Did you know your Individual Retirement Account offers creative ways to support The Nature Conservancy’s mission both now and in the future? If you’re 70½ or older, you can make a tax-free distribution from your IRA or Roth IRA. You can also support conservation in years to come by naming the Conservancy as an IRA beneficiary. Jamie Godshalk and Marj Lundy blend both strategies to give the Conservancy vital support where—and when—it’s needed most.
“When Marj and I moved from the Chicago area to Lincolnshire, we connected with nature as we hadn’t since we were children,” says Jamie Godshalk. Born in farming country near Philadelphia, he spent summers on the Jersey Shore; Marj Lundy grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, enjoying her father’s flower gardens and trips to national parks. The couple first lived in Evanston, Illinois, and later moved to Lincolnshire, along the Des Plaines River, where they explored forest preserves and wildlife.
“We have wonderful backyard birds and seasonal migrations,” says Marj. “I discovered birding is a pastime you can enjoy all your life.”
The couple’s interest in nature developed into a commitment to help preserve it—and a conviction that The Nature Conservancy was the group to support. “We saw other organizations helping influence management of government land, but the Conservancy was directly protecting property slated for development,” says Jamie. They began donating to the Conservancy in the 1980s. In the 1990s, they became Legacy Club members by naming the Conservancy in their estate plan.
In 2008, the couple decided to designate the Conservancy as an IRA beneficiary. "We wanted our hard-earned retirement money to support something we care about. So we decided to give it to The Nature Conservancy to preserve land and animal habitat forever," says Jamie. He explains the tax strategy behind the planning: “A large portion of our IRAs would have been consumed by various taxes if we had left them to my children. Designating the Conservancy as the beneficiary was a win-win, as 100 percent of the funds go to work for a cause we care about deeply. My children are left assets outside our IRAs in our wills.”
Along with designating funds for the future, the couple decided to use their IRA to support the Conservancy's current work. Jamie had reached the age of 70½, when he had to take a required minimum distribution (RDA). “Since the money is going to the Conservancy eventually, we decided to use the funds to help with the Conservancy's most pressing needs,” he says. This allowed the couple to see their money in action while still providing support for challenges to come.
Since then, they’ve made several gifts that have produced tangible results. For example, they supported the Red-Headed Woodpecker Fund, a donation-matching grant to expand Kankakee Sands, a rare prairie landscape of black oak barrens, sedge meadows and sand dunes that spans the Indiana-Illinois border. Not only were the donations tax-free, they also didn’t affect the deduction limitation on the couple's other giving.
In 2011, Jamie and Marj learned that interim funding was needed at Indian Boundary Prairies, a “biological ark” south of Chicago that includes land designated as a National Natural Landmark because of its biological and geological importance. Their gift helped ensure continuity of care for an area sheltering 97 bird species and a great diversity of butterflies and plants.
While touring Kankakee Sands, Marj was struck by the rapport Conservancy staff had created with local residents. And at Indian Boundary, she says, “We were very impressed with the expertise and commitment of both staff and volunteers.” Jamie sums up the couple’s sentiments: “It’s nice to see the money put to good use now, and to know it will continue working when we're gone.”
You can protect prairies and other natural places by making a planned gift with The Nature Conservancy. Contact us today.September 12, 2013