The holiday season is upon us. It is a time when friends and family gather to enjoy the bounty of the year, express gratitude and exchange gifts. While many people are giving thanks for the blessings or gifts they have received over the last year, there are those who are thinking about what they have been blessed to give and will leave behind someday – in the hopes of making the world a better place.
Of the many ways in which people or organizations can contribute to the American Red Cross, planned giving options offer donors unique and meaning ways in which to support the organization’s mission today while leaving a legacy of compassion for future generations.
What Is Planned Giving?
The term could be simplified to mean a gift that is planned over time, but the difference between these and other types financial donations goes deeper than a planned contribution versus a spontaneous one. Someone who makes a planned gift to the Red Cross is helping to prepare the organization for the future much like one would plan for the future of their own loved ones.
Let’s think about it like Thanksgiving meals prepared by two different cooks. The first cook began preparing while munching on left over Halloween candy — pouring over cookbooks for new and interesting takes on old family favorites. He calculated how much turkey (light and dark meat) would be needed per guest while including enough left over to make those oft-appreciated, post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and a tasty casserole recipe pulled from a magazine. He has cleared space in his refrigerator for ingredients and the proper thawing of his gobbler. Then, with a detailed list in hand — organized by each ingredient’s location in the store — he arrives at least the Saturday before Thanksgiving and early in the day to avoid crowds.
Conversely, the other approaches the holiday meal by going to the grocery store on Wednesday afternoon. He sees the display of fresh turkeys and picks one he feels will be ample enough to feed all those who share his table. He makes his way to the special displays and begins tossing cans of yams, green beans, mushroom soup and French-fried onions in the cart.
Both cooks will end up with tasty meals for those with whom they share their bounty and ensure that family, friends and neighbors, leave full and satisfied. However, not only did the first cook plan for a Thanksgiving feast, he prepared for future meals at the same time.
Planned gifts may take some time to set up and arrange, but the benefit of them is that they stretch beyond the immediate need and help the organization – one whose mission includes preparing for emergencies – to make ready for future needs.
Some of these gifts can create opportunities for donors as well as they do for Red Cross. There are a myriad of giving options from which to choose — from naming the Red Cross in a will to a more complex trust arrangement and even more that go beyond monetary (cash) gifts such as the transfer of real estate properties, stakes in businesses or securities. Gifts may be made outright with long-lasting benefits to the organization, or they can be made over time through mutually beneficial options that enable the giver to build retirement earnings, receive fixed payments or maximize tax benefits while supporting the Red Cross mission.
Red Cross Helping You Help Us
While the idea of planned giving and the options available are appealing, they also may seem complex and overwhelming at first glance. This is another way in which the Red Cross supports the donor so that they may in turn support the Red Cross. Planned gift officers are available to discuss creative giving strategies that can help giver make decisions that enhance future financial well being while providing a meaningful charitable gift to the organization, including breaking down and comparing options. In fact, the organization even provides some preliminary tools for gift planning on its public Web site.
“Our mission is to work with donors who want to give planned gifts,” said Red Cross director of gift planning Rebecca Locke. “We want to make sure every donor who has an interest in supporting the Red Cross knows that there is an option for planned gifts.”
Red Cross gift officers spend time speaking with potential donors so that they can help recommend the giving options that best balance what donors wish to accomplish for themselves, their family and their charitable interests in their overall financial plans or estate.
In addition, they are able to provide information about the various lifesaving programs and services offered by the Red Cross, so donors can make informed decisions about what they wish to support. This allows them to provide general support to the organization as a whole or, since the Red Cross honors the intent of its donors, to designate gifts to support their local chapter or any particular lines of service that resonate with the giver.
Finally, the relationship between the donor and the Red Cross begins, not ends, with the gift. Stewardship, both being a good steward of donated dollars as well as providing a transparent accounting of how contributions are used and benefit others, is an important part of the Red Cross fundraising process. It is a serious commitment the organization makes to its donors—one that extends beyond the life of the giver to the life of the gift with the Red Cross often maintaining contact with the donor’s estate.
Giving from the Heart
Although it is not always the case, many individuals become contributors to the Red Cross after seeing the Red Cross work up close and personal when they, a family member or someone they know is touched by its services.
Fani Shimanski Pruzan remembered the American Red Cross in her will.
Fani Shimanski Pruzan, for example, was a Holocaust survivor. Born in 1922 in the city of Vilna in Poland, she fled her hometown with her mother after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Aside from her mother, she never saw another member of her family after escaping the city.
Pruzan’s primary connection to the American Red Cross was an attempt to find out if any of her relatives had survived the Holocaust. The Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, based in Baltimore, assists people like Pruzan who are searching for family members or loved ones lost to them during the war.
In the early 1990s, Pruzan contacted her local Red Cross chapter to work with the tracing center. Although, they could not locate a living relative for Pruzan, she deeply appreciated the organization’s efforts and work. Pruzan, who passed away in 2005, apportioned 25 percent of her will to the Red Cross.
Every year the Red Cross receives tens of millions of dollars in bequest gifts made by generous donors. The gifts support Red Cross services, including by not limited to, disaster relief and recovery operations, health and safety training and a multitude of other services. Pruzan’s bequest is now used, in part, to help other people trying to learn the fates of their loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath.
Like Pruzan, World War II veteran Jack Heinzel, chose to support the Red Cross through planned giving. His initial contact with the humanitarian organization began with just a glimpse at one line of service that the Red Cross provides — namely support for members of the U.S. military and their families.
Jack and Winifred Heinzel partnered with the Red Cross by making a mutually-beneficial planned gift in the form of a charitable annuity.
In 1942, Second Lieutenant Heinzel was a B-17 co-pilot in the 93rd Bombing Squadron ordered to Bataan, where he was captured by the Japanese. Along with fellow POWs, he endured the perilous 60-mile forced march, which has become known as the Bataan Death March. When he was finally released after the war ended, he received food, was allowed to shower and was given a Red Cross parcel.
Many years later, now living in Melbourne, Fla., Jack with his wife, Winifred Heinzel, decided to help Red Cross with its relief operations during disasters such as hurricanes. Since that initial investment in the Red Cross eight years ago, the Heinzels have expanded their goodwill and support. While planning for their financial future, they chose to partner with the Red Cross by setting up a charitable gift annuity. In exchange for their contribution, they receive a fixed payout and significant tax benefits.
“It’s a win-win situation because the interest of the donor and the charitable institution comes together,” said Red Cross planned gift officer Robert Finley, based in Jacksonville, Fla.
Gratitude Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
The American Red Cross relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work and salutes donors the tens and thousands of planned gift donors, like Pruzan and the Heinzels, who have given and continue to give through their contributions.
Planned gift donors are honored with membership in the Legacy Society where, unless anonymity has been requested, their contributions are acknowledged publicly. Information about the Legacy Society and its members is available in the “Planned Giving” section of the Red Cross public Web site.
Learn more out about Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, services to members of the military, veterans and their families, disaster relief and other American Red Cross programs and services as well as all giving options by visiting RedCross.org.
This article is part of a series of “Thanks for Giving” articles that are being published this holiday season. The articles talk about how the public supports the Red Cross and how the organization uses contributions of all types in supporting its fundamental principal to alleviate human suffering and protect life and health.
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.