Is Your Church Prepared to Receive the $1M Check?

Legacy Giving // May 1, 2014

He sat quietly at a side table; dignified salt and pepper hair. Conversation buzzed around him.

The discussion in the room centered around the success of a recent generosity initiative. The next step involved planning appropriate follow-up strategies for the fulfillment phase.

 Of the numerous suggestions that came, one involved legacy giving. So he waited for an opportunity before speaking as he had an important story to tell.

An attorney by trade, he was recently involved in the estate closing at the death of one of his clients. As part of the closing process, his law office had just written a check for $1,000,000. The recipient of this check? The IRS.

He knew this client personally as an active and supportive member of a nearby church. If his client had known, been informed better or taken action, those funds would not have been due to the IRS. However, there was nothing in the client’s estate plan to specify any other recipient. Hence, the check had to go to the government.

You could hear a pin drop in that room!

The expressions of those around me come to mind even now! The collective question was: “Would a focus on legacy giving be beneficial for our church?” Unsurprisingly enough, the answer was a resounding yes!

For over a decade I have heard pastors lament, after learning that church members gave a large gift to their alma mater or a non-profit. The pastors ask me, “Do they not know that we could use that gift, as much or more than the place where they gave it?”

Like any charitable gift, a legacy gift must be cultivated. Building relationships, casting vision, investing in your people and inviting them to partner with your church mission are all part of the gifting process. Unlike regular charitable gifts, legacy giving warrants that you educate your people about it.

Pastor, if you think legacy gifts are going to appear on their own, you’re wrong. Charitable organizations, other than your church missions, receive legacy gifts because those groups are working to educate people about the possibilities.

They help people understand what can be done through their will and estate plans. They cast vision for how a legacy gift could be used in their institution to further their mission.

So, is it worth it? In 2006 alone, $22.91 billion was given in bequest gifts (almost 8% of all charitable giving that year). The average bequest gift was an estimated $35,000.

The misperceptions are many, but mostly there is silence. It’s not a topic that gets talked about in most ministries or something that you see in church materials.

I suspect that silence exists for many reasons, the main one likely being, “I don’t know anything about legacy giving, and so I can’t talk to my people about it.”

The possibilities of gift planning are immense! I am here to work with you on this aspect of Kingdom growth. Get in touch today for answers to your questions on legacy giving.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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