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Leaving a Legacy for Your Community

Resource Center - Foundation

by Roger D. Ali

roger aliMay was National LEAVE A LEGACY™ Month across Canada!  LEAVE A LEGACY is a national public awareness program designed to encourage Canadians to leave a gift primarily through their will to a charity or nonprofit organization of their choice.

The program is a donor-oriented education campaign to raise awareness of the importance of including a charitable gift in the estate planning process. The main goal of estate planning usually is making the greatest amount of one’s estate available as it passes to the estate owner’s intended beneficiaries (children, family, charity). This often includes paying the least amount of taxes. A legacy gift can significantly benefit a favourite cause or community nonprofit.

The Transfer of Wealth

We are living in a time when an unprecedented amount of wealth is being transferred from one generation to the next. According to various reports reviewed on the web, in the next two decades 3.5 million Canadians are expected to die, leaving an estimated $1.5 trillion to their families and community.

A report prepared by Good Works ( on the State of the Legacy Nation found that 54% of the population surveyed has wills. The alarming part is that 46% of Canadians currently don’t have a will. According to the LEAVE A LEGACY program, if this trend continues, about 2 million Canadians will end life without a will to protect their assets, in the next two decades. Without a will, people lose the ability to control distribution of their estate to their chosen beneficiaries.

Demystifying Gift Planning

A common myth is that people think you have to be wealthy to make a legacy gift. This is not true. Anyone can arrange to leave a charitable gift from their estate, regardless of its size. It means a great deal to a charity and provides for the future to carry on the organization’s mission.

I have been asked how does one get started or where do you get assistance? Your financial planner, lawyer, accountant, or insurance agent can help a prospective donor to leave a gift. These allied professionals can inform about the best gift vehicle and tax benefits of legacy gifts. A donor may also call the charity or the nonprofit organization directly and ask for the staff who manages the legacy or planned giving program. So charities should be prepared!

The LEAVE A LEGACY™ program advises there are 10 things you can do today to make a difference:

1. Prepare a will.

2. Leave a gift in your will for the nonprofit organization that makes a difference in your life.

3. Leave a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your assets to a nonprofit organization.

4. Consider using assets for your legacy gift.

5. Name a nonprofit as a beneficiary of your RRSP, RRIF or pension plan. Gifts of retirement plans are made when you name a charitable organization of your choice as the beneficiary.

6. Name your favourite nonprofit as the beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy.

7. Purchase a new life insurance policy naming your favourite nonprofit as the beneficiary.

8. Remember loved ones with memorial gifts.  A memorial gift is any type of gift given to remember a close friend or family member who has passed.

9. Encourage family and friends to leave gifts to nonprofit in their wills.

10. Ask your financial or estate planning advisor to include charitable giving as part of your financial plan and to incorporate in their counsel to other clients.

For more information on the program, please visit

People give for many different reasons, whether it is to ensure a memory lives on or as a way to ensure that their favorite charity is able to continue its important work. For others, it represents a way to minimize the tax liability that comes with the transfer of one’s estate to surviving family members.

I have left a gift in my will to my favourite charity because I value the organization for its mission and good work. My reason for giving a legacy gift is to help the organization continue the work they are doing and ensure sustainability of core education programs and mentorship for the future.

By leaving a gift to a charity or nonprofit organization in your will or estate plan, you ensure your legacy gift will continue to help others into the future.

Join me and create a brighter future for our community.

Roger D. Ali is vice president, development, of the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Golden Horseshoe Chapter, and long-standing member of Canadian Association of Gift Planners, CAGP.   

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