September 9, 2020

The Unexpected Pleasure of Legacy Giving

by David Koehler

David Koehler photo

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is helping people create legacies of giving for the charities and causes they find most meaningful.

While deciding what to do with your assets after your lifetime is not always an easy topic to consider, creating a plan that includes giving can be a fulfilling life experience. And it’s simpler to accomplish than most people imagine.

Following are four reasons why you might consider leaving a planned gift to support the things you value most in your community and beyond.

Legacy giving can make estate planning more fulfilling (and easier)

It’s estimated that fewer than half of all Americans who are 55 or older have a plan for their estate, and just 11% have included a gift to charity. Yet when asked, most individuals agree they would like to have an estate plan that helps make a difference for our world.

So why the disconnect? One of the main reasons so few of us make our intentions known is that creating (and revisiting) an estate plan reminds us that we won’t be here forever. It’s a topic that can make us feel uneasy and therefore is easy to avoid. This is very different from the joy we experience when giving.

Approaching the topic of estate planning from a more positive perspective – such as the impact you would like to make for the environment, your place of worship, children, or education – can turn an otherwise dreaded process into one that is joyful and fulfilling.

Legacy giving can allow you to make a larger, lasting impact

Although the majority of us do not have the ability to give a “major” gift during our lifetime (whether you define that as $1,000 or $1 million), many of us have the ability to leave a larger gift through our estate. In fact, estate gifts are usually many times what we are able to give annually, and often larger than all of our previous giving combined.

When such significant dollars are in question, it’s worth carefully considering the impact you’d like to make, and over what period. Some people choose to give lump sums to their favorite causes because they want to make the biggest difference as soon as possible. Others want to ensure the long-term sustainability of their causes and establish funds that give in perpetuity.

Whatever type of giving you do through your estate can make a major difference for the organizations and causes that are important to you today, and ensure they are here for those in the future.

Legacy giving can lead to rewarding experiences

Knowing that you will help a cause you care about feels good. In fact, researchers have discovered that giving to charity stimulates the reward center in the brain, releasing endorphins and creating what they termed a “helper’s high.”

Each fall (when it’s safe to gather in groups), MCF hosts a luncheon to honor those individuals who plan to make a lasting charitable impact through their estate – our Legacy Society. Our event is filled with heartwarming stories of the extraordinary impacts people are making through their estates, and community building among those who share the value of giving.

Similarly, many nonprofit organizations have recognition societies to celebrate those who will remember their cause with a planned gift. Society members are invited to special events, tours and hikes and warmly thanked for their forward-thinking plans.

Planning to leave an estate gift – and sharing your intention with the organizations you will support – can yield new experiences, provide introductions to others with similar passions, and infuse some of the joy of giving into your life today.

Legacy giving can yield profound life changes

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Legacy gifts are personal expressions of our values. They support the things we cherish, and they make a difference for the world that gives us so much and for the people who will follow us.

Some people know exactly which groups they’d like to benefit through their estates – they’ve supported them for years, know the staff members involved, and are inspired by their missions and the impact they make. These groups are already close to their hearts and add happiness to their lives.

Others are newer to philanthropy and are less familiar with or unsure which organizations they would choose to support in such a meaningful way.

Exploring which types of charitable efforts resonate with you can reveal a deeper understanding of yourself – what inspires and motivates you, what aligns with your values and brings meaning to your life, and what type of legacy you’d like to leave.

There are many online tools to assist you in learning about and assessing charities working in your community and beyond, including Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and more locally, MCF’s own Nonprofit Directory.

How to include a gift to charity in your plans

Once you’ve taken care of your loved ones, including charitable giving in your plans can be an easy addition. One of the simplest ways to leave a planned gift is to name a charity as a beneficiary of your retirement assets. Often this can be accomplished in minutes online.

Creating a will that identifies how you would like your assets to be distributed can also be a simple process, and there are many free resources online to assist you. For larger bequests and trusts, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney or financial advisor.

MCF philanthropic advisors are also available at no cost to help you consider options for your charitable giving, and we offer tools that may be a good fit for your goals. These include permanent named funds, charitable gift annuities that provide you with income, and comprehensive legacy plans that are free to establish, simple to update, and can carry out a combination of immediate and long term giving to ensure a legacy of support for what is most important to you.

Learn More About Leaving a Legacy.