posted on August 28, 2017 14:11
By Julie Steele
I’m not yet in my twilight years, but turning seventy has focused my mind, especially as my partner and I are about to embark on an overseas trip. What if something happens to us while we are away?
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been discussing our Wills. After ensuring our family and friends are taken care of, our minds turned to which charities should we bequeath part of our estate.
Top of my list was Blue Knot Foundation. As an adult survivor myself, I have observed this organisation from its genesis, and watched it grow into the important and vibrant not-for-profit it is today.
Writing my Will was an interesting journey. It raised many questions about the importance of relationships with family and friends. Do I leave more to those members who are less well off? Or less to those members who have not bothered to keep in touch? Should that portion of my Will be shared equally amongst all members?
With charities it was much easier, or so I thought. I knew I wanted to support charities working in specific areas: education/support of sexual assault survivors; education of Aboriginal young people; refugee resettlement support; support for asylum seekers who have experienced torture and trauma. After I had carried out a thorough Internet search, based on certain criteria, I decided on the four charities.
One of my criteria was that the charities did not spend their income on fancy offices, big salaries, or too many glossy brochures. Another, of course, was corporate governance. I visited the charities of my choice in person, and in all instances found this to be a far more rewarding experience than I had imagined. Here I learned of the passion of staff and volunteers for working for an NGO, the love of witnessing positive change in their clients. I also observed the open plan offices and camaraderie amongst all levels of staff. And the pride they had in their workplace.
And I learned in these meetings of the struggle to attract funds, of how many more programs they could run if they had the money. The consistent theme was ‘we would love to support more clients, but…’
I was surprised to hear that few people make bequests in their Wills to our charitable organisations. Although the charities cannot count a bequest as income (and, of course, a Will can be changed at any time), bequests are shown in their Financial Statements, indicating funds have been promised.
That promise shows the individual NGO that people have faith in their longevity, and value the work they do to support vulnerable people.
Personally this exercise has brought me an enormous amount of pleasure, and introduced me to some truly remarkable Australians.
Bequeathing part of my estate to charities is a most rewarding experience.