wills that emerged from the interviews can be divided into two categories. The first category of motives makes it clear that the pledger considers it important that their legacy benefits the cultural institution and supports their activities. The following motifs can be distinguished:
- With their legacy, pledgers express the personal connection they experience with the cultural institution to which they want to leave a gift in their will. This connection can be established through, among other things, their visits to the cultural institution and their affinity with the art form that the cultural institution programs.
- The second motive that emerges stems from the desire to express their trust in the cultural institution. They gain this trust because they also give while alive and see what happens with these gifts. In addition, also because of the reputation of the cultural institutions to which they give.
- The third motive concerns the pledger’s desire to express their sense of responsibility. With their legacy, they want to preserve cultural institutions for the future and for future generations who can visit the institutions.
The respondents in this survey indicated that they expect nothing in return for their legacy. However, it was striking that they all mentioned material and non-material matters during the interviews. This shows that they do experience that they get something in return and that this also has a motivating effect.
These motives comprise the second category, where the potential pledger is willing to leave a gift in their will because they anticipate receiving benefits from the cultural institution in return.
The following motives were identified in the second category (also known as “what’s in it for me?”):
- With their legacy, pledgers express their desire to make the world better with their gifts. In this case, their legacy allows pledgers to pass on their norms and values to future generations who visit the cultural institutions. In addition, they also want these generations to be able to enjoy art.
- (Potential) pledgers are willing to leave a gift in their wills because they experience that their contributions are recognized and appreciated during their lives. A cultural institution can shape this recognition and appreciation through, among other things, special events, and careful communication.
- (Potential) pledgers receive a tax benefit for their legacy. The fact that the cultural institution does not have to pay inheritance tax is also seen as an advantage compared to leaving gifts to family members who are often already well-settled. In this way, their entire legacy will benefit.
- With their gifts and legacy, they strive for equality in their relationship with a cultural institution. As described above, the pledger experience that when they give while alive, they receive something in return. This ensures they are willing to give again or even a legacy. However, if they do not experience this kind of recognition from the cultural institution, this is a reason to reconsider their legacy decision.
Points of attention for cultural institutions and causes
Based on the motives mentioned above, I have formulated several points for attention for cultural institutions and causes:
- Be aware of the equal relationship that (potential) pledger strives for
The relationship with (potential) pledgers already arises at the moment that they also give while alive. They expect something in return for these gifts. If they experience that they also receive something in return, they are willing to give again or leave a gift in a will or increase their pledge. All donations made by (potential) pledgers before they write their will or increase their gifts in wills should be included in the balance.
- Give (potential) pledgers appreciation and recognition
The appreciation and recognition the (potential) pledger receives for their donations while alive ensure they are considering leaving a legacy to a cultural institution. This can take the form of, for example, special events. As a result, they experience that they receive extra attention, and they also feel connected to the organisation. This is also an important motivation to leave a legacy.
- Provide the (potential) pledgers with information about the impact of their legacy
The amount people leave to the cultural institution is partly related to their trust in the cultural institution. Therefore, the amount of their gifts in wills is variable. The trust they have in the work of the cultural institution influences this. Therefore, provide the (potential) pledgers with information about how the money they give is spent and what future purposes can be supported through this. This can increase trust and can enlarge a gift in their wills.
- Purpose of legacy gift
The pledgers in this study see their legacy as a way of passing on their norms and values to future generations and feel responsible for financially supporting cultural institutions. Ask potential pledgers whether they want to give their legacy an educational purpose. This provides an even more concrete interpretation of their wish to pass on their norms and values through the cultural institution.
- Don’t forget to ask
It is clear from the answers of the four pledgers in this study that the cultural institution paid little attention to the possibility of leaving a legacy gift. Nevertheless, they have decided to do so because of their sense of responsibility and trust in a cultural institution. However, most likely, there are also people for whom this does not apply and do not consider a gift in their will because it was never suggested to them. Ask current donors if they would consider leaving a gift in their will and provide information.