What do you want your legacy to be?
Among many of us, making charitable donations to help meet immediate needs in our communities has been a regular aspect of life. In recent years, there has been more of a focus on making an impact with donations in order to drive changes and to leave a lasting legacy.
If you are looking to achieve results meaningful to you through charitable giving, strategic philanthropy can be an effective approach. Strategic philanthropy involves setting out your or your family’s goals, establishing a long-term plan, and using that plan as a guide to make your vision a reality. Although it requires more time and effort, a proper plan will optimize the impact of your convictions, beliefs and values.
Start with what you care about
Whether your gifts are driven by financial reasons or inspired by generosity, determining your motivations for giving is the first step in developing an effective strategy for a long-term plan. People choose to give for many reasons, and to help determine what you want to achieve, ask yourself, “What do I value?” “What change do I want to make?” and, “What organizations are aligned with my mission?”
Get your family involved
There are two things you should think about if you’re considering philanthropic giving:
- Engage your family – After you’re gone, what role would you like your family members to play in carrying on your legacy and delivering on your expectations? Families that engage in philanthropy together have the opportunity to express their values and objectives in a more structured form. It’s also a teachable moment for children—including adult children—to have them engaged in discussions about your wishes.
- Work with organizations you are involved with to create your legacy – If you have been engaged with an organization as a volunteer or a donor, consider working with them as you think of your legacy. Organizations are really enthusiastic about working with donors to do things that honour their wishes and values. They will appreciate the opportunity to participate with you in your planning.
Legacy planning in your Will
The only way that you’re going to be able to ensure that your charitable giving intentions are fulfilled, is if you document them, and go through a very careful planning process with your legal and tax advisors to ensure your wishes will be carried out the way that you want them to. Without clearly articulating your intentions, there is no certainty, or even likelihood, that your philanthropic intentions will be fulfilled.
The reality of Canadian demographics is that we are living longer, but we are not necessarily living healthy for longer. While we’re going to have extended life expectancies, there’s a chance that a time may come when we are not in a position to continue to manage our own affairs. As a result, you need to plan for who is going to be making decisions for you during that period, and again articulate your instructions about how you want your charitable intentions fulfilled.
If you don’t have a Will or a power of attorney, things can get much more complicated, and there is really no way to ensure that any philanthropic intentions you have for your estate will be fulfilled. The only way to do that is through a careful estate plan and a well-documented Will and power of attorney. Your communities and the charities that serve them mean a lot to you—so don’t leave your legacy, including your chance to support them, to chance.