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How to Leave a Lasting Legacy on a Modest Budget

Photo of author, Kathleen McDermott.
Kathleen McDermott
Business Development Manager and Director of Nonprofit Advisory Services

According to GivingUSA, Americans are more generous than ever -- to the tune of $373.25 Billion* reported just a few years ago. As that number has undoubtedly risen with recent national tragedies and weather-related disasters striking all regions of our nation, we should find comfort in that fact, that despite our differences, we are a people that come together to support one another no matter what.

While very few of us can give at the levels of Oprah Winfrey or Houston Texas Football player J.J. Wyatt, we still have more financial resources to make a difference in our communities than we may realize. When considering your giving and legacy, here are some factors to consider:

Short-term Giving

  1. Make sure your giving is aligned with your financial resources. Are philanthropic contributions factored in your annual budget? If you need to make some adjustments, consider leveraging your giving through corporate matching programs, taking advantage of state offered tax-credits (where available), and asking charities about multi-year pledges.
  2. There may be other ways to give that would free up your cash. Talk to your financial advisor about donating appreciated securities. In addition to freeing up cash, a gift of appreciated securities may provide you with capital gains tax savings.
  3. What drives many philanthropists is the desire to implement change and collaborate. If your level of giving is modest, consider joining a giving circle. When our individual donations are pooled together, through a grant-making process, we decide on the local projects we would like to fund. It’s exciting to see how a group of people can make a difference in the causes they care about simply by joining forces.

Long-term Giving

  1. To continue your legacy of giving to an organization(s) you care about, consider making a bequest in your will, or naming the charity as a beneficiary on a qualified retirement plan or insurance policy. You can name the charity as a full or partial beneficiary, and this designation can be changed at any time. Choosing this option may also offer attractive estate and tax benefits to you.
  2. If you are considering a more significant philanthropic legacy, consider establishing a private family foundation. A significant benefit of a family foundation is that, with proper oversight, your legacy can exist in perpetuity. Foundations are also good vehicles for supporting multiple charities beyond your lifetime. Lastly, with private foundations, you can involve your children and/or grandchildren in your philanthropic interests, thereby instilling important values and traditions as well as ensuring that your legacy endures.
  3. Creating a Charitable Remainder Trust or Charitable Lead Trust are two other options should you wish to establish a more significant philanthropic legacy. Trusts can help meet your charitable legacy while also providing income for your family. However be aware, trusts are often irrevocable and require careful legal and tax considerations.


While there are a variety of financials factors to consider in any legacy plan, the bottom-line is that we can all play a powerful role in philanthropy and make a significant impact on local causes and society at-large. Should you require additional information or assistance with these financial considerations, consider reaching out to a trusted advisor who can help you make the right choice for your unique situation.

“I don’t think you ever stop giving. I really don’t. I think it’s an on-going process.
And it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.”
– Oprah Winfrey


*https://givingusa.org/see-the-numbers-giving-usa-2016-infographic/

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