Updating My Will with the Perspective of a Fundraising Professional

Published on March 10, 2020

Brian Saber

President of Asking Matters
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When I wrote my last will 18 years ago, my son was an infant and I was still “young!” Today he’s an adult and, at 57, I’m not feeling so young. By the way, for those of you who are groaning, it is a fact that only 9.3% of the world is older than me… and that number just went down while you were reading this.

Anyway, as a fundraiser I’ve always seen my planned gifts as part passion and part best practice. How could I talk to others about planned gifts if I didn’t make them myself, right?

Further, this time around, after having had numerous planned giving conversations with donors, and now having an of-age son, I had very different conversations with myself. Here are the decisions I have come to:

Keep My Gifts Targeted

Though there are lots of charities I’d love to support, I understand the way to have a bigger impact is to concentrate my gifts in death as I do in life. Just as I decline many solicitation requests so I can give more significantly to the causes I’m most passionate about, I am declining requests from various charities to put them in my estate plans “for anything.”

Do Something Emotionally Important

My biggest gift is going to my alma mater where I established a grant in my father’s memory 26 years ago. I want to make a bigger impact and I know I can do that in death. By the way, that’s a great selling point for donors. Since we can give from our assets in death in a way most of us can’t while we’re alive, it’s a great opportunity to do more good.

Make Sure My Son Can Continue My Legacy

As part of supporting the grant further, I’ve established an opportunity for my son to help steward it. Who knows what will be relevant in 30 or 40 years, and this way he can give his blessing for the school to make changes… and I know he’ll always have my family’s interests at heart.

Not Be Too Restrictive

When planned gifts are too restrictive they can be a nightmare down the road. And while I do think, unfortunately, it’s unlikely the issues my grant addresses will go away, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t want to do anything that would put an organization I love in a difficult spot.

Support Endowment

For my other planned gifts I’m simply saying they should be for endowment. I know how organizations struggle to save for the future, and it’s very tempting to use these gifts — which often come out of nowhere — to shore up holes in the budget. The organizations getting these gifts are institutions that will be here forever, and I want to help make sure they can continue to do their work over the years.

Our mortality is often hard to accept… and harder to talk about. But knowing I’ll be making an impact after I pass while setting a good example as a fundraiser is comforting. I encourage you to do the same. It’ll make your work more relevant, and perhaps easier, while also doing so much good.

Now only 9.2% of the world is older than me.


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