By Moneca Jantzen
Life can be fleeting and the notion of leaving “something behind” is a very human tendency. Most of us reach points in our lives where we wonder what our “legacy” will be or will we actually escape this life without leaving a mark or making a lasting impression? Did we make some world-changing discovery or live a life of quiet desperation?
It is quite commonplace now to not even have a traditional service as many people get cremated and leave their survivors to decide where best to sprinkle their ashes. One thing that is lacking in this scenario, however, is a physical or tangible connection to our deceased loved-ones. Without question, a person leaves a legacy to one’s family in countless ways, but what of the wider community, something that will last into perpetuity? A marker on a grave or a brass plaque on a park bench offer a “place” to remember someone years into the future, but what if one chose to leave a legacy that actually changes countless lives for decades to come?
Legacy gifts are something worth considering when making those important life decisions. By all means, asking your family to “plant that tree” in your memory is worthwhile but perhaps its worth considering growing something much more significant in your community.
There are many foundations that will be pleased to accept one’s “legacy gift.” One important foundation in Kamloops is Thompson Rivers University’s TRU Foundation. It is infinitely clear that gifts to TRU can have immediate and long-lasting impacts on the institution and it’s beneficiaries — typically the students and the broader community.
“People that give to TRU understand the value of education, they know that education can change a person’s life. They are motivated to help students realize their dreams, so they can go out and have good careers, and in turn give back,” points out Karen Gamracy, Director of Advancement at TRU.
One recent example of a bequest to TRU was Alvin Grunert, a retired Oakalla Farm prison guard that donated $1.5 million in his will in 2009. Unable to attend university as a young man after leaving the family farm in Yorkton, SK in 1943, Grunert wanted to assist the best and brightest students to succeed and change the world. His generous gift eight years ago has provided 60 students with over $300,000 in award funding.
Gamracy explains that most legacy gifts come from people already connected to TRU in some way be they an alumni, former employee/faculty or parent of a student.
“Generally legacy gifts come from long time donors to the Foundation, that have been giving smaller monthly gifts over many years, and decide to leave a bequest in their will to make a bigger gift and leave a legacy when they pass away. Bequests also come from people who have taught at the university and have had connections with students and know the value of a university education and that we are developing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Gamracy.
“Many donors choose to create an endowment in their name or in the memory of a loved one,” said Gamracy.
It is important that a legacy gift be true to the spirit and wishes of the person it is “remembering.” Gamracy suggests “to make sure you talk it over with your family and financial advisors (bequests can reduce estate taxes on death) and the university. It helps us to discuss with the donor while they are living the purpose of their bequest – in other words what they would like their money to be directed towards, so we can have the proper documentation in place for when they do pass away; they can be assured their gift is going to the purpose they had intended.”