Today, I received notice of a planned gift to the Cincinnati Zoo. I went through my usual routine when receiving notice:
- Look up donor in Raiser’s Edge – if they are in there, mark as deceased and see if we have their families contact information to send our condolences and if they are not, give information to our database manager to make a new record.
- Sign and date required paperwork
- Find letter template to send to attorney upon being notified of a donor’s death and customize letter.
- Put everything in the mail.
- Look up obituary to put in file
It was here that I was stopped in my tracks. The picture next to her obituary was of a beautiful, vibrant young woman and it wasn’t one of those old shots some families use because the mother never liked the way she aged and warned her kids she would haunt them if they didn’t use her favorite photo. No, this was a recent picture. She had graduated college in 2004 and after traveling the world volunteering had settled down in her hometown. It was here that she fought her cancer and it was here that she made her final plans that her life’s work wouldn’t end with her last breath.
So many times we assume that only old, wealthy people can make planned gifts. We plan our marketing strategy and stewardship events to attract those who are moving into a healthy retirement. This gift opened my eyes and heart. It illustrates that we can’t take it with us when we are gone, whether we are 90 or 30. We can continue to make a difference beyond our final breath, whether we are 90 or 30. It is never too early to become a philanthropist.
I encourage you to think about the causes you are passionate about. Then I encourage you to think about how your estate – however small or large it may be – could make a difference to one non-profit. After all, you can’t take it with you, so you won’t even miss it. It just might take a nonprofit you love from surviving to thriving.
While I never had the opportunity to meet this generous young woman, I will forever be changed by her generosity. Her gift to our endowment will support our mission long after I am here to watch it grow and be put to use.
It is days like today that I am reminded why I love what I do. I put people’s hopes and wishes for the world into action and I am humbly honored to serve our community in that capacity.
YNPN Board Member