Don’t Let Them See Your Fear and Other Tips for Planned Giving

I will not forget the night last May that I opened a kitchen cabinet and let out a blood-curdling scream. “RATS!!!”

I wasn’t saying “oh rats!” in the “oh darn!” type of way. Inside my cabinet was a living, breathing, whisker-twitching rat – less than two feet from my face! I ran. I locked myself in the bathroom. Even now, my heart races in writing this story.

For a little context, I was opening up a lake house in Lake Hopatcong, NJ, that’s been in the family going all the way back to 1892.  It’s a special place where our six-year-old Peter Dylan took some of his first steps, just as did his father and other generations of Lips’ before.  I smile thinking about how many family members have spent summer days canoeing around the lake, playing games off the diving board, and grilling on the cottage’s wrap-around porch.

But then I think about that day last May, opening up the house after the long winter, and the discovery of the rats. Suddenly, I’m no longer smiling. I’m trembling. And perhaps you are laughing at my ridiculous, near-pathological fear of rats.

Fear is Fear

Why am I telling you this story? Because we all have fears, and in talking to many DonorsTrust clients and donors to the freedom movement, I know that many have a fear of planning out their charitable legacy.

I get it. Who wants to deal with the ugly reality that we are not immortal? It’s a hard conversation to have: thinking about wills, gifting prized heirlooms to family members, and considering how to sustain the charitable activities that matter to you after your passing.

Many people put off this conversation until a disruptive event occurs, like a serious illness. But today, all of us are in the midst of a disruptive event. The era of COVID has people turning attention to legacy planning like never before – and rightfully so. It’s unwise to delay making your plans until the stressful moment when have to. Taking the time now means you can set up your legacy from a place of passion and security.

Starting the process now ensures you make sound decisions and leave the legacy you want. While we hope to not need to have those plans in place for many years, being prepared enables us to spend more of our time enjoying our philanthropy and the other things we love without a cloud of worry over our heads. And isn’t more worry in the future worse than a little fear now?

Your Rat in the Cupboard

This is your signal – your rat in the cupboard, if you will.

Let these unprecedented circumstances be the nudge you need to start thinking through your legacy now. I’m happy to report that people are getting past their fears – quite unlike me and my fear of rats. It took me a long while before I was ready to re-enter that kitchen!

Are you ready to have a conversation with me on legacy plans? I’m ready too, and I admire your courage for taking on an important task. While starting the process brings anxiety, seeing it through to the end brings great piece of mind. Please give me a call and together we can build out a legacy plan that will honor your wishes and make you proud.


  • Stephanie G. Lips

    Stephanie Giovanetti Lips joined DonorsTrust in 2018 as a philanthropy advisor with a general focus on planned giving. Before joining DonorsTrust, Stephanie led the events department at Atlas Network, leading its international expansion to organize annual events in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. She also took on major gift officer responsibilities and headed up its planned giving program. Stephanie has consulted on events and fundraising for organizations such as The American Spectator, the Future of Freedom Foundation, National Association of Chemical Distributors and Johnson and Johnson. Stephanie attended Marymount University and has a B.A. in English Literature. When not working for DonorsTrust or mentoring think tank leaders from within the Atlas Network or speaking on topics close to her heart, like planned giving, Stephanie loves listening to the giggles of her children and the panting of her dog, Scooby Doo.

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