The Year in Giving: How people have pledged money to charity in their wills in 2021

We see tens of thousands of wills every year and always find it heartwarming just how often people give to charity. This Christmas we’re sharing some insights into the causes people cared most about in 2021.

From the charities Gen Z cared most about, to how different regions in the UK pledged, we’ve broken down who supported which causes this year. So grab a mince pie, put on some Mariah Carey and take a look at The Year in Giving.

Pledges to cancer charities in wills increased by 46% since 2019

This could be a reaction to the pandemic as it caused a backlog for patients trying to get cancer treatments. Health charities in general observed a 97% rise in legacy donations, which could be another impact of COVID on everyone’s priorities when pledging money to charity in their will.

51 to 70 year-olds pledged the most to charities in their wills 🏆

Within that group, for the first time in Farewill pledging history, our 51 to 60 year-old age bracket overtook 61 to 70 year olds to claim the title of ‘Most Generous’. Taking third place were the under 30s. 

In fact over the past 3 years, we’ve seen a general increase in the number of people giving in their wills. Apart from the over 91s whose giving habits change from year to year without an upwards or downwards trend 🤷‍♀️.

Cancer was the most supported cause across every generation

This might be because Cancer, sadly, touches the lives of a lot of us. If someone is going through treatment for cancer, both them and their loved ones are likely to come into contact with a charity offering support and guidance.

So it’s not surprising that everyone wants to give back. Our Year in Giving data showed that 38-45% of gifts (in all age brackets), were gifts to cancer charities.

But there were generational differences when it came to other causes

Which generation am I again?

According to market research firm Beresford Research the generations break down into the following groups:

  • 1997 – 2012 Gen Z

  • 1981 – 1996  Millennials

  • 1965 – 1980 Gen X

  • 1955 – 1964 Boomers II

  • 1946 – 1954 Boomers I

  • 1928 – 1945 Post War

  • 1922 – 1927 WWII

Gen Z pledged the most to environmental causes 

Giving to environmental causes is more likely among younger people. Only 1% of pledges by people from the Post War generation went to environmental causes, whilst Gen Z pledged 6% to help the environment. 

Although 2021 has seen all generations worry more than ever about the impact of climate change, it seems like Gen Z are still the most active in fighting for change. Perhaps in light of COP26's agreement to recognise the emergency and accelerate actions that will change in the coming year.

Millennials focused on giving to housing and homelessness charities 

We saw 6% of the gifts in Millennial wills focused on housing and homeless causes, compared to 3% among Boomers and Gen X wills. Meanwhile 2% of Post War generation gifts pledged to this kind of cause. 

Older generations were more likely to pledge to military causes

6% of Boomer and Gen X’s gifts and 5% of the Post War generation’s went to military causes. Meanwhile, Millennials and Gen Z were less than half as likely to give to military causes.

"One of the greatest privileges of being a wills provider,

is being able to witness people’s kindness and generosity. It’s fascinating to track the causes close to peoples’ hearts when faced with their own mortality, and how legacy giving points to wider social trends and the impact of the pandemic. It highlights why it’s important to have a will in order to express your wishes, protect your loved ones and celebrate your legacy.” - Dan Garret CEO & founder of Farewill.

In every area, people pledged the most to charities that support people through Cancer

Yorkshire, the Humber and the North West pledged the highest proportions of their gifts, (63%!) to charities that help people with Cancer, followed closely by the North East and Wales who pledged 59% of theirs. 

Londoners pledged more to Homelessness, Human Rights, Hospitals and Education than anywhere else

The Greater London area saw 38% of gifts to Homelessness and Housing, 36% of gifts to Human Rights and 44% of gifts to Hospitals pledged this year. 70% of all charity gifts to Education causes were from Greater London and the South East. 

The South East pledged generously to Hospice causes and Sports and Recreation charities 

36% of gifts to Sports and Recreation charities came from this area, as well as 25% of gifts to Hospice causes. 

There are more than 200 hospices in the UK that care for over 200,000 adults and children every year. On average hospices receive a third of their income from the government, but rely on fundraising for the rest of their work - so these gifts are incredibly important.

Meanwhile, in the East Midlands, 14% of all their gifts went to military causes  

According to the government's 2017 population survey the East Midlands has one of the largest proportion of veterans in the country. The county of Rutland has the most with 14% and Lincolnshire the next at 8%. Perhaps this is what inspires the high level of generosity to Military causes in this area.

The most generous day of the year in 2021 was the 20th June

43.9% of wills written on this day contained a Charity gift compared to 15.6% from the day before. We’re still trying to figure out what put everyone in such a giving mood that day 🤔

Perhaps it was because it was the day after nightclubs reopened and the new found freedom inspired generosity. It was also World Refugee day so that could have motivated people to give to humanitarian causes. The 20th of June was also the day Joe Biden’s dog sadly passed away, so perhaps some people decided to donate to animal charities in rememberence.

Take a little time to give your most important gift

Our solicitor-approved will writing service can help you write a will online in as little as 15 minutes. 

About our data

We collated this data from wills written in England and Wales by Farewill between 1st January and 15th November 2021.

We measured the volume of pledges by sector by the percentage of pledges that they accounted for during each calendar year.

For example 28.15% of pledges were to cancer charities in 2019, compared to 40.9% in 2021. This represents a 45.29% increase.

Article reviewed