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Create a Bequest Recognition Society

Every Unitarian Universalist (UU) society, fellowship, and congregation should encourage and promote gifts by Will. Find out who in your congregation already has a charitable bequest for the church in their Wills. Invite them to tell you why they have done this, and ask them to be charter members of your congregation's Bequest Society-a society organized to recognize and thank generous members who have arranged a charitable estate gift that will benefit your congregation. Explain that their good deed is the best way to convince others to do the same.

Ask the charter members if they would be willing to speak with others about why they have provided for the future of the congregation. Would they write something for the church newsletter? Do they know others who should be invited to join?

Give the Society a catchy, meaningful name. Encourage participation and imagination in naming it. Ask the artists in your congregation to contribute, by writing poems, songs, painting, drawing, whatever they can to make the bequest society as inviting as possible. Have fun with it.

Create a brochure about the Society and include a mission statement that will inspire others to join. Include suggested language for designating a gift to your congregation. Offer anonymous membership, but do ask people to share some information about their gift plan.

Publish a list of the Society members; or start a permanent recognition wall or banner.

Identify a group of people who are likely to be interested in providing support after they are gone. Send them formal invitations to join the Society; enclose a reply card for them to return to request more information or to signal that they do have a bequest in place. Follow up with a phone call and a personal visit. Enlist the help of others, including Society members and people under 30.

Offer special events and programs for Society members, and create opportunities to say thank you and keep them involved. Ask the religious education program to have the children write notes of thanks, or interview Society members and write biographies of their lives.

Develop a list of reputable and reasonably priced legal and financial planning services available to your community. It is best for a congregation not to offer free or reduced legal services to its members, nor to ask a member to do so. A contested estate could come back to haunt you and cost a great deal of time and money. Ask the professionals in your congregation to help prepare review a list of legal and financial resources; their names may be included, and what fees they arrange with their clients is up to their own discretion and professional ethics

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