Over the years, many of us have heard stories about long-term supporters who leave substantial gifts to colleges, universities, and non-profits through their estates. Recently, a “quiet volunteer” in Cincinnati left over $3 million, divided among three local non-profit organizations with which she was engaged. In Arkansas, a couple ended up leaving over $6 million to a nearby university, despite locals thinking that they “didn’t have two nickels to rub together.”
The stories of these quiet givers – and there are many more like them – represent sizable estate gifts that were surprises to their recipients. None of these individuals had ever been “major donors” to any organization, but had been faithful givers over the years of both their time and finances.
The same is true at Reformed Theological Seminary. This year alone, RTS has received three sizable estate gifts, two of which were unknown to us until the estate’s executors contacted us. We celebrate these moments of generosity, knowing they are evidence of how God delights in showing his faithfulness in provision.
Throughout my career in development, I’ve been reminded over and over again of the importance of these types of gifts – both in the lives of donors, and in the overall health of our fundraising. In that time, many friends and colleagues have urged me to include long-term giving as part of the conversation we’re having with all of our donors, large and small. Planned giving ensures that our partnership with our supporters is not just for the here and now, but is built for a lifetime, honoring the faithful love and support given to us over many years.
I spoke recently with RTS Board member Charles Irby, who shared with me that his father, once chairman of the board at French Camp Academy in Mississippi, wore a lapel pin with the letters “IHLFCIMW” around fellow board members and supporters. While the letters are not the easiest letter combination to remember – even Charles had to write it out while telling me the story – the effect was memorable. “I Have Left French Camp In My Will” became a common theme in his relationships with donors.
Mr. Irby championed the idea that giving beyond our life on earth guarantees that the next generation will benefit from our charitable intentions. It is necessary for each of us to be thoughtful about this issue and to consider the various ways our generosity might continue, despite the discomfort that may arise when contemplating our own mortality.The seminary is strong and well-positioned to meet the needs and equip the next generation of servant leaders in the Kingdom.
One of the ways RTS has kept track of planned gifts to the seminary is through the RTS Heritage Society. The Heritage Society is a list of supporters and alumni who have indicated that they will include RTS in their long-term giving plans or in their wills.
While stories of surprising estate gifts are fun to read about – and fun to receive! – there are plenty of stories of people who have, over the years, made their long-term gift plans known so that their wishes are clearly communicated and appropriately designated. Also, participation in the Heritage Society allows us the opportunity to acknowledge and express our appreciation and may inspire others to do the same via example.
Since its founding in 1966, Reformed Theological Seminary has grown and flourished because of the generosity of God’s people who have invested in the future of the church by giving to RTS. There are scholarships, programs, faculty chairs, buildings, and even entire campuses across RTS that bear the name of our supporters and represent generations of ongoing generosity.
Because of these donors and countless others, and through years of honoring our mission, partnering with faithful supporters, carefully stewarding resources, and steadfastly trusting in God’s provision, the seminary is strong and well-positioned to meet the needs and equip the next generation of servant leaders in the Kingdom.
A friend once asked me, “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Before I could respond, he answered, “30 years ago.” He then asked, “When is the second-best time to plant a tree?” Now catching on, I replied, “Right now!” In much the same way, if you have not already begun thinking about how you might wish to handle your long-term charitable giving, “now” is the best time.
Our development staff at RTS has professional, confidential expertise to answer questions about various planned giving opportunities. We’ve made sure that we are equipped to help and offer guidance as our supporters consider their options, from naming RTS in their wills, to help with charitable gift annuities, gifts of real estate and gifts from retirement plans.
We also have resources available to you at rts.plannedgiving.org. For more information, please call Cheryl McCulloch at 601-923-1600. To learn more about the Heritage Society, visit rts.edu/development/heritage-society.