May is Leave a Legacy Month across Canada – an important time for charities who rely on people leaving a percentage of their estate to causes they care about after they pass.
It is also a chance for donors to become aware of what opportunities they have for legacy giving and to consider what they would like to leave behind.
One local organization that manages charitable gifts is the Victoria Foundation. Through working with donors to establish legacy funds and permanent endowments that support hundreds of charities each year, the organization has distributed to date more than $287 million.
The impacts of legacy giving are far reaching and often unseen, but affect our communities in ways we don’t often consider, said Natasha Benn, manager of philanthropic services at Victoria Foundation.
“If you go to the hospital, somebody paid for the X-ray machine. Not necessarily the hospital, but a donor. Everyone has been touched by somebody else’s generosity,” Benn said.
Michelle Atamanchuk, development officer at Victoria Hospice, illustrates how legacy giving can have profound impact on the charities they support.
“Last year, legacy gifts accounted for 50 per cent of donated funds and this year it’s closer to 35 per cent,” Atamanchuk said. “Legacy gifts are a significant portion of our fundraising and have an enormous impact on those we serve.”
One of the easiest and most popular ways to leave a legacy gift is through a will, Benn said, but there are multiple other ways.
These include gifts of real property – such as real estate, works of art and antiques – by listing the Victoria Foundation as a beneficiary of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), or through life insurance.
Those who are uncertain of how or who to give to can meet with someone at the foundation and be guided through the process. Benn said that donors can choose specific charities to give to or a general cause instead.
“For instance, animal welfare, the environment, single parents,” Benn said. “We help donors in their philanthropy and explore what options might resonate with them.”
Benn said what matters is to consider “what’s important to you.” And, she said, anyone can leave a legacy, no matter how great or small.
“I think even leaving a small legacy can leave an impact, especially when it’s made from the heart,” said Benn. “One organization I worked for, a donor left a $1,000 gift through her estate, but it was the letter that came from the daughter as to her reasoning why that gift was made and it was so heartfelt … it might be a small gift but the reason behind that gift was so impactful.”
The message that anyone can give is part of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners’ broad-based marketing campaign Will Power, that aims to have more Canadians leave a gift in their will. In the last three years since the campaign began, the organization’s surveys indicate that Canadians leaving a charitable gift in their will has gone from five per cent to eight per cent.
Campaign organizers anticipate they can raise as much as $58 billion by 2030 if they can meet their aim of 13 per cent of Canadians leaving a gift in their will.
Benn points out that it is a good time for the campaign’s message, which the foundation is supporting.
“Right now, Canada is going through a huge transfer of generational wealth. There’s about $750 billion that will be inherited by Canadian baby boomers. So considering the community, legacy giving is so important.”
Benn was referring to a report that came out from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in 2016, predicting the next 10 years will have the largest transfer of wealth in Canada’s history.
“All of the legacy gifts we receive touch our hearts – to know that a donor is showing such a commitment to our community, it is just so meaningful,” said Jenny McLeod director of philanthropy at United Way Southern Vancouver Island, an organization that supports programs and services for families, seniors, and individuals struggling with mental health and addictions.