Planned Giving: Gifts from the Heart

by Donna Wiench, Leadership and Legacy Giving Manager

In polite conversation, a person’s eventual demise is a topic commonly avoided. Yet here’s the surprising thing: from my experience fundraising for Bird Alliance of Oregon, donors—particularly those who have been on the planet multiple decades—are quite willing and sometimes even eager to talk about their passing and how they can continue to help Bird Alliance of Oregon after they have gone. These are some of the most rewarding conversations I have because of their hopeful intent, depth, and meaning.

Bird Alliance of Oregon would not have the reach, influence, or ability to do the quality work we do in conservation and education today without the legacy gifts of the people who came before us. It’s that simple. Without these gifts we could do less for the environment, touch fewer human lives, and care for fewer wild animals. Because of these gifts, and the careful stewarding of the funds that come to us, Bird Alliance of Oregon has been able to thrive in times of economic downturn and be innovative and responsive.

A photo of a flock of Sandhill Cranes in flight.
Sandhill Cranes, photo by Tara Lemezis

The clearest example of the power of a legacy gift is the seed money for the capital campaign for the Wildlife Care Center and Cornell campus that is being considered today. We have the confidence to pursue this campaign directly because of a multimillion dollar bequest. The full campaign will cost considerably more than the bequest, but the bequest allowed us to believe that this dream could become real.

Bequests come to Bird Alliance of Oregon from folks who have found joy in the natural world and believe in what we do. These surprise gifts are humbling and fill us with gratitude. As we read supporting documentation that accompany the checks, we see a final expression of open-hearted, thoughtful generosity that gives additional meaning to that life.

Another form of legacy gift is a memorial, which typically comes from the family or friends of those who have passed rather than through a will. A family member may know that the mission of Bird Alliance of Oregon was important to their loved one, so they will give in their loved one’s name. Parents of young adults who passed way too early, Spencer Higgins and Amy Frank, have set up two different funds to support the work of our Education Department.

Sometimes donors give from their estate while still very much alive, allowing them to see Bird Alliance of Oregon benefit from their generosity. A couple we worked with placed their home in a living trust, where it significantly increased in value. When the husband died, and the wife decided to move closer to her children in Leavenworth, the couple’s investments financed her later years, and the proceeds of the house sale were given to Bird Alliance of Oregon.

The significance of legacy gifts cannot be overstated. For the more than 145 people who have told us that Bird Alliance of Oregon is in their will, and are part of the Legacy Circle, we are most grateful. For those of you considering making this step—thank you.