Planned gifts sustain future ministry

Planned gifts sustain future ministry

Lent, which began on Feb. 17, 2021 and continues until Saturday, April 3, is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. It reminds Christians that Christ allowed himself to suffer the weight of the cross and death out of compassion for others, a powerful example of caring and compassion for all of us, Christian or otherwise.

The Planned Giving Council of Northeast Florida’s March meeting shared ideas and examples with its members of how planned gifts can impact faith-based nonprofits, their donors and those they serve. Tania Yount, chief development officer for Barnabas Center in Fernandina Beach, moderated remarks by Celeste Hart, associate planned giving director, Florida Divisional Headquarters, Salvation Army; Kellie Ann Kelleher-Smith, director of the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida; and Cliff Evans, planned giving officer of the Diocese of St. Augustine’s Catholic Foundation.

“The biggest challenge we face in getting planned gifts for our organizations is that nonprofits by necessity focus on their need for annual gifts throughout the year,” Kelleher-Smith said. “We work to educate donors on the difference between annual gifts and planned gifts and why a faith ministry needs both types of gifts.”

An annual gift is a contribution made to a nonprofit organization or higher education institution, provided on any given annual basis. It funds the nonprofit’s regular and ongoing expenses.

A planned gift is any major gift, made during lifetime or at death as part of a donor’s overall financial and/or estate planning. Some planned gifts provide lifelong income to the donor. Other gift plans use estate and tax planning to provide for charity and heirs in ways that maximize the gift and/or minimize its impact on the donor’s estate. These include gifts of equity, life insurance, real estate, personal property, or cash.

One of the major benefits of planned gifts is that they provide a promise of future funding for an organization. They allow a nonprofit to plan ahead and budget for the future, including for economic crises. For example, “Coping with COVID-19: Insights from Church Leaders” by Ministry Brands about the pandemic’s impact on church giving reports that, overall, almost 60 percent of respondents indicated that a reduction in giving income is one of the top challenges facing their church. Planned gifts can buffer the negative effects of unexpected crises.

“The Jewish Federation & Foundation’s goal is to work cooperatively with all Jewish institutions in the area in a communal approach,” said Kelleher-Smith. “We recognize that a donor may been supporting a number of nonprofits annually but want to focus planned gifts to benefit one organization specifically.”

Some nonprofit professionals worry that planned gifts will cannibalize annual giving to their organizations. However, planned giving has actually been found to trigger a 75% increase in annual gifts, according to FreeWill estate planners.

“I try to show what the impact of planned gifts can be and that the foundation is here to support our organizations, not take money away from them,” Evans said.

Planned gifts officers love stories about donors who appear to be of modest means and who make no or small annual gifts but then leave large planned gifts in their will. Kelleher-Smith recalled the story of a donor who made small gifts and then nine years later made a $10 million planned gift to the hospital where she was working.

“There’s a perception that you have to be a millionaire to make a planned gift, but that’s not true,” Hart said. She shared a story about “Gail,” who said she didn’t have anything to give and owned nothing of value but her house worth $70,000.

“I asked her to think about what a $70,000 might mean to an individual and told her that would make an equally significant difference to the Salvation Army.”

“Planned gifts come in all sizes,” Kelleher-Smith said. “I talk about our shared faith tradition and remind donors of the story of the widow’s mite in the bible. She gave everything she could.”

Panel members noted that planned gifts actually seem to be on the increase during COVID-19.

“I worked with a 60-year-old who wanted to create a memorial legacy fund for his parents because he was afraid he might die from COVID,” Kelleher-Smith said.

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