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60% jump in charitable bequests in 2020 to €61M

28 Mar 2022 / ireland Print

60% jump in charitable bequests to €61M

Legacy income is growing overall in Ireland, according to a new report entitled Legacy Insights – Ireland Overview 2015-2020, and is probably the fastest growing source of voluntary income for charities.

The information in this report is based on research and additional Probate Office data which shows that 2020 saw a small decline and a drop in the number of known charities receiving bequests.


This is attributed to probate delays as a result of COVID.

For many countries, legacy income is the only growing fundraising source.

Given demographic changes and increased promotion by charities, more bequests are expected in the future.

As wealth increases, donors could leave more but additional marketing of legacies by the charities is needed, the pro bono research by Campaign Solutions suggests.

The report has confirmed legacy income of €318,864,874 from 2015-20.

Of this, €26,732,718 represents new data for the years 2015-19, with over €8.6 million for 2018 alone.

It is estimated that the 2020 total legacy income for the Republic of Ireland was €61.13 million.

Verified income increased from €34.38 million in 2015 to €54.63 million in 2020, a jump of almost 60%.

A total of 177 charities confirmed bequest income, an increase of over 50%, on previous figures.

With a small number of notable exceptions, those added had relatively lower levels of legacy income, and some had bequests in only one or two of the five years covered.

And 2017 remains the standout year. The late Elizabeth O’Kelly almost doubled the legacy income in 2017 when she left €30 million to five charities.

Some sectors have minimal legacy income, notably arts-and-culture organisations.

Climate charities also receive only a tiny amount of the total legacy income.

The lowest amount recorded by a single charity was €150.

The highest annual income for any one organisation recorded was just over €9 million, which happened in 2017.

More charities are now securing legacies. Furthermore, of those who had legacy income in both 2015 and 2020, slightly more had a higher income in 2020. 

More organisations are securing €1 million or more in legacy income. 2017 saw 16 charities do so, while 14 achieved this milestone in 2020.


Parishes are considerable beneficiaries of bequests with a conservative estimate of €1.5 million in total income from legacies.

The average amount secured per charity has increased – from €312,530 to €426,829 in 2020.

However, the bulk of legacy monies are going to a relatively small number of charities.

Many charities do not yet even have a legacy section on their website, the researchers point out, and unless a charity has a strong proactive legacy programme in place for at least five years, it is difficult to predict future income.

Legacy income

The top ten charities are securing half of the known legacy income.

Overall, the figures above point to a conservative approach to legacy giving in Ireland, the researchers believe.

Just 115 charities have provided a breakdown of legacy income in their accounts in at least one year, and a relatively small number make a feature of their legacy income in annual reports.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland