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I'm working on a presentation for early June to a mix of fundraisers and stewardship folks about Planned Giving.

It led me to reflect a bit on what holds many people back from even initiating a conversation about bequests with their donors.

I realized that when many of us think of talking to someone about whether their money might go to the cause we represent when they die, this (photo on right) is what we think we have to break through.

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Good news is that more often than not, once the question has been asked, "I'd like to speak to you about your thoughts around considering a charitable bequest to (name of organization), would you be open to that?"

This image is usually more like what we run into once the door is open.

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Richard Radcliffe
 often speaks about how asking for a planned gift is most like a marriage proposal. It's personal, it's relational, it's between people who know each other and it's life-giving for both parties involved.

The "legacy gift" conversation is not about death, hellfire and taxes...it's more like a marriage proposal: an entrance into a life-giving partnership.

Ask Better? Give Smarter?

Don't abandon hope! Look for opportunities to open the conversation about charitable bequests. Approaching people who already have a close relationship with your cause are likely going to be open to the conversation.

As a donor, look for charities that are respectful and personal in their communications with you. Feel free to open the conversation yourself if you haven't been approached. Never give if you feel pressured and always check in with your lawyer and family first. Good professional fundraisers will not create an uncomfortable situation if you decide after exploration that the idea is not for you or if your plans change in future for any reason.
 
 
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While this blog typically focuses on the personal or marketing side of fundraising and philanthropy, I found a very helpful article yesterday that addresses some of the technical planning and administrative aspects around charitable bequests.

Though it does cover more of the technical side, I found it fairly easy to follow and full of useful information for donors and for charities.


I'd also like to make a personal, unsolicited reccomendation of the Charities and Not-for-Profit Division within the Miller Thomson law firm. If you are not already a subscriber, you might want to get on their Charities Update emailing list, which is how this article found me.
 
I've worked with a number of the lawyers at this firm and what stands out about them is how much they give in terms of free educational information - newsletters, conference presentations, informal conversations - to me their investment in helping fundraisers is a sign of their commitment to the charitable sector in Canada.

Thanks  @CharityLawCan @EstatesLaw @SusanManwaring and the rest of the gang at @MTCharity !

Practical Considerations When Making a Charitable Gift by Will
Karen L. Weslowski, Vancouver

(Reprinted with permission from the June 2012 Miller Thomson Charities and Not-for-Profit Newsletter)

A legacy can be created by leaving all or a portion of a person’s estate to charity.  Such a gift can reflect a testator’s personal values and beliefs while making a difference in the lives of others.  However, in order to ensure that the charitable gift is realized, there are some things for a testator to consider before leaving an estate gift to charity.  Once that gift is made, charities may wish to know what steps they must take to protect that gift. 


The Requirement for a Proper Will


Without a proper Will, a person’s estate will pass on intestacy to their next of kin. However, before a person can make an estate gift to charity, their Will must make some provision for their dependants, if any. 

In British Columbia, dependants include a testator’s spouse, minor children and, in most instances, adult children, even if they are financially independent.  In most other Canadian provinces, the category of dependants is not as broad and includes spouses, minor children and adult children only if incapable.  If a testator’s Will does not make adequate provision for these people, there is legislation in most provinces which permits dependants to commence litigation challenging the Will. 


Litigation often results when family members are not informed about a testator’s intention to leave a charitable bequest.  Testators should tell their family about their wish to leave an estate gift to charity.  Although the charity has a duty to protect the gift, charities may be reluctant to engage in acrimonious and expensive litigation to do so. 


The Will needs to be very specific about which charity the testators wish to benefit.  For example, if the Will simply provides a bequest to the “diabetes society”, it may be challenged on the basis that the identity of the charity is unclear.  This is due to the fact that there are several charities associated with diabetes.  Even if the Will is not challenged, a court application may still be required to figure out which charity the testator intended to benefit.  This will cost the testator’s estate money that could otherwise go to the charity and the estate beneficiaries. 


The Charities’ Duty to Protect a Charitable Gift


Charities may become involved in estate litigation by virtue of being a beneficiary of an estate.  Common issues that involve a charity are challenges to the Will, applications for interpretation of the Will and passing of the executor’s accounts. 


Charities are not always sure what role, if any, they may have in estate litigation.  As a beneficiary of an estate, a charity is entitled to notice of any estate proceedings which may affect its entitlement or require its consent.  Charities are also entitled (or, in some instances, may be required) to fully participate in the litigation, including settlement of the proceedings.


Charities must ensure that their interests are protected under a Will and by the person administering the estate.  Charities must take reasonable steps to ensure that a testator’s gift is realized.  This includes monitoring the administration of the estate and making inquiries of the estate solicitor or executor as to the status of the estate.  If necessary, it may also include taking active steps in any litigation to protect their interest in the estate. 



The need to defend a donor’s charitable gift by becoming involved in litigation can affect the charity’s image.  In a fight with disinherited family members, the charity may be perceived as “greedy”. Charities generally want to maintain a positive public image. 

This consideration may affect how a charity conducts itself in litigation and cause it to be less assertive in defending a testator’s gift.  Although charities have an obligation to defend the donor’s charitable gift, it may not be practical to do so where the amount of the gift is small relative to the cost of litigation.  Charities may choose to decline a bequest where the public relations issues resulting from litigation would adversely affect the charity disproportionately to the value of the bequest. 



Conclusion


Testators should strive for open communication with their dependants as to their intention to leave a gift to charity.  This can assist in ensuring that their intended gift is realized and reduce the potential for litigation after the testator’s death. Charities must recognize their duty in protecting charitable gifts and take appropriate steps to that end.



Yep, this one needs a "just in case" disclaimer to let you know that this blog post should not be taken as legal advice. Christina Attard is NOT qualified as a lawyer or financial advisor and information on this website does not constitute advice - please consult with a qualified advisor before proceeding with any legal or financial course of action.
 
 
Today was a great day for people like me. 

It all started with a long standing Telemiracle fundraising campaign on TV here in Saskatchewan, Canada. It had all the elements you could ask for from high-drama philanthropy - emotional stories, compelling appeals and amazing corporate participation with just under $1 Million donated by two companies for a total of $5.9 Million raised in just two days. For most of us fundraising professionals, those results would indeed feel like a miracle!

Today, the campaign made front-page news. But this year, it was because of one farmer's legacy gift - a bequest in the amount of $1.46 Million presented by his son and daughter-in-law. For legacy gift planning evangelists like myself, it was a dream come true to see the positive power of one person's generosity grabbing the attention of so many.  

I think practically the whole province was celebrating today! But there's a bit of a dark side to it too... I also heard so many comments today about how this must have been an unusually wealthy person, how it's nice that this happened, but we could never expect to do something like this ourselves, about how the children must feel to have so much taken away from them... 

Frankly, this type of thinking makes me go crazy! 

Why? Because the beauty of charitable bequests is that a planned gift is well within the scope of what most of us could do for our communities based on our financial capacity. It's not about disinheriting the kids and it's not about being a wealthy, flashy philanthropist. It's simply about being responsible about what we've been lucky enough to receive in life and considering how that could be shared once our own needs and those of our families/friends have been met. That's what this particular farmer did and he brought joy to many hundreds of thousands of people today as a result. 

Today was also my own lucky day. I had the opportunity and the great pleasure of standing up on my little soap box to speak to Saskatchewan about my passion for legacy giving on the radio thanks to Craig Lederhouse on CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition. 

The interview is available online here.

Craig asked me on-air how rich one must be before considering philanthropy. It surprised me, but the story of a homeless man who came to the (financial) aid of one woman who had always stopped to greet him on the street was the first thing to come to mind. That news story can be found here.


Ask Better?

Craig was very interested in how fundraisers open the conversation about a legacy gift and I hope my comments in the interview will give some insight into that process. The thing to remember as a fundraiser is that connection, relationship, involvement with the charity were the main factors behind the bequest that made the news today - not tax, not ultra-high-net-wealth, not naming rights.

Give Smarter?

It's about joy. It's about how you feel when a child or grandchild opens a gift from you. When you know that though your contribution may be small, you are changing the world for the better. Really thinking deeply about whether there is an organization you care deeply enough about to make part of your family and include in your will. There is joy and gladness there for you and for so many others who will remember you by your kindness. 

Love to hear your thoughts!
 
 

Do you get too much mail from charities each year asking for money? 

Not me - I love every piece because of how much I learn from them all! 

Since a big part of my work revolves around creating marketing and solicitation pieces for fundraising campaigns, I want to share a bit about what gets me excited.

In short, I love the ones that make me feel something. 

What are the emotions? 
Connectedness, urgency, passion, the knowledge that MY GIFT is crucial both to me personally and to those whom it will aid. 

(ok, I secretly like postage-paid envelopes so I can respond right away!)

I won't lie and tell you that I got onto this passionate feeling thing on my own. This is where I first got my inspiration.

Here is my perspective on what makes for great charity marketing:


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 Let's talk about ME

This week, I saw a capital campaign brochure that used the word "we/our" 7 times in the main, 3 sentence long, "case for support" paragraph. 

The brochure showed me a lot of giving charts. It also had a lot of detailed tax-related info.

I felt nothing.

There was no story about me. It didn't address the question: "here's how we're a part of your/others' life now and with/without my gift/partnership, here's what's possible for others and for me."

I look for solicitations that tell me about all the great things that the charity does, how it changes lives and how participating will change my life / affect my feelings (positively!). 

The truth is that most charities, even boring sounding ones, do really make life better - the stories are there, but they need to be told as the lead story before any asking happens.


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There are 12 steps to hand washing?

WHY is more important than HOW

Though I specialize in tax-smart gift planning, I believe in limiting tax planning info in a general brochure. 

The most important thing that has to be communicated is the "why" of giving and not the "how to give."

Let's step into the shoes of our donors and imagine how we'd like them to think about giving:

"Yep, I finally decided to start supporting hungry kids in my community because I realized that my tax credit rate was 44% after the first $200 of giving and I just wanted to keep every dollar out of the hands of that wretched CRA!"

OR

"Well, I realized that a lot of the kids that Feed the Kids was helping could be the friends of my own kids at school and so I decided I could help out and feel good about supporting families like ours in my own community!"

So really think about the space that's being dedicated to explaining tax implications and limit it to a very brief, high-level invite to talk more about what might be possible. 

At the same time, I feel reassured when I see a charitable registration number included and perhaps a short note mentioning that gifts are eligible for a donation receipt as per CRA regulations.


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Don't bite off more than you can chew!

Many fundraising pieces include a full menu listing of 8-10 gift planning options.

When's the last time your typical small, urban charity thought they might have a use for ecologically sensitive property? 


Yep, it may be a gift planning option, but there's no need to list all of them unless the charity has the capacity or alignment of mission to accept such gifts. 

Less is often more. It's important to open the door in marketing material to gift planning options, but I think the menu should be limited to bequests - and maybe insurance, RRSPs, securities - basically, the most common options. 

Ask Better, Give Smarter

I love this scene from the Mad Men series where ad exec, Don Draper, literally reinvents the wheel for Kodak by introducing a campaign for the Carousel slide projector. 

There's even an engrossing story to be told about something as boring as a slide projector! 

The sales pitch is 100% about me and what I am going to feel personally when I use this product. Draper drives it home by telling an emotional story about his own life through the slide show.

Ask better by telling the story of your charity and give smarter by looking for charities that share why your individual participation matters! If we can get passionate together, great things are possible!

"Create a sentimental bond with the product...
It's not the wheel, it's the carousel"

 
 

One of the most challenging problems that comes up for many fundraising campaigns is just how to approach board members about their own financial support of the charity. Looking at it from another perspective, there can also be feelings of frustration for board members who want to contribute, but because of their birds-eye view of the charity, they're not always sure of how or when to help.

As part of my weekly research, I subscribe to a free service calledMovie Mondays and receive a 5-10 minute video on some aspect of fundraising - often there are great tips and ideas on working with boards both from volunteer members and fundraisers. 

Yesterday, I received a video featuring a board member speaking about what motivated her to become a major gift donor and create a legacy gift for the charity that she volunteers with. 

The key points? She was treated like a major gift prospect - a very personal approach was taken by representatives from the charity and it helped her and her spouse to better understand specifically how they could help. Their satisfaction with their experience as philanthropists and partners was a strong driving factor in their consideration of a legacy gift for the charity. Her own commitments helped her develop as an advocate in encouraging others to follow suit.

Interestingly, while this donor is aware of potential tax savings that come into play with giving, her testimonial is a great reminder about how it's passion and connection that are the main drivers, not technical tax planning! 

(I know, I know, this seems obvious, but 90% of the gift planning marketing material I see is still mostly about rattling off a list of tax incentives!)


Listen carefully to what this donor has to say right around minute 2:45 about the transformational power of her gift - it's what we all hope to experience as donors and hear as fundraisers...




Ask Better?
By recognizing that the "ask" cannot happen at the board meetings or by "osmosis" alone and instead, by creating an opportunity to treat this board member like a major gift prospect and make a targeted and personal ask, the charity was able to secure a much larger commitment than they might have expected.

Don't assume that a volunteer necessarily understands where their contributions can have the greatest impact!

Give Smarter?
If you are on a board and feel driven to do more through your giving, invite representatives from the charity to consider making a proposal and presenting it to you privately. Challenge them to look for an opportunity that matches your interests with an integral part of their mission. 

Thank you to Christopher Davenport at Movie Mondays for permission to share this video! For more, head on over to his site and sign up for your free subscription.
 
 
I was recently invited by the dynamic fundraiser, writer, speaker and blogger Mazarine Treyz at Wild Woman Fundraising in Austin, TX to come over as a guest blogger and share some of my insights about planned giving.


My starting point for writing was Steven R. Covey's principal that we must first seek to understand, then to be understood. For me, this has become a guiding star'

In my professional practice, I find myself advising individuals about the incredible possibilities that are available for philanthropists to help create a better life and world for others. In order to be able to assist others in this process, I have always felt it important to be an active participant in philanthropy myself and to experience what it is to support the missions of charities that are meaningful to me before offering guidance.

For my guest post, I decided to focus on the experience I had as a gift planner who created a legacy gift. The process took over a year and it taught me some incredibly valuable lessons about how it feels to create a bequest gift. I know that it has created a new understanding for me when I help others who are contemplating this type of gift and I hope my insights might inspire other fundraisers and advisors who haven't joined the legacy gift circle yet themselves to take the leap!

Check out my article at Wild Woman Fundraising!

A special thanks to Mazarine for a fantastic opportunity to share my thoughts with her readers! Her website is full of information about building a fundraising program, online marketing and career managment
 
 
This morning, I heard a radio ad for a local fundraising event. The spot promised a day of free virtual golf at a centre that normally charges for this type of activity. The entry fee was $30 and it was mentioned that each participant would receive a "tax-deductible" receipt for their full $30.

This made me go "hmmm..." for two reasons:

1. My understanding is that under Canadian tax law, the value of any advantage to the donor must be subtracted from the value of the charitable receipt.

Unless the ordinary market value of the activity can be deemed to be of minimal value with respect to the gift amount, I'm not 100% sure that this organization should be issuing a receipt for the full contribution! I also question whether they should be providing tax information in a radio ad?



2. This is the third or fourth time in the past month that I've seen the wording "tax-deductible donation" used in fundraising marketing.

It's a fine hair to split, but for Canadian individuals, charitable donations trigger a "tax-creditable donation receipt." The difference may seem small, but it is important! 

Why?

A tax credit means that regardless of your income, you will receive a standardized percentage of your gift back as a credit on your income tax return.

If it were a "charitable deduction," the rate of reimbursement would be tied to a tax-payers marginal rate for income tax, which in many cases, is lower than the marginal rates for charitable tax credits.


CRA offers this nifty calculator that provides a great illustration of how it all works. 

Recognizing this seemly minute technical difference is also a recognition of Canada's generous and unique encouragement of charitable donations from members of the public.

A Solution?

A great term that I learned at one of the universities I worked with was "tax-smart giving." It gets to the point in your fundraising marketing materials without getting into sticky details. 


(Caveat: I speak as a lay-woman and not a financial or legal professional. Please remember to consult with your own professional advisors.)
 

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved