We had so much fun giving that money away
I heard those words while having lunch at a national church gathering earlier this month. A pastor described how his church set up a bequest policy - before they ever received money through a will - so that the church would have clear directions on how to use that money. And to reassure people who might be thinking of leaving money to the church in their will. People do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about how to spend it. That last sentence bears repeating: people do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about it.
It was a very encouraging conversation. The church had a plan. They divided the money roughly in thirds: special projects at the church, causes the congregation supports and charitable causes associated with the specific donor. Current living members were still the ones keeping the church going - a vital consideration for many congregations. The donor was honoured through causes matched with the donor's interests and values. And it was a celebration of generosity - an opportunity to continue the good work of the church and many other causes.
So the point of my post is: Hey churches! Do you have a bequest policy? Here's an opportunity to encourage and to celebrate generosity.
This isn't a technical how-to post - talk to my friends at Mennonite Foundation of Canada or the many faith-based institutions that can help here. It's a conversation-starter post. Maybe another example could help...
An example: Volunteers and bequests
Here in Ontario where I live, volunteers have been running the New Hamburg Relief Sale for 50 years, to raise funds for relief and development work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Many, many people have been generous with their time, talents, money and energy through the years - quilting, cooking, singing and much more. (And selling plants - that's where the flower in the photo comes from!) Millions have been raised to help with people in Canada and around the world. MCC and local congregations have a great opportunity to invite these faithful folks to leave a legacy. It's a final act of kindness in keeping with many years of giving. Imagine if all the churches involved had bequest policies. What if MCC had a dinner celebrating the long-time volunteers and asked them to consider helping MCC in their wills? Or, putting those two ideas together, a volunteer could leave money to her church in her will, knowing that the church would distribute the money in a way consistent with her values.
Instead of letting the words will, bequest and estate scare us, I really like reframing it as "we had so much fun giving that money away." Then we can make room for a discussion on one final act of kindness.