Legacy Giving: Doing What You Can with What You Have

Apr. 27, 2021

By Joe Sorenson, CAP®

President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This quote would describe the generosity of Iowans, and the charitable gifts made to causes they care about. According to Giving USA’s Annual Report, roughly 70% of charitable giving in our country comes from individuals and families giving during their lifetime. Another 10% comes from individuals and families through gifts made after their lifetime and other planned giving vehicles.

Gifts made after one’s lifetime are increasingly meaningful to nonprofits as they enable organizations to sustain programs through building endowments, investing in their facilities, and even offer the ability to dream big about the future.

These legacy gifts provide an opportunity for Iowans to continue supporting the causes that matter most to them for generations to come. Our team of charitable giving professionals have the unique opportunity to sit at the table with many Iowans and their professional advisors to discuss giving strategies to meet both their charitable and financial goals. By sitting down and having conversations about the legacy an individual hopes to leave, we can create personalized approaches that best meet their goals and discuss how to overcome any obstacles or points of pause that might otherwise dampen the joy of giving. Below are a few common challenges we hear and potential solutions we’ve suggested.

How do I get started? A legacy gift is a way to put a flag in the ground to state you proudly support a nonprofit that has had an impact on your life or is creating a better community for us all. While charitable giving is a deeply personal act there may be people that can help you get started.

-        Have a discussion over a meal with family or with friends about why you give or the causes that are important to you. These conversations are often a good place to start putting your thoughts together around how you want to make an impact and to receive feedback from others as you consider a legacy gift.

-        The Community Foundation offers a Giving Guide and Strategic Giving Services as resources to assist in considering the areas you want to support and developing your legacy giving plan.

-        Make charitable legacy planning a part of your regular visits with your professional advisor(s). They can incorporate your legacy gift into your estate and financial plans.

What happens if I outlive my money? Rising costs of living and healthcare gives many Iowans pause about whether they have enough money for their remaining years. These are real concerns. There are several legacy giving strategies that may not affect your financial plan during your lifetime.

-        Most legacy gifts are made by including a nonprofit(s) as part of your beneficiary designation for your retirement account, life insurance policy, or a gift in your will or trust.

-        If there is a concern you may not have enough to commit a specific dollar amount to a nonprofit through a legacy gift, consider using a percentage. That allows you to proportionally make gifts to multiple charitable or non-charitable beneficiaries of your estate.

-        Several legacy giving strategies can provide you income during your lifetime with the remaining dollars going to the nonprofits of your choice after your lifetime. Learn more about tools like charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts on our Estate Planning Tools webpage.

What if I want to change my mind? Words like planned giving and legacy giving can create a sense of permanency and rigidness in our minds. There are several ways that you can keep your legacy gift flexible.

-        Ask your professional advisor about the difference between revocable and irrevocable legacy gifts. If having flexibility is important to you, learn more about revocable legacy gifts like beneficiary designations mentioned earlier.

-        The Community Foundation offers legacy funds that become the beneficiary of your estate, but give you the flexibility to change the causes you plan to support over time without making changes to your estate plan.


Your legacy is your story. Learn about Legacy Funds in the video above. 

If we all do our part, like President Roosevelt called us to do, our collective generosity will allow our communities to thrive. Seek out the resources you need to begin considering a legacy gift that allows you to give back to causes you care about.

And if you need more inspiration on what a legacy gift means to community members, click here to view a video highlighting the announcement that sisters Eleanor and Evelyn Schiller had included their hometown of Iowa Falls/Alden in their estate plans. This is certainly impact in action that ensures our state is not only better together, but better forever.