Leaving a Legacy
Many people choose to leave a legacy to their Church as a lasting gift to God. Where church has been a regular part of peoples lives, leaving a sum of money can start something truly special that enables the church to serve the next generation and legacies often make a huge difference to the mission and ministry of churches. Some churches depend on these lasting acts of generosity. Every year PCC’s across the country receive around £45 million from legacy giving, that’s an average of £3,000 per parish.
Bob Soutter who is the PCC Treasurer of Littleham Cum Exmouth, spoke to the Diocese of Exeter’s Mission Resources Adviser, Brigit Kiyaga about Legacies.
When asked about his understanding of stewardship, Bob said the basic principle should be “not how much I can give to God, but how much of God’s money do I dare to keep back for myself. People should be giving as much as they can”.
Bob explained the bible verse 1 Chronicles 29:14 underpins this: “All things come from you and of your own do we give you”. We agreed it was an inspiring verse that allows us to really reflect on our own generosity.
The conversation moved to what has surprised him most about God’s generosity.
Bob said, “Psalm 34 uses the word “all” a number of times and speaks about Gods’ generosity in all ways, not some ways or little ways; it keeps coming and just when you think you are down, some money arrives”. “Trust is an important aspect of the journey of God’s generosity.”
Bob then spoke about an example of legacy giving which has impacted him the most: a legacy of £250,000 given to the parish in 2006.
The sum was unrestricted and it took the PCC two years to decide how it was to be spent. Bob said that it would be easy to spend such a large sum on just repairing the fabric of the churches in the parish, however the parish had been hoping for a Youth Worker.
The decision was taken to split the legacy in half with £125,000 going into a fund for a Youth and Families worker and £125,000 towards repairing the fabric.
Bob explained that he was also able to secure grants from other sources which match funded both sums.
From receiving the legacy to distribution, the process for recruiting the Youth Worker happened within 2-3 months and works on the windows started within 6 months.
The Youth worker fund has kept going with additional grants and funding from trusts only now is it running out. Bob emphasised that the “legacy can provide a seed core to fund projects”
When asked why does he think it matters to remember your local church in a will or legacy, Bob said “some will do it out of duty, some will have projects or loves, some want to be remembered.”
Bob’s parish has attempted to promote legacy giving but said they had a couple of mainly unsuccessful attempts at promoting and encouraging legacy giving but will learn from those mistakes.
Certainly, having good, interesting and unbiased speakers, good food and showing how legacies have been spent in the past is a good place to start.
Finally, Bob shared some advice:
1.Parishes receiving legacies are fewer now than in previous years. It is important to understand the many of the slightly younger members in churches are less affluent than previous generations. Try to promote legacy giving for younger generations through social media and communications.
2. Very important that legacies received are not put into a legacy fund that just sits there. The Charity Commission expect legacies to be spent. As a rule in these parish, the majority of legacies coming in are used for a particular project or projects. It is easier to show a family that you have appreciated a legacy by showing them what that legacy has provided or been used for.
3. Share projects that legacies could help fund with the congregation. Bob shared the story of a lady parishioner who asked what the parish was going to do with her legacy when she died. Bob had gone through various ideas and projects with her and when the legacy eventually came knew exactly what her wishes would be.
4. Try to ensure Legacies are unrestricted but be assured that they can be put into a designated fund to match the wishes or agreements of donors.
5. Treasurers have to be careful that they don’t take legacies that can cause problems. Once probate is granted it is possible to get a copy of a will (at £1.50 per copy from: https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills ) so parishes can check what they are being told is in the will is in fact accurate.