I write this post, not only for my regular audience of nonprofit professionals, but also to my friends for whom this applies.
Like most people, I have many friends that I have acquired over my lifetime. I love them all as individuals. There are many ways that we are alike, and there are many ways that we differ. I believe that is the way life is meant to be. Life would be very boring if I associated only with people who believe or live like I do.
A good percentage of my friends, like myself, are parents. We love our children, raised them to the best of our ability, and sent them out into the world to live their lives. Our children find work, perhaps start a family of their own, and hopefully, find success of their own. They are our true legacy to this world, the most important contributions we could make to the world. When we pass on to the next step after this life, we will leave them with memories and property. Some will get more, some will get less, but they will remember us by what we gave them.
However, another percentage of my friends are those who are single or married, but don’t have children. According to the 2010 US Census, the number of childless couples in the country is almost double of those in 1979. Whether by choice or by fate, those who never started a family, have fulfilling lives. Most have great careers, homes, cars, boats, art, musical instruments, or other items of value, but when the time comes and they pass on, what will become of their assets and acquisitions? If they have surviving family, perhaps siblings or favorite nieces or nephews, they may choose to share their fortunes with them and keep it in the family. But, if they do not have close family or they feel that their family has done well enough on their own, they need to make some decisions on how their estate will be used and where they want it to go.
To those of my friends who are part of this latter group, I ask that you start thinking about this issue and your future, as it is something that you need to plan for ahead of time. Consider what is important to you, and start choosing your priorities. One friend that I lost in the past year did plan ahead and created a scholarship fund at his Alma mater. But to my knowledge, the other peers who passed in recent years made no plans. If there is a cause or causes that you are passionate about, I suggest you start thinking about how you might support them when the time comes. Think about your legacy and how you wish to be remembered.
To those of you who are in the nonprofit sector, I suggest that you start looking in your supporter files and see if any of them are part of this growing population. These people should be engaged personally and professionally as potential planned giving prospects. Help them find their passion. Invite them for conversations and further involvement with your organizations. There are many tools that you can use to secure this future support, but you have to make the effort to make it happen. Your organization and those that it serves will need to be the ones who remember these wonderful people.