Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Planned giving a way for St. Peter's to ensure future
BY JOAN KERN, Correspondent
People in the pews are putting less in the collection plates these days.
The Rev. Craig Ross, senior pastor at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 10 Delp Road, says according to the Alban Institute, "gifts of income will continue to shrink and gifts of wealth will have to pick up the slack." The institute is an interfaith, not-for-profit and independent learning center for Christians in Herndon, Va.
Yet the vibrant St. Peter's congregation, with about 1,800 members and 500 attending on a typical Sunday, is far from a declining mainline congregation.
"We've been stable, but we have not seen the growth that we think we should see," Ross says. "We have great dreams, and some are tied up in money. We need money to see them through."
To ensure St. Peter's future, stewardship committee chair Alan Swanson organized a Planned Giving Committee at the church two years ago that recently set up The Luther Rose Society to recognize members who leave a legacy to the church.
Adrian Young, executive vice president of financial strategies for Ambassador Advisors LLC, 1755 Oregon Pike, a registered investment advisor and for-profit subsidiary of Lancaster Bible College, chairs the standing committee, with seven members, including Jay Bucher, president of the Lancaster General Health Foundation.
"They know the market and can guide us," Ross says.
" 'Planned giving' is a buzzword that has been flying around nonprofit circles for some time, but most churches don't have the personnel and know-how to truly capitalize on the opportunity," says Young, 36, a Hempfield High School graduate who lives in Lititz with his wife, Julie, and their two daughters, Olivia, 6, and Rowan, 4. The couple has worshipped at St. Peter's for 10 years.
Young, an attorney and a certified financial planner, with a master's degree in business administration, explains planned giving with a simple example: "If someone drops off a yacht at the church and says to the pastor, 'Here, this is yours,' that's a gift. If someone has some IBM stock they want to give to the church, they need assistance to give it."
Normally, if members want to give stock to the church, Young says, they would sell it in and give the cash to the church, incurring capital gains tax on the growth of the stock and getting a deduction for the gift later.
With planned giving, they can give the stock to the church directly, eliminating the capital gains and still get the tax deduction.
"The church pays zero tax," Young says. "So it truly is a tax windfall."
Young says the estates of the aging population are "huge." He referred to a study at Boston College that predicts, despite the decline in the economy in recent years, that the largest intergenerational wealth transfer -- nearly $41 trillion -- will occur in the next several decades. See www.bc.edu/research/cwp/features/wealth.
"Those of the greatest generation were also great savers," Young says. "They experienced unprecedented growth in the areas of real estate and investments."
With planned giving, he says, people can give all their assets to their church, leave an equal amount of money to their heirs through a life insurance policy and give zero to the government.
"I've set that up for people," says Young, noting that Ambassador Advisors has about 40 charities as clients.
"Usually, members remember the church in their wills," Ross says. "When they die, we find out about it."
With planned giving, donors can give before they die and still accrue benefits for themselves, such as tax savings and increased income.
Ross says churches often talk about six pockets of giving: the general fund, debt reduction, missions and benevolence that "churches tap well" and designated and planned gifts that they "traditionally ignore."
He describes a designated gift: A family wants to give a gift in honor of Aunt Sadie upon her death. They want it to be something to remember her by, such as candlesticks.
He says the church needs to be proactive and have a wish list of needs, which could include a van for Sunday school retreats, a computer, costumes for a drama or a harp for the music program.
"A mom will say, 'Wow, my daughter loves to sing in the choir. I'm going to buy that harp.'"
He says with declining cash gifts to the first four pockets, items normally purchased by the church through them are now shifted to designated and planned giving.
"And because we don't usually hit those two pockets, we need to get them in front of the congregation, especially younger families, who would rather serve soup, not just give soup," he says.
"Many people in the younger generation are doers rather than givers. They like to see a personal connection. The top four pockets are not personal enough for them."
Young says planned giving will help St. Peter's "weather future financial storms."
Ross emphasizes that it is future generations who will benefit from the committee.
"My successor and (Young's) grandchildren will see the real benefits," he says.