By: Natasha van Bentum, CFRE, FRSA
I still remember feeling goose bumps when I opened an envelope from an estate executor and held in my hands a bequest cheque for $333,000 — in U.S. funds! That was 17 years ago, so it was like getting a million-dollar donation today.
At that time I worked with a leading international environmental organization that never had a gift planning program until I started one. The bequest came from a woman who cared deeply about the environment but who, during her lifetime, never had the capacity to make such a gift. Such is the magic of gift planning. Gifts from an individual’s assets, not income can be put to work for environmental campaigns that affect current and future generations.
In over 25 years fundraising for environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), I’ve been fascinated by legacies and planned gifts. From the stories about Henry VIII’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who used to have her 21-page will read out to her each Christmas Eve, to somewhat frustrating legacies where a parrot is the main beneficiary of a will, (sure when the parrot dies, an organization gets the bequest but do you know parrots can live for well over 50 years!), gift planning is a rich and wonderful realm.
Gift planning isn’t just about bequests (the average bequest is about $30,000, minimum). Many gifts can also be structured to occur during a donor’s lifetime. Gift planning is well-established in the health, education and religious sectors. But when it comes to the environment, there is nothing but opportunity since very few groups have really tapped into the potential of planned gifts. That’s why we created Give Green Canada at Tides Canada to help ENGO’s jumpstart their gift planning in a practical way.
People are often shocked to hear that less than two cents of every dollar donated in Canada annually goes to environmental causes. We’re trying to change this by (1) encouraging ENGO’s to embark on a gift planning program, (2) getting professional advisors (lawyers, financial advisers) to learn more about charitable gifts for the environment, and (3) assisting donors to find great ENGO’s and explore the ways to support them
By offering tools and training focused on tangible ways to get started, and to keep a program growing, Give Green Canada is focused on the “here and now”, of bringing together the three key elements to grow green philanthropy: Donors, Professional Advisors and ENGO’s.
Explore our new website and check out our distance learning course, the first of its kind in the world created especially for conservation and environmental groups. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, this is your invitation to get involved in this important initiative.