By Liz Johnson
Have you ever received a letter or email from your college or university asking you to consider leaving a bequest in your will or estate assets to your alma mater? Most of us have, and some of us have such strong ties to these institutions that we have considered them a charity of choice for current gifts even now. Colleges and universities were quick to see the financial benefits of establishing endowments with these gifts that provide investments increasing earnings through interest for the organization over time. Churches, however, have been much slower to encourage planned giving.
Currently in the U.S., 38% of all charitable giving goes to the church, but when it comes to legacy gifts or inclusion of assets at the end-of-life for ministry, churches receive only 8% of them. Less than 10% of all churches even ask for legacy gifts or mention them as an opportunity to further God’s work on earth. The church, of course, is as worthy a cause for consideration as any other non-profit cause. Most non-profits ask in every newsletter, information report, or annual pledge campaign. Planned gifts only become available upon someone’s passing. If designated to the church for ministry needs, the gift is often referred to as an “end-of-life stewardship” donation. The question for all of us is, “If we have been givers all our lives, why would we stop at the end of life, when we least need our money?
Many Christians think of legacy gifts as large donations that may be beyond the means of most. However, the truth is, almost everyone can leave some gift behind – large or small. Leaving a legacy could be as easy as naming the church or ministry as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, IRA retirement plan, or other savings account. A ministry gift could be earned from a trust for children and grandchildren that grows interest for ministry over time. It need not be out-of-pocket money. Statistics tell us the average inheritance is spent within 18 months of receiving it; sometimes a trust that distributes the inheritance over time makes sense and may earn a dividend for your favorite ministry or home church during the distribution cycle.
The plan might also benefit heirs by lowering taxes on the gift that adds to their income during that time. Planning ahead to meet your own personal goals for assets once you are gone from this earth is where a gift planner comes in. Lutheran Foundation of the Southwest provides one for the Gulf Coast Synod at no charge or obligation. When you meet with the gift planner, you receive a customized plan to fit your particular situation. The plan can grow and change over time with no downside to a change of heart, adding, or subtracting ministries as you grow.
Most of us believe in the spiritual concept of tithing. We know the blessings that result from a generous heart, but we often fail to act on a bequest plan. Any amount of money can make a difference for ministry – especially over time when the multiplying principle begins to make a small gift a big one with wise investing, just as it does for a savings account begun early for retirement purposes.
A Lutheran heritage is a treasured legacy for our children and their children. You can leave a mark on this world with a gift to ministry, whether to churchwide in humanitarian efforts, to the synod to develop leaders for the future, or with your local church.
The gift planner can recommend a financial vehicle for the goals you wish to accomplish. The foundation helps plan trusts, gift annuities, and family endowments with your bequest. You have nothing to lose by contacting our gift planner, Dr. Liz Johnson, 713.775.1595.
Let God open your heart to the concept and take advantage of this service. The cause of the Lord’s work on earth is a significant one that you can further during your life and even beyond. Be a planner for advancing ministry.