by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
LEAWOOD — St. Michael the Archangel here is a relatively young parish, but the community is already thinking ahead to the next generation.
In an effort to leave a financial legacy for future parishioners, St. Michael recently relaunched its Legacy Society. Parish administrator Rob Lisch said the initiative brings together church members and the planned giving group of the archdiocesan stewardship and development office to reignite a campaign that began enthusiastically, but stalled in recent years. Legacy gifts are financial donations that are deferred until a person’s death.
“The relaunch was prompted by the realization that the financial security of the parish is not a given in perpetuity. We must all do our part to set subsequent generations up for success,” Lisch said. “Building a financial legacy for the parish is a way that we can ensure that St. Michael remains a beacon for God’s kingdom into the future.”
Building awareness of the future
Because St. Michael is a little over two decades old, its endowment is also in its infancy — both in participation and financial contributions, Lisch said. Parishioner Larry Sowers, who served on the original campaign, is leading the new effort as well. Sowers, along with Terri M. Lynn of the archdiocesan planned giving office, have been meeting since January to outline the scope and focus of the renewed initiative.
“Each parish has unique needs, finances and history, so I wanted to ensure our Legacy Society focused on the relevant situation at St. Michael’s,” Lisch said. “As a relatively young parish — both in structural age and demographics — my primary focus now is education of the parish about various ways that our parishioners can leave a legacy and then to build momentum of parishioners who participate in the Legacy Society.”
St. Michael is the only parish in the archdiocese currently implementing a formal campaign. Planned giving in the office of stewardship and development offers the guide “Forming a Parish Legacy Society” for parishes that would like to launch a new effort or enhance a current one.
The rise of planned giving
According to Lynn, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, planned giving is experiencing an uptick as individuals and families are prompted to update their estate plans. Baby boomers have made a positive impact on the ability of parishes and schools to serve over the last 25 years, she said.
“It is expected that with the aging and passing of baby boomers, there will be a great transfer of wealth in the U.S. through estate planning to the younger population and to charities — perhaps $30 trillion or more over the next 10, 20, 30 years as this demographic group passes away,” Lynn said. “The office of stewardship and development — planned giving wants to see some of the transfer of this wealth go directly to parishes. While families protect their heirs through estate planning, it is also the perfect time to make a bequest to the parish.”
While Lisch and Lynn advise parishioners to speak with their attorney or financial advisers about charitable giving, Lisch said the most common form of planned giving among St. Michael parishioners is stock donations. It currently represents a fraction of the percentage of overall contributions to the parish.
However, it is helpful to those that choose this method of giving, even when the stock market fluctuates. By using stocks and mutual funds charitable giving, he said, the giver conserves cash for other uses and maximizes the value of the charitable gifts.
Additionally, the giver can deduct the fair market value and pay no capital gains tax on gifts of long-term appreciated equity.
“My advice is to consult with a Catholic financial adviser,” Lisch said. “A Catholic financial adviser will share the giver’s Catholic values and beliefs and will understand the giver’s estate and charitable planning priorities as well as the challenges in structuring estate plans.
“Ultimately, the adviser will identify and present opportunities for charitable giving in ways that serve the giver’s family, protect their assets, and leave St. Michael with a gift to help it thrive in the future.”
A legacy of faith
While a legacy gift provides a parish with financial support, it is of value in other ways, too, Lynn said.
“A legacy planned gift is the last chance to evangelize the faith to your children and make a grateful response to God for his abundant gifts in your life,” Lynn said. “It is recommended that parents write a spiritual testimonial letter to their children to be read along with the will, so the children will understand why a legacy gift was left to the parish.”