What Barry Manilow Taught Me about Leaving a Legacy

This past weekend, my wonderful husband took me to see Barry Manilow’s One Last Time Tour. (Yes, I am a fanilow and have been since I took my sister to see him in 1982!) While I believe this weekend marked the 8th time I’ve seen Barry perform in concert, knowing that I will likely never see him again (unless he pulls a Brett Farve and makes a comeback) made this concert different: extra special and bittersweet. 

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It also had me thinking about legacies. Barry has a clear legacy. He leaves behind an extensive catalog of songs that will be “ruined in elevators for years to come.” (A true fanilow will understand that reference!) 

While not all of us will “write the songs that make the whole world sing,” we all want to leave our mark on the world even in a small way. Nonprofit executives can help everyone leave his or her legacy. How? 

Three simple steps can get you started:

1. Ask your board members, staff, and key volunteers to include your organization in their will.

More than half of all Americans have no will or estate plan so your request may spur them to take this important step to protect themselves, their heirs, and their assets. They can leave a portion of their estate to you with one of three simple sentences:

  • I leave [name of organization] $X

  • I leave [name of organization] X% of my estate or the following items from my estate

  • I leave [name of organization] $X or X% of my estate after fulfilling these other bequests (to family or other organizations)

2. Include a discussion of legacy giving in all major gift conversations.

Many major donor prospects may not even realize that they can make a larger impact on your mission by deferring some of their gifts to their estate. Ask if they have included your organization in their estate plans and if they would like to learn ways to possibly make a larger gift to you using their assets. While I don’t necessarily recommend that you tackle a charitable remainder unitrust with a flip provision alone, you can plant the seed with a donor that will reap benefits many years down the road. This leads to #3.

3. Enlist the support of key advisors who can help you with more sophisticated gift arrangements.

Do you have lawyers, financial advisors, or trust officers among your donors, board or volunteers? Ask them if they will review some more complicated gift arrangements for you. Don’t know anyone? Seek out professionals in your community. Talk to your local community foundation or planned giving organization. They typically have professionals more than willing to help answer your questions and your donors’ questions. Meanwhile, attend educational programs to learn more about planned giving.

With these simple tips, Even Now you help your donors define their legacy and start a giving relationship that will have your successors singing “Could It Be Magic” or even “It’s a Miracle” when these gifts mature.