Bequests and Wills: Be Prepared


Bequests and Wills:  Be Prepared
Last week, I had a chance to learn all about bequests and wills from Jeff Comfort, the Vice President for Principal Gifts and Gift Planning at the Oregon State University Foundation (Go Beavs!).  Normally, this is the kind of presentation where I would expect to catch a few zzzzz’s, update my Facebook status, or think about the latest plot twist on “The Good Wife.” 

Bequests and wills seem, well, so boring.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, bequests and wills mean you are doing something in anticipation of death.  For heaven’s sake, it’s morbid too – a double whammy.

I am happy to say Jeff’s workshop was anything but boring or morbid.  In fact, during the entire seminar I kept thinking about you, dear reader, and how our churches are forgetting to remind people who love the church – who are loyal to it and the work it does – to remember it in their wills. 
Here are a few highlights from Jeff’s presentation:

  • Gift history is the best single indicator that someone might be interested in leaving you something in his or her will.  This includes frequency of giving, how long over a period of time the gifts have been given, and the size of those gifts.  Sound like anyone sitting in your pews?  These people are known as “loyal” givers.  91% of loyal givers are the ones most likely to remember the church in their wills.  41% have given for ten or more consecutive years.  77% have made 15 or more gifts.


  • Over 90% of planned giving donors are people of moderate means with non-taxable estates.  These folks may not be able to give a big gift during their lifetime, but they are loyal enough that they may remember you in their will.


  • 65% of planned giving donors make their bequest decision before they reach the age of 65.

How can you encourage people to remember your church and its ministries in their wills?  In the immortal words of that small-ish business, “Just do it.”   

Do two things:

  • Post: “Have you remembered Awesome United Methodist Church in your will?” in your newsletter and on your website
  • Host an estate planner to give a presentation about wills and bequests

I wish it were otherwise, but none of us gets out of here alive.  If that’s the truth (and you know it is), then all of us should make sure that we - and others we care for and about – have our affairs in order.   What a relief it’ll be to know that when we’ve reached those pearly gates we’ve provided for the people, institutions, and ministries we love.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  She would be more than happy to have you mention her favorably in your will.  Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.