With over 85,000 charities in Canada to choose from, it’s no wonder Canadians often have trouble choosing which charity to support in their Will. In fact, it’s the leading reason preventing Canadians from leaving a gift.
Since most people are used to giving in small amounts throughout their lifetime to various causes, deciding on one or more charities to include in your Will can quickly seem like a daunting task. However, the value of just a 1% residual may even have the power to transform a charity more than all of your sporadic or recurring contributions combined!
Just like with any type of charitable giving though, there’s a few questions we should all ask ourselves to ensure these choices are well intended. With this in mind, here’s our guide to selecting the right charity to include in your Will.
#1. Identify what you value
Everyone is charitable whether they actively give to a charity or not. Whether you call it having values, purpose, or even a mission, these are all rooted in what you want to see in the world and what you really care about. Maybe it’s the arts, preserving the environment, advancing education or health, or perhaps your wishes are faith-based. This list can go on and on.
If choosing a few things you care about is difficult, flip the question around and ask yourself what you would like to see less of in the world instead. This could be poverty, inequity, the relief of illnesses, or civil injustices to name a few. Maybe you’re even like me and can’t bring yourself to walk by a piece of plastic on the street without feeling the overwhelming need to pick it up. Either way you ask this question, it’s highly likely that what you’re thinking about is charitable.
#2. Revisit your charitable history
Do you currently give on an ongoing basis to one or more charities? If not, have you donated your time or money to a charity or participated in a charity walk-a-thon, or even volunteered with an organization previously? Odds are that even if you don’t think you’ve been charitable in the past, the number of times you’ve contributed to charities will likely surprise you.
Once some of these experiences of giving come to mind, consider next what had prompted you to want to support the various causes in those moments. Was it for a cause that you felt aligned with your values? And even further, would you consider donating your time or money to that cause again?
#3. Do some research and engage with your charities of choice
The next step is to do some research on the charities that support who you are and what you want - or don’t want - to see in the world. This can be as simple as searching online for the charities you’ve supported in the past and seeing whether there are similar options that align better towards the type of organization that you want to support. You may even find that along the way you decide you care about something very specific, which many charities have as a component of their mission and others exist solely because of. You can even do some extra due diligence on your choices with resources such as Charity Intelligence and GiveWell, which provide additional research and information on where your funds go and how they are distributed by the charity.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this, as long as you’re finding a way to answer the questions you have. If you already happily give to one or more causes and are interested in learning more about how you can leave a legacy to the cause, the charity will more than likely have a staff member who can answer all of your questions. You can support one or more charities in your Will, and it's up to you to decide which of those on your shortlist you would like to include.
Once you have a shortlist, you should also engage and set up meetings with your chosen charities to make your considerations known, to have them answer any lingering questions, and to also get a better feel for the charity itself. After all, if you’re going to leave a portion of your estate to a charity, you shouldn’t have any doubts that your money will be used for good.
#4. Share your intentions with family and friends
Sharing any intentions that may be present in your Will is an extremely important part of the estate planning process. In fact, end-of-life planning expert, Mallory McGrath, suggests that sharing intentions with charities and family members is one of the key considerations to ensure that your estate is left in good standing with all questions answered.
When it comes to this step for charitable giving, speaking to family and friends is not for their approval, but to help them further understand your intentions and values. If you are also in touch with a charity representative, then inviting your children and any beneficiaries of your estate to attend the calls with the charity can go a long way in helping them understand why leaving a charitable legacy is important to you.
Along the way, you may even find that your good intentions inspire others to do the same and prompt them to consider similar charitable support. By discovering what you care about and the legacy you want to leave behind, you can also help loved ones discover something similar.
#5. Create your Will and share your gift
It’s finally time to cross the bridge! Whether drafting your Will with a lawyer or online, make sure to double check that any charitable registration numbers are correct.
Letting the charity know that you have left them a gift in your Will is also highly encouraged. Charities like to plan for the future, and making your gift known to them will help ensure that they can have better visibility into gifts being made to the organization so they can make more robust long-term plans. The charity will likely want to also engage with you and share more information on the work they do to ensure that you know you’ve made the right choice. Depending on the charity, you may also be invited to attend legacy circle events, where you can further your knowledge of the work the charity does and meet others who have chosen to leave a similar legacy to yours.