Best Way To Launch a Legacy Giving Program

Legacy giving is a powerful way for charities to secure long-term financial support and ensure the sustainability of their mission. The key to a successful legacy giving program is taking the time to encourage individuals and families to include the charitable organization in their financial and estate plans. Launching a legacy giving program requires careful planning and a commitment to implement it step-by-step in a way that allows the tactical activities to reflect the overall strategic plan.  Here, I will explore with you the best ways for a charity to launch a legacy giving program, focusing on building relationships, educating potential donors, and providing seamless administrative support.

Building Relationships – Establishing quality relationships with potential legacy donors is crucial for the success of a legacy giving program. Here are a few strategic steps that can yield great building blocks for a new program:

Connect on a personal level and engage the potential legacy donor in the life of the organization in meaningful ways. Of all the donors who support your organization, a good starting point is identifying the individuals and families who have shown significant and consistent support for the charity over the years. Reach out to these individuals and look for opportunities to engage in personal conversations. The aim here is to learn about and understand their philanthropic goals and aspirations. Philanthropic relationships are built on trust and rapport. These conversations are the first steps in raising the donor’s level of awareness and knowledge, which will be important as they begin to consider the importance of a legacy gift.

Hold donor appreciation events. While it may be possible and appropriate to organize an event exclusively for those who already have remembered your organization with a legacy gift, it may be just as effective – and much more cost-efficient – to piggyback on existing eventswhere you can include time to recognize and honor those whose legacy commitments have made (and will make) a significant impact on the organization. Invite a select number of potential legacy donors to such gatherings to give them an opportunity to see how the organization expresses gratitude, showcases the impact of the legacy commitments, and spotlights the benefits to the donors who make legacy gifts.

Create a Legacy Society.  If one already exists, then focus a special initiative on rebranding and relaunching the legacy society to raise awareness and attract new members. The key value of a legacy society is that it helps to create a sense of community among legacy donors. Offer special benefits such as exclusive updates, invitations to events, and recognition in publications. This fosters a sense of belonging and encourages others to join.

Educating Potential Legacy Donors – Educating potential donors about legacy giving is essential to focus on creative gift planning opportunities, highlight the benefits to the donor and the organization, and dispel common misconceptions.  Here are a few key strategies to consider:

Customize and personalize your communications. Craft targeted messages that focus on the importance of legacy giving and showcase the impact it can have on the charity’s future. Use various communication channels, such as newsletters, website content, and social media, to educate potential donors about the legacy society.

Provide simple, easy-to-read materials. Focus on opportunities to make legacy gifts in one’s Will or Trust. It’s the number one way that donors create legacy gifts.  Avoid the alphabet soup of gift strategies that have no real meaning to donors and just make it harder to engage in quality conversations with donors.  CGA, CRAT, CRUT, CLT, et al.… When a situation arises when a discussion about a complex gift plan is appropriate, that will be the time to introduce such ideas. But, as a general rule, prepare simple materials – brochures with personal case studies and testimonials – that use real-life examples to demonstrate how their contribution can make a lasting difference.

Engage professional advisors. Collaborating with local estate planning lawyers, financial advisors, and accountants provides opportunities to first raise their awareness about your organization and, in turn, helps them raise the awareness of clients who may have an interest in your organization. Look for opportunities to co-host informative seminars or workshops. These sessions can address legal and financial aspects of legacy giving, dispel any concerns potential donors may have, and feature examples of the impact legacy gifts have for your organization.

Seamless Administrative Support – Streamlining the administrative process and providing ongoing support are crucial for a successful legacy giving program. Consider the following approaches:

Dedicate at least one member of the staff as the Legacy Giving Officer.  Appoint a staff member to serve in a full-time or at least part-time role so that your organization has a specific point of contact for potential legacy donors. This individual should possess strong interpersonal skills and a working knowledge of legacy giving, enough familiarity with the subject-matter to provide potential legacy donors with personalized support and guidance.

Develop documentation that is professional in appearance and transparent in purpose. Your legacy giving documentation – such as testamentary gift agreements and sample provisions for a Will or Trust – should be clear and concise.  Ensure that potential legacy donors have easy access to the information they need to make informed decisions.

Provide appropriate donor recognition as part of a year-round stewardship program.  If permitted by the donors, publicly recognize and express gratitude to your legacy donors for their commitments. Highlight their contributions in annual reports, newsletters, and other communication channels. Recognizing their generosity inspires others to consider legacy giving.

A Final Thought – Launching a successful legacy giving program requires a strategic and thoughtful approach. By building relationships, educating potential donors, and providing seamless administrative support, charities can foster a culture of legacy giving within their donor community. Emphasizing the impact of legacy gifts, showcasing success stories, and offering ongoing support will encourage individuals to leave a legacy, ensuring the organization’s continued growth and impact for years to come

Ted Sudol

(Reference Partner Chat GPT)

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Thoughts on Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-Advised Funds, by whatever name they may be called, have been gaining in popularity year after year recently as a philanthropic tool. However, there are a few things to think about when considering creating and using a Donor-Advised Fund.

It’s important to understand how a Donor-Advised Fund works. Once funds are contributed to a Donor-Advised Fund, the funds are no longer the donor’s funds. They are an asset of the organization that holds and administers the Donor-Advised Fund. This is the reason why the donor cannot direct the use of the funds in a Donor-Advised Fund and can only recommend the distributions of the funds as grants from the Donor-Advised Fund. And, the process of acting on the donor’s recommendations takes time – generally five-to-ten days. This can lead to delays in getting funds to the intended beneficiaries.

While the donor can only recommend grant distributions, experience offers comfort: As long as the intended cause is a legal and appropriate charitable organization, the Donor-Advised Fund’s administrator should be expected to follow the donor’s recommendations about distributions from the Donor-Advised Fund. If ever donor recommendations do not receive this deference, it’s not likely Donor-Advised Funds would continue to be as popular as they now are.

Another concern is the lack of transparency. Donors who contribute to Donor-Advised Fund can chose to remain anonymous. This makes it difficult at times for charitable organizations to know who is supporting their work via a grant from a Donor-Advised Fund. Donor recognition and stewardship efforts are challenged by this anonymity. Sometimes this is a good thing – especially for high profile donors who choose to support controversial causes via anonymous grants from a Donor-Advised Fund. Without the knowledge that the Donor-Advised Fund grant will be anonymous, some donors may be reticent to make the gifts they wish to make.

Also, some concern has been noted that a Donor-Advised Fund allows donors to take advantage of the tax-deductibility of transfers into a Donor-Advised Fund – receiving an immediate benefit of a federal charitable contribution tax deduction – while then storing these tax-advantaged fund indefinitely in the Donor-Advised Fund without any requirements regarding the ultimate distribution of the funds as grants to charitable beneficiaries.

While this concern may be technically accurate, the actual experience of donors and Donor-Advised Funds in recent years has shown that as donors are increasingly turning to Donor-Advised Funds as, essentially, their charitable giving check book, the number and size of grants from Donor-Advised Fund are growing larger and larger each year. This is wonderful news for all the charities that are benefitting from the receipt of Donor-Advised Fund grants.

Despite some concerns, it’s worth noting that Donor-Advised Funds are rightly becoming a strategy of choice for more and more individual and families at all levels of income and wealth. While family foundations may be the domain of the very wealthy, Donor-Advised Funds offer even those who have modest means a way to become creative philanthropists. It’s a most-effective way to carry out the charitable giving aspirations of individual and families – and, it just may be the right idea for you.

A Donor-Advised Fund offers you flexibility and convenience, allowing you to plan your giving over time. If you would like more information on how a Donor-Advised Fund may be right for you, contact Ted Sudol, J.D. at Athens Philanthropic. By phone 540.820.0246 and by e-mail at


(Reference partner ChatGPT)

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Does Your Financial Plan Include Charitable Giving?

Charitable giving may be the missing piece in your plan

The image for On Philanthropy represents the time-tested Carpenter’s Rule for a reason.  Measure Twice, Cut Once.  Charitable gift planning has a lot in common with this simple rule.  Getting it right the first time makes all the difference.  For you, your family, and the charities you care about.

Helping individuals and families figure out the best ways to support their favorite charities and causes is what I have been doing for a long time.  What I know from experience time and again is that the best solutions are usually the simple solutions.

There are a variety of creative ways to craft just the right charitable giving strategy.  The right plan can nicely complement your overall financial and estate plans.  As a seamlessly connected comprehensive plan, you can meet your financial needs and include a tax-wise way to achieve your philanthropic aspirations – both during your lifetime and as a legacy later on.

With the right plan, you can be sure the causes and charities you care most about will continue to benefit from your support for years to come.  A charitable legacy may be the missing piece in your overall plans. Or, what you have right now may not accomplish all you’d like to do.  Finding the optimal solution is worth the time to get it right.  There are ways available to help you make your charitable giving simple and more effective right now – and, create a legacy to carry on your giving for generations to come.

If you would like to learn more about the ways you can do this, contact me and let me  know you’d like to hear about the options you have. You can reach me by calling +1 540.820.0246 or by e-mail at


Ted Sudol

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The Campaign-Ready Board of Directors

Campaign Planning Studies invariably find that the individuals serving on the organization’s board of directors need to become better known in the community – especially among the community’s top philanthropists – for their work on behalf of the organization they serve.

Why is this so important? Because active engagement by the organization’s team of volunteer leaders within the community of philanthropists is a harbinger of successful campaigns. Fundraising is a competitive sport. The stakes are transformational changes that can elevate an organization into position to create solutions and impact lives.

Here’s the thing: The Board’s capacity to influence a substantive number of philanthropic decisions often is the ‘X’ Factor that separates successful campaign from all the others.

Is the Board of Directors campaign-ready? Five things that can help:

Training & Orientation. Fundraising often generates many questions, fears, and concerns for board members.   The solution? Use training & orientation sessions to help increase comfort and confidence, build each member’s capacity to contribute in an effective way, and demonstrate that fundraising is well within their talents and abilities.

Grow the Team. Task Board members with finding others to join the team as volunteer campaign leaders. Every community has individuals willing and able to sign on for short-term, highly focused projects and tasks. A full-scale campaign requires a large corps of volunteers. Behind the scenes roles – unpaid staff – are ideal for those who prefer not to be frontline fundraisers.

First In Commitments. Before asking others, Board members need to make their own gift decisions. And, it’s a good exercise to experience the thoughtful decision-making such commitments require. Their support challenges and inspires those asked later to support the campaign.

Ask Others to Give. Each ask needs the right person asking. Personal relationships, credibility, and stature are important. Such indicators often point to Board members. Since asking is not for everyone, Board members who identify prospective donors and provide access to them also are valuable contributors to a total team effort.

Top Philanthropic Priority. If people in the community don’t believe that members of the Board view the organization as their top philanthropic priority, as being absolutely vital and critical to the community, then why should they? Board members must lead by example. By making an exciting financial commitment – and, by being an extraordinary champion of the organization – a Board member can make all the difference in a campaign’s success.

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In Campaign Planning Today It’s About Readiness, Not Feasibility

Whether an organization is large or small – whether it’s a large university or a small community organization – a campaign planning study plays a critically important part in revealing the organization’s likelihood to succeed in a fundraising venture.

Let’s be clear: I don’t mean answering just the ‘if’ question – “…if we start a campaign, are there enough people of means and interest who may support our cause?” I mean all the ‘how’ and ‘when’ questions too. I mean a thorough assessment of the organization’s readiness to be embark on a fundraising venture. Indeed, the focus must be all about readiness.

Does the organization have the business process in place, the infrastructure, the policies and procedures, the staff and budgetary resources? Is it ready to start down this road? And if it is not, then it does not matter that some firm has reported that its feasibility study says ‘you’re good to go.’ Because you’re just not.

My concern these days is that there are some who seem to be saying an organization can do this all on their own. And they can’t. They have neither the objectivity nor the expertise to be their own client. And I believe it is ill-advised to encourage organizations to conduct Do-It-Yourself campaign planning studies – it’s neither pound wise nor penny foolish, it’s just a bad idea.

No one wants to witness a campaign that might otherwise have been successful stall or crash shortly after launch. Such outcomes happen. Too frequently. These are outcomes that can be avoided. Launching a fundraising initiative with confidence that it’s the right time to do so and when all indicators are pointing in the right direction – that’s readiness. That’s the conditions conducive to a successful campaign. And that’s the value of a readiness-focused campaign planning study. It’s what I do.

If you would like to learn more about campaign planning studies, I welcome your contact.

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Philanthropy is nonpartisan, so why can’t running our country be, too?

Perhaps you are as troubled as I am that it’s impossible to read a newspaper or watch a news report on any given day and not see another example of a partisan divide that cripples productive thought and action. This is not the case in the voluntary sector, so why is it the case in the public sector?

I am not naive. I don’t suggest that we eliminate politics from the equation, but the poison of partisanship is another matter. It’s one thing to have a variety of views and an assortment of parties that reflect differing – even opposing – perspectives, but it is quite another to treat every statement, every idea, every proposal, every action in a negative light just because of its source.

We don’t do this in the voluntary sector. That’s not to say that everyone gets along all the time or that there are not debates about how best to tackle a problem – but, when issues arise, when problems emerge, philanthropy responds to help without checking on the party registration of whoever crafted the proposal on how to respond to the issue at hand.

Charitable organizations raise nearly one billion dollars a day in the United States alone. Money that helps volunteers and professionals tackle some of the biggest issues and problems we face as a society. When the donors who make these contributions are honored, when galas are held, when ground-breaking ceremonies take place, Democrats and Republicans stand side by side on common ground, recognized for contributing to the common good. Alexis de Tocqueville saw this about the people of America and it’s still true today.

Except when it comes to running our government.

Perhaps it’s time to bring to politics in the public sector the spirit that guides philanthropy in the voluntary sector. Perhaps it’s time to bring grace and dignity to the table of compromise for the common good of our country. After all, partisanship ain’t working so why not try something else?

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Giving Tuesday… Can It Scale To $1 Billion This Year?

Been thinking about ways for philanthropy to make quantum leaps (not just incremental steps) to take on and solve some of the big problems we face – around the world and right in our little corners of the world.

So I’ve been thinking about Giving Tuesday.  In one sense, it’s been around for three years now.  In another sense, it’s been around for just three days.  Last year, nearly $50 million was raised on Giving Tuesday with contributions from nearly 300,000 donors.  I’m wondering about scale.  Here’s the question:  What would it take to scale up Giving Tuesday to reach $1 billion dollars this year, with five million donors around the world?  

We have time to figure this out.  So, let’s do it!  I’d be interested in hearing what you think about how this can be accomplished…


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U.S. House of Representatives Acts on Charitable Legislation

The US House of Representatives this past week passed a bill that would address several important charitable priorities, including a provision to renew and make permanent the IRA Charitable Rollover. Long supported by the voluntary sector, the IRA Charitable Rollover offers a special way for those with IRAs to support charitable causes. The bill was approved by a vote of 279-137, with 39 Democrats joining the Republican majority to ensure passage by a wide margin. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Known as the Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015, the bill includes the following provisions:

– The IRA Rollover.

– An extension and expansion of the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory,

– An enhanced deduction for gifts of qualified conservation easements,

– Modification of the excise tax on the investment income of private foundations.

Unfortunately, the President has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk in its present form. The House would need 290 votes to override a veto.

So, what does it all mean? Despite the time money and effort that has been expended on Capitol Hill in recent years to move these provisions into law, partisan squabbling continues to make reaching shore a greater challenge than it should be. At this point, the U.S. Senate still needs to pass the bill and then it needs to be signed by the President or, should he veto it, the House would need to garner enough votes to override a veto. In other words, the saga continues. I’ll keep you informed.

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A Very Limited Time Offer – Charitable IRA Rollover Extension Thru December 31 Awaits a Presidential Signature

Background – The IRA Charitable Rollover has been around now for a few years.  It allows individuals 70½ and older to exclude from their taxable income IRA distributions of up to $100,000 as long as the distributions are transferred directly from the IRA to a charity. The law allowing this opportunity expired on December 31, 2013 and discussion in Washington throughout 2014 has focused on its reinstatement. The House of Representatives and the Senate each had somewhat different versions under consideration throughout the year and this delayed the passage of a Bill. That changed this week.

This Week’s Development – On Wednesday, December 17, the U.S. Senate passed a Bill that had already cleared the House of Representatives. It is known as the “Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014” (H.R. 5771).  Its purpose is to retroactively renew many expired or expiring tax provisions commonly known as tax extenders – and, the good news is that the Bill includes an extension of the Charitable IRA Rollover – but, only through December 31, 2014. 

It is expected that the Bill will be presented very soon for the President’s signature.  The consensus among Washington insiders is that the President is likely to sign the Bill into law.  On the other hand, as a practical matter, if the Act is not signed soon it won’t be worth the ink with which it’s signed.

What To Do Next – Because there will be precious little time to act once the Act is signed, the most useful action step would be to identify the donors you have who have taken advantage of the Charitable IRA Rollover in the past and reach out to them as soon as the President signs the Bill to encourage them to take advantage of this opportunity before December 31, 2014.

Please Note – These Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs are not tax deductible; but, they do offer donors substantial advantages:

  • The distributions are not included in the donor’s taxable income.
  • The amounts distributed to charity count toward the donor’s Required Minimum Distribution amount.
  • The distributions reduce the principal in the IRAs, effectively reducing the tax impact of distributions in future years.

Also, a few other things to keep in mind –

  • Donors who have already withdrawn their 2014 Required Minimum Distributions cannot re-characterize those distributions as Qualified Charitable Distributions, even if they subsequently write a check for an equal amount to a charity.
  • But, a donor can still make a 2014 Qualified Charitable Distribution even if the donor has already taken a 2014 Required Minimum Distribution.
  • The distribution to the charity must be delivered to the charity by the IRA’s Administrator on or before December 31, 2014. If the payment is sent by mail, the postmark will determine the delivery date; if the payment is sent electronically, delivery will be determined by the date the funds reach the charity’s account.
  • For some donors, the reinstatement of this law may be something they anticipated earlier in the year and already acted on. That is, if a donor arranged for a direct transfer to charity earlier in 2014 in anticipation of reauthorization by Congress, and the transfer met all the law’s requirements, it will qualify as a Qualified Charitable Distribution under the renewed provisions.
  • One thing this Bill does not do is allow for distributions made in January/February 2015 to be considered to have been made in 2014.

Below is draft language you can adapt for an e-mail communication with your donors, in the event that the Bill is signed into law by the President.  If you have questions about this language, please contact me.

Sample Language for an e-mail to Donors – 

As you might have heard, the President recently signed the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 into law.  Among its provisions, the law extends the Charitable IRA Rollover for 2014.  This means that individuals age 70 ½ or older are authorized to make tax-free distributions from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) of up to $100,000 to qualified charitable organizations.  While these Qualified Charitable Distributions are not tax deductible, they do offer substantial advantages. The distributions are not included in your taxable income and they can also count as the your Required Minimum Distribution for 2014.

There are several important things to know about Charitable IRA Rollover in 2014:

(1) To qualify, the distribution to charity must be delivered to the charity by the IRA’s Administrator on or before December 31, 2014.

(2) If you made a direct distribution from your IRA to a qualified charity earlier in 2014 in anticipation of reauthorization by Congress, that distribution (up to $100,000) will count as a Qualified Charitable Distribution as long as all other requirements are met.

(3) Required Minimum Distributions already withdrawn from your IRA in 2014 cannot be re-characterized as Qualified Charitable Distributions, even if you write a check to a charity in an equal amount.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at [insert your contact information].

We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season – and, we thank you for your support!

Final Thoughts – Hope this information is helpful. If you have a question, or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me (

My appreciation to my friend, Dick Kellogg, CEO of Future Focus, for his contribution to this report.

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“Third Sector” A Term Whose Time has Passed – and, Here’s Why

It’s time to say ‘Good Bye’ to an old term. It’s time for “Third Sector” to leave our lexicon.

You see, for many years, charities and nonprofit organizations were identified as part of the ‘Third Sector.’  The term implied an understanding that government and for-profit organizations were part of the First and Second Sectors, respectively. Seems innocent enough. Historically, it may even have begun as a self-identifying term. But, alas, the ‘third sector’ has also come to imply a bit more than what may have been once intended. Or, actually, less.

Much like Orson Scott Card’s fictional character, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, felt the impact of being identified as a ‘third’ in a society filled with mostly just two-child households, being third in just about anything carries inescapable even if inadvertent baggage.

In positioning charitable and other nonprofit organizations within the ‘third sector’ the potential – perhaps even, the real – impact on perception – and, in particular, public policy – is that this so-called ‘third sector’ may be seen generally and by decision-makers as not on par with the other two sectors of the economy. Perhaps as something less significant within our nation’s – and the world’s – economy.  Yet, the economic impact of this sector – in terms of employment and percent of GDP is consequential.

Research conducted both in the United States and Great Britain over the past 15 years consistently reveals the growing economic impact of this sector. For example, The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society reported in 2013 that 7.4 percent of the world’s workforce was employed in charitable and other nonprofit organizations. In the United States, the workforce includes 10.2 percent employed in this sector. At least 6.6 percent of our nation’s GDP is derived from charitable and other nonprofit organizations – making it one of the top contributors to our national economy. Total annual revenue in this sector is fast approaching two trillion dollars.

These metrics of economic impact are not often considered when thinking about charitable and nonprofit organizations. Indeed, these organizations have historically been appreciated for their good deeds but undervalued for their economic impact. From this reality come great challenges, especially when it comes to such things as impacting national – and even state-level – public policy.

It may seem like a small thing to do in trying to make a big change, but words have meaning and words are change-drivers in the world of perception. Simply, it is time to drop “Third Sector.”   In our national and global economy, there are three co-equal sectors.  The public sector, the private sector, and the voluntary sector.  Indeed, words have impact. Perception often follows from seemingly innocuous things like labels and brands.  The Voluntary Sector, one of three co-equal economic sectors – let’s do it… now!

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