Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff


Leaving a lasting legacy

By now, you have likely seen the banners all around the Plaza and read the announcements in the paper. You may have even received an email or a personal invitation from your favorite nonprofit organization to attend an event to introduce you to philanthropic legacy giving. This publicity is all about the first-ever Endow Sonoma Valley Month, the Sonoma Valley Fund’s month-long campaign to encourage all Valley residents to make a legacy gift commitment to one or more local nonprofits.

Legacy giving, also known as planned giving, is a way for an individual to ensure that the work his or her favorite charity will continue well beyond the individual’s lifetime. Legacy giving takes two forms: one is an outright gift of a complete transfer or realized gift of cash or stock. The other form is a deferred gift that is realized in the future. These deferred gifts are granted through a variety of instruments, including bequests, life insurance policies, retirement funds, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, pooled income funds, and life estate contracts.

According to Joshua Rymer, vice president of the Sonoma Valley Fund and Chair of Endow Sonoma Valley Month, “We came up with the idea to create Endow Sonoma Valley Month with one simple purpose: to increase the number of families and individuals who make legacy gift commitments to nonprofits in the Valley. Our goal is to double the number of legacy gift commitments during this year. That would mean more than 250 legacy gifts to help support the important work of our nonprofit community.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley boasts the largest number of legacy donors of all the Sonoma Valley nonprofits, with The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art a close second, and the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance as a close third. Marchelle Carleton, president of the Board of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said, “It is a priority of mine during my term as board president to build our endowment. At the Boys & Girls Clubs, we understand the importance of developing an endowment that can serve to perpetuate our mission.  We put effort into helping our supporters understand the importance of legacy giving through their estate plans.”   

Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance Board President Cherie Hughes said, “Because so many of our supporters have been mentors or have a spouse or close friend who are mentors, they understand first-hand the critical importance of the mentoring program in the lives of the children we help. So, when we began to ask them to continue their support of our programs through legacy giving, we were gratified and humbled that so many of our supporters wanted to make a commitment to help insure that we will be able to carry on the important work of the Mentoring Alliance in the future.”

Over 75 people attended Endow Sonoma Valley Month’s kick-off event October 11, featuring Ben Stone of the Sonoma Economic Development Board and Valerie Pistole Walter, local attorney. On October 16, local nonprofit leaders attended a workshop to learn how to manage a successful legacy gift program. On October 18, from 5 to 7 p.m., prospective legacy donors are invited to a reception to learn next steps toward making a legacy gift commitment.

The public is invited to the Sonoma Valley Fund’s Annual Celebration, October 21, 3 to 5 p.m., at Hanna Boys Center, to honor all legacy donors.

Legacy giving is especially critical during tough economic times. Barbara Young, Sonoma Valley Fund president remarked, “In the current economic environment, many of our nonprofit organizations are struggling to raise the funds necessary for their day-to-day needs. Promoting planned giving is a way for nonprofits to build a secure foundation for their future hard work.”

Harriet Derwingson, past president and board member of the Sonoma Valley Fund, dispels the myth that only wealthy individuals can be legacy donors. “Everyone can become a legacy donor; you don’t have to be wealthy,” she advised. “There are so many options, and Sonoma Valley Fund can help donors find a solution that works for them. There is no gift that is too small.”

Undoubtedly the biggest champion of legacy giving in Sonoma Valley is Sonoma’s 2012 Alcade, Whitney Evans. He founded the Sonoma Valley Fund in 2006 as an affiliate of the Sonoma Community Foundation and continues to promote legacy giving as a member of the Sonoma Valley Fund Board. He sums up why all of us who live here, whether we are wealthy or not, should make a legacy gift to the nonprofits we love. As he put it, “Legacy giving is all about saying thanks for the wonderful life we have enjoyed here in Sonoma Valley.”

Direct any questions about Endow Sonoma Valley Month to Joshua Rymer at jrymer@endowsonomavalley.com or call 707-303-9625.

Dr. B.J. Bischoff is the owner of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm specializing in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies to better serve their stakeholders. She is President of Impact100 Sonoma and leads the Sonoma Valley Presidents Council. Contact her at bjbischoff@bjbischoff.com.

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