August is National Make-a-Will Month—a timely reminder to the nearly 67% of American adults who do not have a legal will in place. Wills and other estate planning documents such as health care power of attorney are on the to-do list, but many people simply don’t get around to the review, reflection, division, and designation of cash, property, and other assets accumulated over a lifetime. At death there are heirs by default of course. But responsible stewardship—the ultimate sharing of our resources with people and causes we care deeply about—requires plans, decisions, and documents.
Philanthropic giving is often part of an estate plan and can be a tax-wise strategy to leave a legacy beyond one’s lifetime. I have known many families who have felt gratification knowing the impact of their gift will be multiplied through their generous planning. I have also seen the joyful anticipation of a planned gift yield an outright gift in the present.
Timely conversations during the course of a thoughtful donor relationship can lead to such opportunities. However, for a variety of reasons, including the often-lengthy timeframe for realizing such gifts, many nonprofits do not broach the subject of legacy giving with their donors. A robust fundraising strategy provides multiple ways for donors to contribute to your mission at many stages of their lives. It is a nonprofit leader’s task to know and pursue all avenues for helping the organization succeed. Communicating these avenues and sharing stories of friends and their philanthropy opens hearts and minds. And prospective donors will appreciate your commitment to both the present and future.