How to Plant the Seed to Create a Legacy

Today we welcome a special guest author to the blog: Cathy R. Sheffield, CAP®, CFRE, CSPG, FCEP, ThinkGiving President and Thompson & Associates Vice President. Cathy is here to share 10 things that you can do right now to start creating your legacy.

Cathy is a fundraising executive with 25-years experience, specializing in major gifts and gift planning in higher education and healthcare for organizations such as Baylor Scott & White All Saints Health Foundation, Texas Health Resources Foundation, Cook Children’s Health Foundation and Texas Christian University. 

Cathy is the past-chair of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (NACGP) and served as the 2015 Chair of the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning. Cathy is a member of the “Rollover Rangers” formally named the Charitable IRA Initiative and a member of the American Council on Gift Annuities.

We all want to be remembered for something, to be known as more than merely ordinary—to be seen as someone who truly made a difference and left behind something to make the future a little brighter.

Like you, I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference.

I began thinking about my own legacy after I married my husband and immediately became the mother of two children. Once we have children, we begin thinking about their legacies.

However, children are not the only reason people begin thinking about their legacies. In addition to family, our values, our ideals and how we live those values and ideals can leave a legacy. Many people, myself included, would like to be remembered for their support of and work done on behalf of charities for which they were passionate.

Like many, I have a page-a-day desk calendar with wonderful motivational messages. Each morning, I look forward to removing the prior day’s page to reveal new motivation. A message from a few days ago has been floating around in my mind because of its personal meaning to me: Plant a seed.

Plant a seed copy

“Plant a seed” is a metaphor often used in fundraising, in particular the planned giving segment of fundraising, and is applicable for the act of creating a legacy. With this message in mind, I have gathered 10 things that can be done now to start creating your legacy:

1. Prepare your will. 

Many Americans die without a will. Having a will or trust ensures your final wishes are fulfilled.

2. Gift a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your assets in your will to your favorite charity/charities. 

Notify the charity/charities so they will utilize your gift in the manner you wish.

3. Consider making noncash gifts to charity. 

Great noncash assets are appreciated securities, real estate, tangible personal property, collectables and other items that can be used by or sold by the organization.

4. Name your favorite charity as a full or partial beneficiary of your retirement plan or IRA. 

IRAs are one of the best assets to gift to charity because of the potential tax savings.

5. Purchase a new life insurance policy naming your favorite charity as owner/beneficiary (or a partial beneficiary). 

Or, name your favorite charity as the beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy. This idea can be used for your employer-provided term life insurance.

6. Consider making a gift to your favorite charity that will allow you to retain a lifelong source of income.

Many charities offer charitable gift annuities–a gift that pays you income for life and benefits the charity at the same time!

7. Ask yourself what about your favorite charity makes you especially excited.

A planned gift may help support, endow or permanently name that portion of those missions for pennies on the dollar. Endowments definitely create legacies!

8. Encourage others to leave gifts to their favorite charity/charities in their estate plans.

Providing testimonials is a great way to encourage the creation of their legacies.

9. Share the fact that you have made these gifts with your family. 

Doing so will allow you to explain why supporting these missions are so important to you and will begin cementing your legacy of philanthropy, generosity and love!

10. Ask your friends and family to remember your favorite charity/charities in lieu of gifts for birthdays, holidays, retirements and even as memorials.  

What will you do today to begin creating your legacy?

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