Asking for Important Things

Staunton, Tim

By Tim Staunton

It was pure delight! It was 1977, I was three years old and absolutely thrilled to be hauling manure all day in the sun.

At that time, my mom and dad were working in Vancouver. They would drop me off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on weekdays.

Grandpa had an extensive garden. A carpenter by trade, he built me a little red wooden wheelbarrow of my own.

One day Grandpa took delivery of a pile of manure, and I enthusiastically helped him haul load after load to the garden.

After I left for the evening, Grandpa finished the job.

The next day, on finding the manure gone, I was so disappointed I cried. Grandma still chuckles about that today.

What I didn’t know then was that Grandpa was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Years later, Grandma would tell me that spending time with me lifted his spirits, making him determined to beat cancer and see all of his future grandchildren. He did survive, and in the course of time met all ten of us (I was the second). He lived another sixteen years.

A few years after Grandpa passed away, I dropped by Grandma’s one day for tea. After a few pleasantries, she moved to a more serious topic. “I’m getting all of my affairs in order. My will is done. Now I’m making a list of all my things, furniture and china and paintings and so on, so that everyone will know which thing goes to each person. Is there anything here you would like?”

I looked around, saw the wheelbarrow Grandpa built for me when I was three, and said it was all I wanted. Grandma smiled and replied, “You might as well take it home right now.”

Today, when my kids play with the wheelbarrow, I am reminded to tell them stories about Grandpa, who died before they were born. Hopefully they’re getting a sense of the gentle, kind man he was. That little wheelbarrow is helping his memory live on.

As a fundraiser, I have the privilege of working with people who are considering giving away their important things. Whether it’s a little red wheelbarrow, a piece of artwork, cash, securities or real estate, I have observed again and again that donors wonder whether their gift will be properly appreciated, and how much impact it will really have on those the charity serves.

I find that when I am prepared to share about why the gift will be highly valued, and explain how it will save lives or improve lives, the conversation naturally moves from whether the donor will make the gift, to how it will be made.

Whether it will be a major gift today, and/or a legacy gift tomorrow, what matters in these conversations is that the donor knows his or her important things are going to the right place. The right place is where they will always be appreciated and continue to do good, just like the little red wheelbarrow in my back yard.

Tim Staunton started his career at TD Canada Trust, administering estates, ongoing trusts, foundations and Charitable Remainder Trust. He then joined the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon Division from 2004-2014, working in planned and major gifts. Currently Tim is Associate Director, Major Gifts with the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

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