Until this last year, I never thought about leaving a gift to a charity in my will. Realistically, it was a stretch for me to even have a will; something I never really felt comfortable with. I always considered myself to be someone living outside the lines of the mindset of the small-c-conservative middle class – perhaps economically I was there, but certainly not socially or psychologically.
Always the activist, at an undisclosed but later than most age, I started finding myself doing things that were embedding my life in the mainstream. I traded milk crates for real bookshelves and a futon for a mattress. I bought a house, acquired a mortgage and actually hired movers rather than sourcing a friend with a van. I woke up one day and realized I had RRSPs. I became a parent.
That final point was the cincher and while my assets were still rather limited, I had assets, and life insurance. It seemed irresponsible, reckless even, to not have a will. So I made it happen…just the basics, to cover my bases, and I moved on.
Then, in April 2013, I joined a very special organization – the Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP), as its new Executive Director. This organization networks and supports people who connect donors to the values and opportunities to give. My eyes were opened and it’s changed my view of myself, as a donor and philanthropist.
Having worked in the sector for nearly 30 years, I have a deep understanding of and commitment to Canada’s charitable sector and have volunteered and donated for as long as I can remember. From a staff leadership perspective, I dreamed about that big bequest landing in our office, when someone peripheral and secret would make the gift of a lifetime, securing their legacy in the future. But it all seemed very esoteric and beyond influence. A bequest just happens, right? Certainly the great majority of bequests are unknown to the charity until they get that call.
I learned about what planned giving isn’t all about. It’s not all about HNW’s (we all love acronyms) – that’s High Net-Worth individuals…it can be about those with more modest income. It’s not all about six-seven-figure donations…most are not. It’s not all about a named cornerstone in a building…a heartfelt thank you is more typical. It’s not all about a donation through an estate…most are also giving now.
I learned that it’s about relationships and it’s about reflection. I learned what the planned giving donor profile is – women, often single, comfortable means, grown children with independence – and they’ve been giving for a while, sometimes to the same organization for many years. I began to see myself in that profile; was I a planned giver?
While I’ve been a sporadic donor to lots of charities, I realized there are a couple that I have been donating to for many years. To one of them, a small grass roots organization, I’d been giving through a small monthly deduction from my chequing account for more than 15 years. With another, I have been a sporadic annual giver for many years. I can’t recall if I’ve ever told anyone that I donate to these charities but there would be no surprise if I did. When I pause and reflect, they are absolutely who I am and what I care about.
Perhaps this meant I could also make a bequest gift. I thought about it and it felt empowering and right. I called my lawyer and made an appointment to change my will. Now two charities that matter to me will be recipients of a gift from my estate. Perhaps one day when they call to solicit the next donation, I will tell them. Perhaps not.
Am I too old to say, how sick is that?