Ten Ways to Ensure the Giving Legacy You Hope For

by | Apr 4, 2023

The birthday card danced across the parking lot. Decorated with a handful of balloons on the front, it seemed perfectly appropriate that a gust of wind grabbed my sack as soon as I walked out of the store.

I chased after the card, wondering where the envelope had blown to and if the $6.00 price was a sunk cost. Finally, far across the parking lot, I captured the card that now has slightly marred corners and faced the question if it was worthy of accompanying the gift.

What happens when you finally capture something you’ve been chasing? Is it still bright and shiny? Are the corners still perfect? Did the meeting turn out as you hoped? Was there a great job at the end of the degree?

Is the nonprofit you were excited to volunteer for what you expected? Is your donation to a cause you care about being used as you hoped?

Giving is the same as any other effort when you hope events, relationships, experiences and intentions turn out in just a certain way. After hearing a story that touches your heart, your donation goes in the mail, or you make it online.

Even if your gift is small, you hope that somehow it will make a difference. You’re chasing the feel-good feeling of happiness. It feels good to be a part of something larger than yourself, joining others to address an important issue.

We’re hard-wired for happiness; it gives us inner warmth, even contentment. Research tells us that giving to an individual or charity creates longer, deeper feelings of happiness than we experience when we are the recipients. And It feels good to add to the trail of breadcrumbs others may someday follow to understand our legacy.

Ten Ways Giving Breadcrumbs Become a Legacy

  1. You have a list of organizations and causes that are important to you.
  2. You give more to a short list of two or three at the top of your list.
  3. Family and friends know what causes are most important to you, the ones you’re most passionate about.
  4. You invite family and friends to join you at important events and fundraisers.
  5. You have hosted small group giving parties, lunches or dinners to support their work.
  6. You enjoy and share the glow of happiness from giving as much as you can afford.
  7. Giving to your top two or three organizations as often as possible is routine – you look forward to it.
  8. Your giving habits include volunteering your time, expertise, and experience every chance you get.
  9. Friends and family enjoy joining you on your giving-volunteering adventures.
  10. You keep messages that make you feel especially good in a file, box, or system for thank-you notes and messages.

Friends and Family Track Backwards to Honor Your Legacy

Many years ago, after a friend died, his family wanted to make gifts to organizations he cared about in his memory. Reviewing several years of checkbooks supplied the answers they sought. And organizations he had given to for many years received wonderful memorial gifts from the family. They followed the breadcrumbs he left behind.

Another family sought to make a sizeable gift to one organization in their grandmother’s memory and, after much discussion, realized that the place she had volunteered the most and for the longest was the perfect place. They followed her breadcrumbs.

Your experiences and gift-giving example will leave breadcrumbs that track back to the organizations and causes you care about. Family and friends are watching you all the time; they will know. So, it’s not necessary to chase a legacy. Instead, your everyday actions will add up, and you’ll leave an example for others to follow.

What have you been chasing lately?

I chased a birthday card across a large parking lot, thankful it didn’t end up under a car. And, yes, the recipient did receive the card, frayed corners and all. It made a good story!

So, don’t wait for your legacy to follow you; get started now. Like Bil Keane, the cartoonist behind The Family Circus, says, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

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