Will to Give - fundraising collaboration

Sometimes a shared interest and a need for joined-up work between organisations can lead to the formation of a new VCSE organisation in order to best represent the interests of multiple member groups.       

Organisational details

Will to Give is a VCSE organisation founded in January 2011 operating in Northern Ireland. Will to Give is a membership organisation and currently has 19 members and a further six charities interested in joining the organisation.  The vision of this new charity is that one day everyone in Northern Ireland will make a gift to charity in their will. The organisation promotes legacy giving through to the general public, will-making professionals and the charity sector.

Reasons for establishing the collaboration

In March 2008 the Institute of Fundraising NI hosted a Lunchtime Bites session in NICVA on legacy giving. At the end of the event two local fundraisers, Siofra Healey and Teresa Morris approached Neil Irwin, then Fundraising Advice Manager at NICVA, saying there was a need for joined up working in this area. They proposed that charities in Northern Ireland needed to look more strategically at this fundraising method.  NICVA organised a meeting to discuss legacy promotion in Northern Ireland and a steering group was formed to meet with representatives of the legacy promotion initiatives already established for the whole of the UK and the Republic of Ireland: Remember a Charity and Legacy Promotion Ireland. A decision was taken that these national initiatives did not fully meet the needs of regional and local charities in Northern Ireland. The expense of membership was also prohibitive.

The collaboration project

The Northern Ireland Legacy Promotion group, as it was first called considered setting up a new organisation but instead chose to function with terms of reference for its early development. As the group developed and plans became more certain the need to manage and apply for funding became more of a driving force for forming a new organisation. Initially the group explored a number of options including one charity being a led partner on funding applications however this was not considered viable as some of the charities were applying to these funds themselves. It was decided that the creation of a new organisation was the best option. Neil Irwin, secretary of Will to Give, stated that although it took three years to get to the stage Will to Give is at now, he believes that it took this time to go through different options and processes before deciding that a new organisation was the best approach. 

“If we had of said initially, ‘Come and make a new organisation’, I’m not sure if as many organisations would have went for it.”
Neil Irwin, Secretary, Will to Give


The legacy promotion group was led by Neil Irwin who was responsible for organising meetings and contacting stakeholders. Terms of Reference were drafted and 21 organisations signed up to the group. At this stage these organisations paid £50 in way of commitment.  This was not a constituted group however and it became clear that to drive the initiative forward there needed to be more funding and groups needed to commit more money to it. The promotion group knew recognition of the initiative was important so it decided to become an independent organisation. The new organisation became constituted and received charitable status and became formalised in January 2011. Within the constitution it was stipulated that the 19 founding members had more of a say in any decision making process than any new organisations for two years so that the initial drive and investment of the founding members would not be lost.  

A lot of time was invested in organising and facilitating meetings, trying to get organisations involved, reaching out to potential organisations. It took the establishment of the chairperson, Colm Ferguson to drive this forward.  Neil Irwin believes that there were no illusions on the time commitment needed to get the organisation established. He believes that the three year process from initial meeting with interested individuals to the establishment of the organisation was not surprising - however he does feel that it could have been completed sooner had all the representatives of stakeholder organisations remained constant and attended the key meetings. The regular, if unavoidable, change of representatives on the groups certainly slowed down the decision making processes.

Will to Give is managed by a voluntary committee of individuals nominated from the member charities. Individuals from the member charities then put themselves forward or are nominated for committee positions and elections held. NICVA’s Governance and Charity Advice Unit drafted the organisation’s constitution and took committee members through it at each important step. Following establishment of the organisation, the Chair created three different sub-committees, Governance and Membership; Marketing and Promotion and Funding and Finance.  NICVA continues to provide secretariat and development support to Will to Give. This role as secretariat is reviewed on an ongoing basis. 


The main challenge for this collaboration was time.  It took three years from the first initial meeting to the formal establishment of the new organisation.  This was the result of organisations getting involved at different stages.  It took the appointment of a chairperson to fully drive forward this process. 

“You can only go the speed that organisations are willing to go at.  You can try and speed it up but its takes more resources from all involved. A lot of meetings took place over the three years however it took the establishment of a chair to drive the initiative forward and to get other charities involved”.
Neil Irwin, Secretary, Will to Give

What went well

The founding organisations involved in this process are well known Northern Irish charities and regional bodies of large UK charities. They were committed to the objectives of Will to Give and invested significant time. They knew that the creation of this organisation and its aim to promote legacy giving was not only beneficial for their own organisation but for the whole voluntary and community sector.  Each individual could visualise the end product which kept motivation high. It was widely acknowledged that working together was in everyone’s interest. Each charity knew that more could be achieved by working with each other than they could achieve on their own. Although all the organisations had very different missions and visions they had the common goal of wanting to promote legacy fundraising which became the foundation of their working relationship.

One of the main benefits of this organisation is that donors can support a range of causes.  What also has worked well is that by working together Will to Give organisations have enhanced their fundraising capacity.  Smaller organisations do not have the same capacity as larger organisations but will be able to advertise and promote legacy giving with respect to their organisation through Will to Give. It gives them the opportunity to be creative about income generation.

“All the charities have a stronger voice by working together on this initiative.”
Neil Irwin, Secretary, Will to Give

Another benefit was that some organisations came with no idea about legacies but by being involved in Will to Give they learned about legacy giving from other more experienced fundraisers in this field.


To others embarking on collaborative ventures, Neil Irwin, then of NICVA, thinks timing can be an issue and that it is important to get all parties involved in the collaboration process as early as possible.

“Try and get more involvement and more actions earlier in the process. Press organisations to sign up and get their commitment to it.”
Neil Irwin, Secretary, Will to Give


Every effort is made to ensure that the contents of this document are accurate, but the advice given should not be relied on as a definitive legal statement.

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