The Third Act
Youth has the great advantage of energy, adventure, and exploration (personal and geographic). In youth, most of us in Canada are introduced to the idea of compassion and giving (time or treasure). We often develop our giving in our under-30-years through “consumptive” philanthropy. We play hockey or attend dance class and we learn that in order to travel, pay for costumes and/or compete, we need to fundraise. Or we are asked to run, walk, or bike for a cause: we get to do the things we love while others benefit.
In the busy years of mid-career, and possibly the raising of family, we are also engaging in consumptive philanthropy but our repertoire of other giving expands. Giving at this stage is often motivated by the experience of friends and family. Grandfather was diagnosed with a heart condition, the neighbours’ sister’s house burnt down, or the local community hall needed a new roof. At this stage, we give generously to those who need us; we are reflexive and quick to respond.
Following the First Act (under 30 years), and the Second Act (30 to 60 years), the Third Act (60 years plus) is marked by defining questions: how well have I lived my life? What is my personal legacy? What will my children and grandchildren need? UK writer Richard Radcliffe refers to this as “finishing life well”, “having wisdom in decision making” and being motivated by “completion of the things we set out to do” or as I like to say: bucket-list fullfilment.
In the Third Act, we tend to make more informed donor decisions because we have time to do the research. We investigate the impact of our gifts, develop an understanding of administration costs and organizational return on the investment, or simply, what it takes to raise a dollar. In a sense, we become “investors” in the social fabric of our communities. Recently, statistics have shown Third Act donors are reducing the number of charities gifted, but increasing the size of gifts. This could be the result of the desire to make a significant difference or leave a legacy – it could just be donors are tired of all those requests for funds!
More frequently, Third Act gifts are coming to charities through a gift of stock or a bequest in a will. While many gifts left in a will are large, they certainly don’t have to be. When considering a gift to Valley Regional Hospital, we encourage potential donors to consider needs for children and grandchildren, and a small, more manageable gift or small percentage of the estate to the Foundation. At Valley Regional Hospital Foundation we can create positive impact for patients with as little as $30 – in one case there was a need for diffused lighting in the palliative care rooms, easily accomplished at $30 per room. Another gift of $200 allowed the Foundation to purchase another cot for family members who stay with their loved one overnight at hospital. Yet another example is a chair for $1,000 that allows individuals with no spinal or musculature strength to sit up. It allows them to eat upright and to be moved on wheels around the hospital and outside, to get fresh air. Recently we had a letter from a family member telling us of the difference the chair made in the positive hospital experience and recovery of their father. That is impact!
Third Act donors have become more discerning, more engaged, and they want the choice to make decisions they feel have impact.
I invite you to explore the impact of your Third Act.