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Leaving a legacy
By Jim Sanzi / December 12, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...
In my work, I think and talk a lot about legacy. Among many of the philanthropists I have the privilege to work with, legacy is a highly personal and powerful motivator. 

Leaving a legacy means different things to different people, but it is one of my favorite concepts because it is almost always about something good. I’ve never heard anyone talk about leaving a legacy that wouldn’t make them proud or leave the world a better place. Another way to think about this is with a simple question: how would you like to be remembered? Most of us want to be remembered as good people, family members, friends, colleagues, contributors, and neighbors. 

Legacies can be very private, living in the special memories of loved ones, or quite public, manifested in the ongoing operation of a business or organization, for example. They are often informal, represented simply by how you impacted someone or something. They can also be detailed and formalized in one’s estate plan. At the Rhode Island Foundation, crafting and stewarding charitable legacies is central to what we do and have done for almost 100 years. 

One notable example dates back to 1932, when the Foundation received a gift from the estate of Madeline Goddard “for the relief of incurables.” The Foundation created and invested an endowed fund, a perpetual charitable legacy for Madeline. At one time, earnings from this fund were granted for the treatment of polio and tuberculosis. Now they treat diseases like cancer and AIDS in accordance with the donor’s intent. Thanks to the donor’s smart and flexible planning, the Foundation has been able to adapt the fund’s grantmaking to the changing needs of society. Through the generosity of this donor more than 80 years ago, and through the Foundation’s prudent investment strategies, this fund’s principal balance and its total grantmaking have exceeded the amount of the original gift many times over. What a legacy…and a life-changer for so many!   

What will your legacy look like? It is never too early to start thinking about this question. I encourage you to have conversations with your loved ones and, if your legacy involves charitable giving, to reach out to us here at the Foundation.

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