Peggy Sweeney

This summer, a potential supporter visited with Sister Veronica and me at the beautiful Holy Family Home in Southwest Philadelphia, where the Little Sisters of the Poor provide loving care to the elderly poor and remain steadfastly by their side, as family.

This person is just like you and me. She had worked hard her whole life, and when she came to our meeting, she knew exactly what she wanted to do to support the home’s rebuilding project. Inspired by the charism of the Little Sisters of the Poor, she had a plan for a two-part gift: First, she would give a smaller, multi-year pledge to help right away with the construction. Next, she would work with her accountant and us on a planned gift. As the donor explained, the planned gift would enable her to make a meaningful impact on the project.

And with those words, she demystified planned giving. It really is that simple.

So, what is a planned gift? Also known as a legacy gift, it is ultimately for people who care so much about a cause that they make a commitment now to give a transformational gift after their passing. Given the uncertainty of today’s economy, it makes sense that folks are more cautious about giving from their current income. A planned gift enables you to make the impact you really want — whether to your parish, a school or a non-profit doing God’s work like the Little Sisters of the Poor — without depleting your resources.

Over the next 25 years, Americans will pass on more than $68 trillion in wealth after they are gone. Imagine what we can do if we harness a fraction of those resources to make a positive difference in our world. Imagine the legacy we can leave and the Catholic values we can preserve for our next generations.

Planned giving is not a daunting process. The first step is to talk with a trusted financial advisor. This can be a financial planner, an accountant or someone at an organization like ours, The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP). We work with our donors to identify their legacy goals and how best to achieve them, whether through a specified bequest amount in a will, or a gift of cash, stock, property, artwork, life insurance or some other tangible asset. We offer free and user-friendly resources, including a comprehensive guide on our website, TheCFGP.org.

In our experience, the easiest and most common way to make a planned gift is to make a bequest in your will of a specific amount or percentage of your estate to the causes that matter to you. Charities are thrilled to receive these gifts because they can record your support when your commitment is made, and not in the far-off future.

Another way to make a planned gift is through appreciated stock, bonds or mutual funds. There can be a substantial tax benefit for making a gift this way, and you can also avoid paying capital gains tax. A gift of life insurance is another way to make a legacy gift. You can either donate a life insurance policy or name a specific organization as the beneficiary of a policy. It’s a simple way to give a significant gift with only a small, annual premium cost.

A donor advised fund (DAF) makes it easy to give a planned gift. A DAF is a customized, personal giving account that offers you the flexibility to give to multiple organizations without the headache of establishing a foundation or doing any of the administrative work. Organizations like CFGP specialize in working with individuals to create a DAF while taking care of the administrative, audit and distribution work, as well as the investment management of the account. And in the case of CFGP, we screen all of our donors’ charities to ensure they align with the Catholic faith.

You don’t need to be wealthy to make a planned gift. The first step is to simply start the conversation with someone who can help guide your philanthropy and ensure your legacy. And it feels pretty good to be a hero to the organization you love.

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Peggy Sweeney is the chief advancement officer at The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia.