Planned Giving: Creating Your Legacy

Planned Giving: Creating Your Legacy

It is not every day that we think about the impact we will leave on others. Though not often discussed in our everyday lives, legacy giving makes up a critical piece of every institution’s fundraising portfolio. It takes on special resonance here at Wilson College. Our alumnae, alumni, and friends feel deep ties to this place; they feel tremendous commitment to and faith in its future. Many friends of Wilson would keep supporting the College forever if they could.

The good news: We can support Wilson – or any organization – so that it benefits from our generosity long after we’re gone. Read on to learn how planned giving creates a ripple effect that can make our impact felt far into the future.

Why we give

People decide to include nonprofits in their estate plans for similar reasons. They want to have an impact beyond their own lifetime. They want to give back to a place that gave them their start. They want to contribute to a cause they care deeply about. But a common thread specific to Wilson College is to honor the
transformative experience they had here. Institutional Advancement has heard comments like…

“My time at Wilson opened my eyes to
the world.”

“Wilson College saved my life.”

“I would do anything for
Wilson College!”

“They use words like nurturing – it’s a place that allows people to flourish,” says Angela Zimmann, vice president for institutional advancement. Legacy donors honor Wilson’s history by contributing to its future, helping new generations of college students to access opportunities they may not otherwise receive.

“I grew up in a family of teachers, so education was always very important in our family,” says Beth (Sheppard) Luka ’69, co-chair of the We Rise campaign. “My giving is to enable Wilson to expand
its impact and ability to change the lives of its students.”

Planned giving at Wilson

The College receives five to ten bequests per year, and the amounts of those gifts vary widely – from about $700,000 in 2019 to over $5 million in 2020 and amounts in between. “Bequests are vital to our institutional advancement mission,” Zimmann says.

She adds that legacy giving allows donors to continue what is sometimes a decades-long history of giving. The Office of Institutional Advancement’s donor records go back at least 39 years, and there are graduates and others who have been giving consistently for all those years, many even longer. Planned giving enables these longtime donors to make sure their annual gift is received in the event of their passing and can even continue their gift far into the future.

Smaller gifts matter

It’s worth noting that planned giving is for everyone. All gifts to Wilson are deeply appreciated, Zimmann notes, and modest gifts have more significant impact at Wilson than they might at a much larger school.

“Small but mighty has long been Wilson’s mantra – and while every campaign initially relies on a few large donors to jump-start giving, every gift, no matter the size, is vital to Wilson’s success,” Luka says. “Large gifts, small gifts, multi-year pledges, and planned gifts of all sizes reflect that inspiring ‘small but mighty’ message.”

What happens to your gift

Like many other donations to Wilson College, legacy gifts can be designated restricted – to be used for a specific purpose – or unrestricted, given freely for the College to use where it will do the most good.

Robin Bernstein, an honorary alumna and former chair of the Board of Trustees, gives regularly to the College and has included Wilson in her legacy giving. With no children, she says, “a very logical thing is to give to a nonprofit.” The majority of her estate will go to Wilson College. With her planned gift, her hope is that “Wilson College continues into the future as an institution that helps young people attend college who may not otherwise be able to,” she says.

When it comes to how to designate a bequest, Bernstein shares the perspective of another good friend of Wilson College, Gerry Lenfest: “He always said, ‘Don’t leave it for something specific, because what they need now might not be what they need in the future.’” Zimmann says that, if pressed, many organizations would probably say they prefer unrestricted gifts, too. “We simply don’t know what the future will bring,” she says. In addition, part of the nature of a bequest is that we’re placing trust in the organization to make the right decisions to ensure its future.

It’s not too soon, and you’re not too young

Do younger people get involved in estate planning? How old should a person be to start thinking about this?

The short answer is: It’s never too soon to start building your legacy.

The College participates in FreeWill, a free service that makes it easy to add any organization to your estate plans. Zimmann appreciates the ease with which donors can establish a legacy gift with FreeWill. “The ‘set it and forget it’ approach makes it very easy to take care of,” she says.

The Conococheague Society (Con Society, for short) includes 180 Wilson supporters who have pledged to include Wilson in their estate plans. More than simply a donor designation, the Con Society is a community centered around the impact that Wilson has had on individuals, and around its members’ faith in the College to impact others in the future.

“There is no better way to demonstrate our love and long-term commitment to Wilson than to ensure it thrives, even after we will be unable to witness its success,” says President Wesley Fugate, who is a member of the Con Society along with his spouse, Cody Ward. “Cody and I have experienced firsthand the transformative impact legacy gifts have on Wilson and her students. It brings us great joy to imagine the possibilities from our own participation in the Con Society.”

Bernstein’s advice to people who are thinking about estate planning for the first time: “If there’s something you really care about, put it in your estate plan. It doesn’t have to be everything. Every little bit you can give helps, and in my opinion there’s nothing more meaningful you can do.”

How to Create Your Legacy

There are many ways to fit giving into your estate plans, even when the financial future is unknown. Here are three options that can help you create your legacy:

Donate a percentage of your estate. It’s rare to know the exact amount you’ll have to give after you’re gone. This option relieves you of the impossible task of declaring a set amount. Instead, you choose a percentage that feels right to you, and your beneficiary receives whatever dollar amount that is.

Continue your current gift. If you have a regular annual gift, you can make sure a final annual gift is included in your estate plan. Alternatively, you can set up an endowment to perpetuate your gift.

Pull it forward. This option allows you to see some of the impact of your gift by donating part of your funds now and bequeathing the balance.

Note: The College does not offer legal or financial advice, and nothing here should be taken as such. Consult with a financial planner or an estate attorney to make decisions about legacy giving.


We are deeply grateful to all who have included Wilson in their estate plans. Here we highlight a few members of the Wilson community whose recent generous bequests will help the College to continue to fulfill her mission far into the future. They were beloved by many for their energy, friendship, and devotion to the College’s values. Thank you.

Joan Hankey ’59 (d. 2020) lived a life of service marked by her long military
career and involvement in many charitable organizations. Her endowed gift
of nearly $3.5 million supports the Hankey Center for the History of Women’s
Education on campus.

Mary Lou Kerfoot Wells ’65 (trustee emerita 1994-2003, d. 2021) and John
Wells ( d. 2022) served in many roles as dynamic members of the Wilson
community for decades. They gave an unrestricted gift of over $2 million to
support the College’s priorities.

Candy Straight ’69 (trustee emerita 1981-1990, d. 2021) provided
unrestricted support and established the Dorothy E. and Leroy Straight
Endowed Scholarship with a gift of nearly $1 million.

Carol Kemmerer ’66 (d. 2022) served proudly as class president and reunion
chair for several years. Her very generous gift of over $500,000 contributed
to the class of 1966 endowed scholarship, as well as unrestricted support of
the College.

Mary Jane Fischer ’69 (d. 2022) is remembered for her contributions to the
reunion committee for her class. Her legacy gift, an unrestricted bequest, is
anticipated to surpass $500,000.

Alice Brumbaugh (faculty emerita, d. 2022), beloved by so many, gave
$100,000 to the Dr. Mildred Wiley Scholarship.

Have you included Wilson College in your estate plans? Let us know! We’d love to recognize you for your generosity with a gift and a mention in our annual donor list. Please contact Institutional Advancement at 717.262.2010.

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