Why Parishes Should Promote Bequest Gifts

September 18, 2009

Planned Giving, The Pilot

By Richard Ely

Is promoting bequests to your parish worth the effort it requires?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!” 

First, promoting bequests can be an important catechetical opportunity.   Promoting bequests allows your parish to put forth the message that the world we are in is God’s world – not our world.  Encouraging bequests, and the related ideas of wills and estate planning, is about encouraging parishioners to be good stewards of everything that God has given them.  You are encouraging people to take stock of their lives and prepare for all its eventualities – life and death.  Talking about bequests in terms of stewardship-as-a-way-of-life increases people’s awareness of God’s action in their lives.

Second, bequests can be a very important source of funds for parish growth and operations.  A preliminary review shows that parishes in the Archdiocese received over $4.4 million in bequests between January of 2008 and August of 2009.  The average bequest was almost $40,000.  Over 80 parishes of the 292 parishes in the Archdiocese received bequests.  And this is with very little encouragement from anyone!  Imagine what could happen if you asked people to include your parish in their wills.

Third, history is on the side of charitable bequests.  People are now wealthier – even in the midst of a deep recession – than at virtually any other time in history.  There is extraordinary wealth in the stock market, in real estate and in banks, especially for people who have had years to accumulate.

Finally, people love the Church and they love their parish.  Why not ask them to include your parish in their estate plans and make the parish a member of their family?

Richard Ely is Director of Stewardship & Gift Planning at The Catholic Foundation.  He is the author of the Archdiocesan Guide for “Promoting Planned Gifts in Parishes.”  For more information about Planned Giving, please visit www.CatholicLegacySociety.org or contact Richard at 617-779-3702 or rely@rcab.org.

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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