Let’s say you’re a nonprofit board member and you are asked to include the organization in your “estate plan.” How would you react? Would you think – or maybe say out loud – “Are you crazy?” Would you stutter, “Estate plan? I’m still paying off my student loans!!”
At face value the above proposition sounds crazy. You’re making a commitment to give your time, expertise, and focus to a nonprofit. You’ve agreed to give a gift on an annual basis and to purchase tickets and attend events. Now they want you to give part of all that you will ever accumulate? We don’t think it’s that crazy a proposition. The perceived craziness comes from how and when the ask is made.
The “when” of the ask. If you are a longstanding member of the board, it is appropriate to consider including your nonprofit in your estate plans. You’ve given years of service so this must be important to you. You know what the organization’s financial health is and what it could do with such a gift. The “how” of the ask. You can ask yourself the question, or a fellow board member might ask you. We recommend that you ask yourself if this type of giving is in line with your values and financial abilities. You might at some time be asked by a fellow board member – or a former board member – who has made such a decision and wants to start a conversation about this with you.
Choosing to make a planned gift – or to include a nonprofit in your estate plan – is an important decision. There are a lot of things to consider, most of which should not be considered alone. First, as with all giving, you shouldn’t feel pressured. This is your decision to make. Talk with your family members and those you are committed to. Share what you are considering and why, and ask for their opinion. Do they agree with what you are considering? Talk with your fellow board members. Ask for their thoughts and whether or not they have made – or considered – such a gift. Talk with a staff member – either the CEO or a development officer. Inquire about the benefits and opportunities that could be available to you and your family as a result of your gift. Talk with your financial planner and/or attorney to gain their insights and ask about tax implications.
If you decide to make an estate gift or planned gift, consider asking others to make a similar decision. As you are comfortable, talk about your gift and the process you went through before making a decision. Whether it is choosing to include a nonprofit as a percentage beneficiary of a life-insurance policy, making a pledge that you will pay out over multiple years, or including your nonprofit as a full or partial beneficiary on an investment you can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to consider what you can do now, and after you are gone.