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June 8, 2015

How Do We Take Care of Our Own?

As SAGE’s Director of Legacy Planning, I shape our efforts around planned giving. Generally speaking, these are contributions made as part of a larger individual strategy like drawing up a will, selling a business, or reducing taxes (ergo, a “planned gift”). While SAGE has been part of people’s legacies for more than 30 years, we’ve only just begun to fully educate our supporters about this type of planning.

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As a longtime estate planning attorney with a focus on the LGBT community , I’ve had lots of exposure to planned giving . But acting as a professional advisor on the outskirts of the development effort is not the same thing as being in the trenches. To help get me up to speed when I took this job, I sought out some information and resources.

One approach comes from a professor from Texas Tech University. Dr. Russell James has a unique background, having both a doctorate in neuro-anatomy and experience as a planned giving professional. He put the two together in studies of planned giving decisions and the areas of the brain activated by different conversations, looking to identify those which were the most promising. Simply put, James considers how our brains work in relation to philanthropic giving.

His book Inside the Mind of the Bequest Donor, suggests that planned gifts are inspired by a desire to make a meaningful impact—something that will “live beyond an individual’s death.” This in turn “requires a community. And it is the values of this community that provide the underlying framework that defines meaningfulness.”

This was music to my still untrained ears. If there’s anything we’ve got, it’s community. And we know that our community values its members, that we take care of our own. That was proven over and over again in our journey from Stonewall through AIDS to marriage equality.

And it was proven again just last week. We were notified of a gift made in memory of a SAGE program participant, with thanks “for all you did to make my brother’s life more enjoyable.” Another wrote of partner, “I know that Frank would have been grateful for the tremendous support I’ve gotten from SAGE since he passed away. So it makes sense that when we’re both gone, we can say thanks to SAGE with this gift.”

Legacy, as we regularly point out in our Successful Aging initiative, is no more than “how we live and what we give.” By their lives they’ve lived, our SAGE age clients and many of our supporters helped create the legacy of a strong community. With their gifts to SAGE, they’re also making a difference in the lives of their fellow travelers.

--Posted by Jerry Chasen, Director of Legacy Planning, SAGE

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