a view from the Board Side ” Estates and bequests”

By Dick  Hagerty, Advisory board Member

Our Salvation Army is uniquely blessed by the frequent bequests that come to us from wills and estates. Some of these are planned and expected, but many come as a complete surprise when announced. Often we receive bequests from generous people that no one on our board knew, or even recognized.

Several years ago we were astonished to hear that a woman had left us $1.5 million, and no one on our board, council, auxiliary or staff had ever heard of this person. In fact, she had occasionally donated $50 or $100, but never an amount that would capture attention. This gift became the springboard toward establishing our endowment, which is now over $5 million, and the monthly interest payments greatly assist us in making our operational budget.

Then, last month we heard another piece of wonderful news. A 96-year-old woman had left a net check of $1,731,533.91! Wow! Only one board member knew this person, and then only as a brief acquaintance. She left a grand total of $15,000 to family and friends.

Her financial advisor related some interesting facts to us. She never owned a dishwasher. She did not have a clothes dryer, just a clothesline in the back yard.

When asked why she would reply, “That much more for The Salvation Army.”

Now, that story should bless and encourage every one of us in the greater Salvation Army family. It surely blessed us in Modesto as we recognize the awesome avenues of opportunity that these unexpected funds will provide.

I think several lessons can be learned from these examples.

First, we need to keep our focus on “Doing the Most Good” for our community and for our beneficiaries. Donors have always recognized us for our integrity, for getting “the most bang for the buck” and for our steadfast focus on keeping to our mission. We have frequently been called “America’s Favorite Charity,” and the flow of funds to us from unexpected sources attests to that title. Our obligation is to exceed those expectations, operating with grace and integrity to honor the intent of the donor.

Second, we need to work hard at encouraging and educating the community about our needs and the ways that they can be met. We try to schedule a will clinic or an estate-planning seminar on a regular basis to educate donors as to how their estate plan can benefit them and The Salvation Army. Every advisory board should have an attorney member, and this member can help spearhead these events.

We also need to ask, better yet strongly urge, our board and council members to include the Army in their own estate plans. This is critical! In my view this is one of the clear and important expectations that should be held for membership on the board, and indeed our local work is regularly blessed by these bequests that come from our own “family” members who have passed on.

Make time at your board and council meetings to allow brief presentations by your divisional planned giving representatives. In fact, these folks should be present at every one of your meetings and be given opportunity to present and discuss creative ways to strategize wills and estate plans.

Finally, and perhaps most important, we need to keep the faith, praying and expecting that our Lord will assist us in providing these blessings. Every time I hear of an expected estate bequest to our local Army work I breathe a prayer of thanks, knowing that “With God all things are possible.”

Feel free to contact Dick at rghagerty@aol.com for questions, board related materials and comments concerning advisory board issues.

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