As director of planned giving for the University of Memphis, I am privileged to talk with people not just about their giving, but about why they give and how they want to be remembered.

Once the conversation begins, I often learn more about people and their values than I could in many other settings. If we were having coffee together, could you tell me which organizations are important to you, why you support some organizations at a far higher level than others, and whether you feel that your gifts make a difference?

A bequest – a gift left in your will - could be the most important charitable gift you ever make. And it’s as easy as telling your attorney to update your will. However, relatively few people put charitable gifts in their wills, even those people who give to worthy causes year in and year out. It’s not because they wouldn’t be willing to. On the contrary, recent research shows that frequent donors are happy to consider putting a charitable bequest in their wills, if someone suggests it.

I am suggesting it now, and I hope that the idea will stay with you because of its tremendous possibilities. There is much more good that our communities' best organizations could do if bequests and other estate gifts were more common. Even a relatively small charitable bequest or beneficiary gift can have a major impact, one far greater and more lasting than you might suspect.

Putting a charitable gift in your will doesn’t require much time. Neither does designating your favorite organizations as beneficiaries of a retirement account or insurance policy. You need not worry about those people you love; you can take care of them first using as much of your estate as you wish. (Keep in mind, however, that some of your assets may have a heavier tax burden to your heirs than others. Consult with your professional advisors for the best assets to leave your heirs and the best ones to leave to the organizations you value.)

Giving after your death is a way to carry forward your values and to make a statement in favor of those organizations doing work that you know is critical and unending. The UofM, for example, will still need your support 25, 50, or 100 years from now. Your planned gift provides organizations with resources to carry out their missions. When doing your estate planning, consider including those organizations that you have always supported. Once you do, let them know of your plans. They can show their gratitude, and they can make sure your wishes are followed.

Speaking on behalf of all charitable organizations let me assure you that your gifts are valued and important. The fact is that our work cannot be done without your help. The more help that you provide, the more of our work we can accomplish.

The old saying really is true: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Dan H. Murrell, director of Planned Giving, University of Memphis, 901-678-2732, dan.murrell@memphis.edu.

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