Psychological well-being and the charitable bequest decision
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There are currently 168,000 charities registered in England and Wales who in 2017 raised a combined £75.35 billion (Hillier, 2018), yet less than £3 billion of this total was donated from gifts in wills (Smee & Ford, 2018). At present, only 6.3 per cent of people in the UK leave a bequest to charities in their will (Smee & Ford 2019) despite 70 per cent of people supporting a charity during their lifetime (Dauncey 2005). Legacy income is estimated to rise to £5.9 billion by 2045 (Legacy Foresight, 2019), yet despite the importance of gifts in wills to charities and its huge potential for growth, legacy giving is an under researched topic. Writing a will, and in turn, including a charitable bequest can be a daunting task and one that confronts people with their inevitable death. This can be a psychologically troubling experience, especially deciding how best to distribute one’s wealth which is why people often delay the task. An important aspect in the charitable bequest decision is determining how a person can be moved from consideration of a charitable bequest to intent by finding ways to make a potential legator’s experience more meaningful. The literature review reveals that psychological well-being and the charitable bequest decision would greatly benefit from further research. A greater understanding was needed with regards to the psychological factors that drive the charitable bequest decision to determine how the legacy message can be positively framed, resulting in enhanced donor well-being. This information can be used to inform both charitable organisations and will writing professionals with regards to priming potential legacy donors in the most effective way, adding value to the experience of legacy giving. This research focuses on a person’s levels of competence, autonomy, connectedness, self-efficacy, meaning in life and fear of death. It also examines if identity importance, self-other focus and self-construal impact on a person’s intention to include a charitable bequest in their will. This study uses a positivist approach from which to conduct this research. Quantitative methods were used to gather data for analysis, and more specifically, two online cross-sectional surveys. The surveys were sent to supporters of Christian Research, a UK based charity which operates an online panel with approximately 5,000 members. Respondents of the surveys supported very different and worthwhile causes so a rich pool of data was attained from which to generate results. Interesting findings emerge from the study. Psychological factors including connectedness, self-efficacy and identity importance play a significant role in the charitable bequest decision. Findings also suggest that a person is more likely to include a charitable bequest in their will if they focus on the needs of others. Psychological factors more closely associated with the self, such as competence and autonomy, had no significance on a person’s intention to include a bequest to charity in their will and fear of death was shown not to be a driver in the charitable bequest decision. This study concludes with a summary of suggestions for future research.
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