mom with family

A mother believes in her children long before they believe in themselves. She sees Picasso in the preschooler’s scribble, Sheryl Sandberg in the little girl running her own lemonade stand, or Joe DiMaggio in that first successful pitch over the plate in Little League.

If Mother’s Day has you thinking of making a gift or leaving a legacy to memorialize Mom, there are many good options. Here’s how to get started:

  • Find a cause that resonates. “Do you want to honor what your parents loved? Do you want to honor what you love?” asks Aaron Levinson, president of Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Los Angeles, and the planned giving officer for the Los Angeles Jewish Home. Would your mother want to fund a fund for Jane Austin scholars but you’d rather fund a science center? When people ask Levinson how to best honor someone he says, “I do a lot of listening.”
  • Give serious thought to the structure of your giving. Starting a family foundation is a popular choice for many these days, says Levinson. A loved one dies of cancer so the family establishes a cancer research foundation and can see their efforts making a real difference. This is a wonderful way to honor Mom if you have the resources and the right trusted advisors.
  • Start now, rather than later. One beautiful idea as mom gets older is to establish a family foundation in her name and put her grandchildren on the foundation’s board. This gives her the gift of being able to get together regularly with her family to discuss ideas, pass down family values and even travel with the grandkids to research deserving charities firsthand, both at home and abroad. Many family foundations start with a donation of several hundred thousand dollars with a larger donation later, perhaps in memoriam.
  • Work closely with an expert.  Depending upon how a foundation is organized, the cost to manage a foundation may not be prohibitive.   Trust companies are cost effective option to help manage the administration, tax accounting, and asset management of the foundation.  Foundations can last for many generations, preserving Mom’s legacy long into the future.
  •  Consider making a one-time donation. Large donations usually involve capital projects—a wing or building named after a family. For example, J.K. Rowling used some of her Harry Potter fortune to fund the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic in Scotland after her mother died of multiple sclerosis. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and President Steve Ballmer honored their moms with a $20 million donation for a computer science and electrical engineering building at Harvard.
  • Remember that the meaning of the gift is more important than the size. Sometimes the most meaningful gifts people make to honor a loved one are simple ones, reflecting places they loved the most. For example, if your Mom frequented the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, you could sponsor a bench there in her name for $20,000. Planting a tree in her honor costs $1,500.  Other sponsorship choices might include a local preschool, zoo, theater or even a bed at the local hospital or nursing home.
  • Give a gift to honor someone your mother loves. Many times, the most meaningful tribute to a mom is a gift to a charity in the name of someone she loves, such as your father, who may already have passed away, or your grandmother or grandfather.

Remember, a donation of any size to a charity will be received with thanksgiving and usually an acknowledgement is sent so the family will know the gift was received and your loved one was honored.