The UUA has resources to help organize a planned giving program in your congregation.
Anybody who has been a Unitarian Universalist lay leader or religious professional shares the same sad secret: they spend much more time thinking and talking about money than they want to. With the neverending annual budget cycle and pressing financial needs, it’s often hard to look up from the monthly financials and say, “Where are we going to be ten years from now?”
It’s no panacea, but a well-organized planned giving program can help.
“We have a responsibility to the future,” said Beverly Cutter, a member of the Legacy Circle Committee at the UU Congregation of Asheville, North Carolina. “It’s important to raise the next generation of UUs, and they’re going to need some resources.”
For the last six years, Cutter, a retired educational and nonprofit fundraiser, has been a member of the group that helps her congregation’s members make decisions about legacy giving, also known as planned giving.
Planned giving takes many forms. The most familiar, of course, is the traditional bequest in which a member leaves some portion of his or her estate to their church or some other UU organization. Yet, as the Rev. Laura Randall, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s legacy campaign director, pointed out, planned giving can take many forms. There are gifts of stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, IRAs, life insurance policies, and real estate. There are charitable gift annuities, umbrella giving programs—the list goes on and on.
“A planned gift is usually the most significant gift an individual can make,” Randall said. “It says, ‘This congregation means something to me.’”
If the number of ways in which a legacy gift can be made sounds daunting, organizing a planned giving program at a local congregation may seem even more challenging. That’s where Randall and the UUA come in.
“We have resources that can help a congregation start a planned giving program from the very beginning,” she said, “or revive one that’s stagnated over the years.”
The UUA’s legacy giving program has many resources available for congregations that want to either start or rejuvenate a planned giving program, ranging from online workshops, PowerPoint presentations, and webinars to online gift calculators useful to people who might be considering, for instance, a charitable gift annuity. Randall also typically offers a live presentation during each year’s General Assembly. And she is always available to answer questions.
Asking for a legacy gift, Cutter said, is very different from conducting the kind of annual stewardship campaign most congregations have. “It’s not the aggressive kind of annual budget drive that you do in twelve weeks,” she said. “It calls for a one-on-one conversation with the individual.”
Besides getting in touch with the UUA’s legacy giving program (giftplans [at] uua [dot] org (subject: UU%20World%20article%20about%20planned%20giving%2C%20Spring%202017) ()), Randall and Cutter have these pieces of advice to get congregations started: “The number one reason people say they gave a gift is because someone asked them to,” Randall said. Cutter added, “Be patient. You’re not going to go out and talk to somebody and leave with a signed legacy intention form. It takes some time.”
Planned giving includes a range of giving opportunities, including charitable bequests, life income gift arrangements, gifts of real estate, and those that use retirement and insurance plan benefits.
In return for a planned gift, donors and their families may receive estate and income tax benefits or an annual income stream for their life or the life of a secondary beneficiary.
Most planned gifts are deferred, meaning a congregation, the UUA, or another designated UU entity will receive the financial benefits after the donor dies.
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Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who is also a member of the UU Church of Studio City, California.