Planned Giving: Too Much Information?
Suppose, as would be the case for many institutions, that the decision is made not to serve as trustee of the brother’s trust. Should this decision and the information surrounding it be permanently recorded in the donor’s file? Should it be entered into a contact report in the organization’s donor-tracking system?
One approach might be to indicate that there were personal family issues that led the charity to decide his trust would best be handled by someone else. This makes it clear that there was a specific reason for not serving as trustee, but it doesn’t spread around any details. Sometimes it’s not just what you do or do not say, but how you do or don’t say it.
Obviously there are conflicting interests at play in a situation such as the one described above. It might be important for your successor or others on staff to know this information, but what about the donor’s interest in maintaining her privacy and that of her family?
This is just one example of the types of delicate situations that can develop when donors share personal motivations underlying their desire to make a particular gift.
Three different groups consistently appear as beneficiaries in wills and other estate plans: family members, close friends and charitable interests.
When a person includes a nonprofit organization in her will, she does not benefit from an income tax deduction or receive any income. Relatively few donors will tell you in advance about their plans, so there often is no desire for recognition. On top of that, the vast majority will not benefit from estate tax savings.
A donor who decides to include a nonprofit in her will is, in effect, elevating the charity to the status of a family member. If she decides to inform the organization of her intentions, the donor often treats the organization from that point on as a family member. Representatives of the organization might then become privy to information, such as what’s in estate documents, that otherwise would be shared only in a very trusting relationship. In such situations, it’s critical to hold such information in confidence.