Leaving your legacy -- why endowments work

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

By Trudy Lee

October is here again, bringing a chill to the air, beautiful fall colors, jack-o'-lanterns and Halloween candy -- and lots of mail from charities reminding you to make your annual gift before year-end.

When you make that $10, $25 or $50 gift to your favorite charity, remember -- that charity considers you a partner in fulfilling its mission, whether it be educational, religious, medical or social service. In fact, that charity has grown downright dependent on your annual generosity.

Consider, then, that when you are gone, the absence of your giving will be felt. Do something to make sure your giving never runs dry! Leave a charitable gift in your will or trust. If you designate that gift from your estate to the charity's endowment fund, your bequest will generate funds to continue your annual giving forever.

A little means a lot

A charity sets up an endowment to preserve the principal and only a part of the earnings available to be used annually. For most charities the amount available each year is equal to 5 percent of the principal. In other words, every $1,000 in the endowment generates $50 per year for expenditure and any excess earnings will be reinvested.

Therefore, say you give $50 each year to a charity. Multiply that by the number 20 (20 x $50) and include a bequest of $1,000 in your will toward the charity's general endowment fund. Your bequest will continue to provide $50 to the charity each year, just as if you were still writing that check at the end of the year.

A special "named" endowment

An option available at many charities is to establish a special endowment in your name or in honor of a loved one. You may wish to work with the charity to tailor the purpose of your named endowment to benefit a specific area of interest. Most charities have a minimum requirement for these named endowments, such as $5,000 or $10,000.

Each year, your children and grandchildren and other family and friends will be reminded of your involvement with the charity and the value of making regular gifts to support worthy causes. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

Endowments are perpetual and protected

Like an artesian well, endowment funds keep giving and giving and giving. They allow you to "lock in" your giving. Programs and people will come and go, but endowments last.

Furthermore, endowment funds are set aside and kept separate from operating and capital fund accounts. You have the assurance that your gift to the charity's endowment will be secure. If you establish a special named endowment, a written agreement will be on file with the charity and the terms will be carefully followed.

Your next step?

As the year comes to a close, be sure to respond to the annual reminder from your favorite charities with your gifts of $10, $25 or $50. They need your gifts more than ever -- and every penny makes a difference.

Then consider perpetuating your gift. Discuss with your family the possibility of leaving your legacy. Seek special gift and estate planning advice from your attorney or professional adviser. Check with the charity you are interested in to find out its particular policies for creating and managing endowment funds.

You may be able to provide more help than you ever thought possible -- now and forever.

Trudy Lee is a certified specialist in planned giving and director of Planned Giving for Southeast Missouri University Foundation. (651-5935)

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