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Planned Giving Has Meaningful Impacts

There was a time when most 50- or even 60-year-olds rarely gave much thought to estate planning and even less to including a philanthropic gift in their plans. Times have changed.

No longer is estate planning with a philanthropic motivation the special province of the elderly. It is increasingly common for people in their 60s, 50s — and even younger — to include provisions in their wills for a gift to Georgia Southern.

“It used to be that those who were 70 or older were most interested in estate planning,” said Christopher Johnston, University associate vice president for trusts, estates and planned giving. “Then it became 65 or older. Now, most of the constituencies are comprised of 55 or older,” Johnston said. “Today people are accumulating wealth faster and are starting to think sooner about the importance of estate planning. As a result, they have more time and can think very realistically and strategically about how best to care for their families, friends and Georgia Southern.

“It becomes a question about wealth for individuals, ‘How do I use this?’ People begin to realize that they truly can’t take it with them. Estate planning is really all about how to plan for the future,” he said.

There really is no time too soon to begin planning an estate, according to Johnston, even for people in their 20s or 30s. “At the very least we should have a will or living trust. It’s like an insurance policy. It’s something they can begin planning very, very early and philanthropy can assist individuals regardless of their age to plan for the future.

Young graduates have a great appreciation for their University experiences and can be some of Georgia Southern’s most ardent supporters, but they often have the most limited incomes and heavy debt. Having young children and a mortgage and other bills make the idea of a gift seem impossible.

“On the other hand, even young people need a will,” said Johnston. “They need to protect their family’s financial security in the event something should happen to them. The earlier they create a will the better. They can always change it, but at least they have it.

“It’s at this point that they might consider including Georgia Southern for a future gift,” he said. “While it’s not an immediate financial commitment in the form of a cash gift, it does greatly benefit the University and it meets those graduates’ desire to show their appreciation for what Georgia Southern means to them. It’s so gratifying when people realize they can do that,” said Johnston.

“Regardless of age you can always do a bequest,” he said. “Although it’s only a paragraph on a sheet of paper, the impact that makes in the future for students, professors and the University is huge. It’s great to know that a person had the foresight to say, ‘I can write down three sentences now that will greatly impact the University in the future.’”

Older people who investigate their options for gifts in the context of estate planning find even greater and more potentially beneficial options, Johnston said.

“Many estate planning tools provide an income for life or the life of a loved one. Trusts can be created in your, your spouse’s or significant other’s names to care for them. Gift annuities can do the same.”

People who have accumulated significant wealth, but who are concerned about later potential health problems or long-term care can create a bequest so that whatever is left in their estate can go to the University. Or, they can leave a specific percentage of the estate to benefit a program, school or college that holds special meaning for them.

“It really comes back to philanthropic passion,” Johnston said. “When I meet with individuals, the most exciting thing for me is listening to their stories about their Georgia Southern experiences. The impact that one institution can have on an individual during a very critical part of their life is amazing. When people look back, I hear many individuals say, ‘You know, that was one of the most important parts of my life’ or ‘That’s really what contributed the most to my success.’ It’s all about that passion.

“Together, the donor and I can create a philanthropic gift in a package that both mirrors their passions and takes care of them and their children or grandchildren,” he explained. “Georgia Southern has made a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Because of that, alumni, family members and friends want to sit down, talk and explore what options they have to be able to give back to others so that they can have, and may also benefit from, the same experience.”


Planned giving represents a significant gift to Georgia Southern and also provides creative and flexible strategies for your estate and charitable planning. Most importantly, your planned gift has a meaningful impact, supporting the work of the University that is also important to you while educating the next generation of leaders. Your commitment may be directed toward any program, school or college.

Gifts may include:

  • Will bequest or living trust
  • Life insurance beneficiary
  • Charitable remainder trust (unitrust or annuity trust)
  • Charitable gift annuities (immediate or deferred)
  • Pooled income funds
  • Retirement plan beneficiary
  • Remainder interest in retained life estate (residence or farm)

For additional information, visit GeorgiaSouthern.giftplans.org

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