Sometimes a planned gift has impact and reach beyond your wildest dreams.

My father has a little bit different approach to estate planning. He believes that an inheritance has a lot more potential if it is accessible to its “inheritees” now rather than at some point in the future. He’s continuing his family’s tradition.

As a part of his paycheck and later his pension distribution, my dad bought savings bonds each month in my sister’s and my names. Over the years we collected quite a stack of these little pieces of paper that together represented some mysterious unknown potential. a planned gift

I remember the day, once it was determined I was old enough, that the caretaking of my bonds passed to me. I was reluctant to accept the mantle of responsibility. It was much better, in my opinion, (and much less tempting) to keep the bonds out of sight and out of mind in my parent’s safekeeping.

My father had other intentions. He explained that he wanted the bonds to be available to me for when I needed them. Now it was up to me to make the decisions on what to do with them. Maybe I would cash them in to put a down payment on a house. Maybe I would choose to reinvest them with a financial planner. Maybe I would make a gift to a cause that I felt was doing important things. Whatever I chose to do with the bonds he believed I would make the best decision and felt it was important to give me the freedom to make those choices.

This was a lot of responsibility – to choose what was important enough to invest my father’s investment in me.

Dad’s done some pretty amazing things. He reached the top of his field in research, became a sought-after international presenter and lecturer, and even chaired a fundraising campaign or two. My father has believed in the power of education and knowledge sharing since ‘way back, even before he took up the official mantle of “educator” in his second career as a professor. He works to empower others with the skills and knowledge needed to go out and make a difference and trusts them to make their own exceptional contributions.

a planned giftDad recently received the Outstanding Educator Award for his impact in his field. For those in education, especially, fulltime educators, this award would be similar to an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in the field. A true and singular honor for a lifetime of dedicated work. As I read the testimonials in support of his nomination from those whose lives he’s touched and careers he’s shaped, I gathered a clear picture of just how wide and far his impact has been. Letters of support came in from across the world, from students, from peers, and even from those he knew when he was serving in the Navy; before he was an educator. The impact spanned the globe and stretched back over 40 years.  That impact, it was clear, would continue into the future from the testimonials of through those whose careers were in their early stages. What a legacy to witness!

A little more than a year ago, I wanted to increase my impact.

I decided to turn my attention from fundraising to teaching others how to get great fundraising results. I believed I could help more people make changes in their communities, wherever in the world they are, by sharing the “secrets” of fundraising than fundraising for them. All this last year, I’ve been building the online version of the Ask Masters fundraising courses to help nonprofits generate the resources they need to achieve their missions day in and day out, year after year. And as you might guess, developing a new approach is usually more involved and takes longer to build than you think it will when you initially set out.

a planned giftDuring the process, I made the easy decisions first. I invested all my savings, everything I had set aside for “rainy days” and emergencies. I took out a couple of loans. As those resources got used up it was time to take stock. If I was going to even consider using the savings bonds I was doubly responsible for making a wise decision. After all, while my dad had invested his trust and his resources in me for all those years, he was also entrusting his lasting legacies. Was investing in Ask Masters online important enough to merit the gravitas of cashing my father’s savings bonds? Would it honor his intentions he had for me when he started buying bonds? What if it failed? The potential the bonds represented would be gone forever.

Taking a risk with my own money was one thing, but deciding what to do with my father’s legacy investment was something else again.

I thought. I weighed and measured. I looked at it from all angles. And today, I took the plunge. I cashed the savings bonds my father bought for me. Ask Masters launches at the end of August. I’m excited, nervous, and really can’t wait to share. We’re leading off with a special, 4-part, free Fundraising Accelerator course. If you’d like to be on the list to receive the free course, you can sign up here.

I think my dad will be proud. I know he believes in empowerment through education and skill building. I like to think that people all over the world will be able to take an Ask Masters course that will help them to make changes in their communities by becoming better fundraisers. And I like to think that all these changes will be due, in some part, to the investment my dad made in me all those years ago.

So… what legacies have been entrusted to you with a planned gift and how do you honor them?

a planned gift

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