In the world of philanthropy, there are many ways a donor can fulfill their altruistic wants and needs. Some may opt to give donations during their lifetime, while others may prefer to leave donations in their will after they pass on.
Joel Fox, chief development officer at Menorah Park in Beachwood; J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio; and Abby Smardon, vice president of development of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said there are a few factors that go into deciding when to give a gift to an organization.
Fox said one reason a person might want to wait until their passing to make a gift is to feel like they are leaving behind a legacy for future generations through their gift.
“(The donor wants to know) that they’re leaving something behind that will outlive them and continue to meet some desire or objective that they had during their lifetimes,” Fox said. “That may be to make life easier for your children, or maybe to pursue a charity program or service that was meaningful to you, and you want to know that will be taken care of for a long time to come after you’re gone.”
Guess said there is enjoyment in giving when an individual is still alive, and that donors will often express the joy they feel in supporting the work of the organizations that they donate to. But donors will sometimes not be able to part with their assets while they’re alive.
“At the same time, some people may not have a whole lot to give away during their lifetime, because their budget may not afford them that opportunity,” Guess said. “But they may accumulate possessions like a house or other property. As a part of their estate, it allows them to give much more significantly as part of their legacy than they would be able to do while they’re living. My experience has been, when someone leaves us a gift in their will, it is someone who has also been a generous donor during their lifetime.”
Smardon also said there are tax-related reasons as to why someone would leave a gift in their will.
“When an estate gift is made, one of the most straightforward sorts of benefits is a reduction of the tax that a family may pay,” Smardon said. “Because the gifts are being given to a nonprofit organization, and therefore they won’t have to pay taxes on that.”
Although there are philanthropic and tax-related benefits to leaving a gift in your will, Guess said the “ideal” is for everyone to consider their philanthropic goals during their lifetime and to provide a mechanism, while they are living and in their legacy, to support social change work that is truly meaningful to them.
“So, at the ACLU of Ohio, we build strong lifelong relationships with many of our donors,” Guess said. “They have become an integral part of not only our family but also our mission. So, we have conversations with our donors about why they want to contribute and what their philanthropic goals are in their life. We help them achieve their mission in life by helping to channel their resources towards those efforts that really matter to them.”
Fox said seeing the impact of one’s gift during their lifetime provides a joyful feeling for both the donor and the beneficiary of said gift.
“By giving the dollars now, you can maximize the impact,” Fox said. “You don’t have to be worried about future inflation, future changes in your beloved organization’s leadership or even a change in what’s needed. If you give the gift now, you know that it’s going to be used as it’s needed based on what you’re seeing today. You can be directly involved in guiding not only the gift, but the use of the gift over time. You have the joy and the pleasure of seeing the dollars at work and knowing, during your lifetime, that you are making a difference for others.”