I just returned from the #leadingage19 Annual Meeting and Expo. There I co-presented a session about endowments with Bill McMorran from Green Oak Consulting. Thinking about endowments and legacy giving reminded me of this story which I posted late last year.
“Today is my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone for nearly 20 years but her legacy lives on in the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that are part of her family line.
Today she is the focus of an article about legacy because she is the perfect example of the phrase we use in our work: anyone can leave a legacy. As a first-generation American who lived through the Depression mom didn’t have much, yet what she did have she shared.
She gave in simple ways, in the church collection plate and by leaving food on the porch for people passing through the community who had no home. Those may seem small contributions but like the story of the starfish being thrown into the ocean one at a time, her gifts made a difference for each hungry person who came by our house.
I have come to realize that it was my mother’s example that led me to become a giver. In some ways it was also she who led me to become a fundraiser. I do what I do because, like my mom, I believe that giving is about changing and saving lives (sometimes of the donor as much as the recipient).
Mother, I didn’t say it when you were alive, thank you. Thank you for giving me life and for being the role model that you were, you may be gone, but your legacy lives on.”
My mom didn’t have the resources to create a financial endowment. However, she endowed her family with gifts equal to those given by the wealthiest of donors.
Is there someone who endowed you with a gift that has enhanced your life? Remember that donors may be thinking about someone like this when they choose to create an endowed fund in honor or memory of a loved one or friend (maybe even a pet).
As fundraisers, we come across people from all circumstances. Some appear to be lacking in resources yet are financially considered to be rich. Others have much, yet seem to be lacking in spirit and seek connection and meaning. Still, others are not able to contribute large sums of money but want to ensure a lasting impact by giving what they can in the form of a legacy gift.
All of these many other types of donors can create or contribute to endowed funds. We can help these individuals to make meaning of their lives and legacies. We can serve as conduits for them to pass on values or change the world in ways that will live on long after they have departed this world.
Whose life might you change today?
Sophie Penney is the President of i5 Fundraising and the Senior Program Coordinator and a Lecturer for Penn State University’s online courses in fundraising.