You commit to charity with nothing but the greatest of intentions. But when it comes to unique or truly large gifts of charity, good intentions are not necessarily all it takes to do the most good. Without proper planning and consideration of all options, a gift of charity can actually be a future burden to your institution of choice.
Consider the case of the Smithsonian Museum and the entomologist Carl J. Drake, as relayed in a recent article in the Guardian titled “Smithsonian Museum is bugging out over insect inheritance.” Most museums across the globe really only start out and build their vast collections through the largesse of charitable donors. The Smithsonian is no stranger to gifts of the oddest collections coupled with the most peculiar needs and married to various limiting conditions. That said, Drake’s bug collection is beginning to bug them. The Museum is actually petitioning the courts in an attempt to modify the gift.
Drake left his vast collection of preserved specimen (dead bugs) to the museum through his last will with various rules attached to protect the collection and ensure its preservation. In addition, he left his entire fortune to the museum with the express purpose of purchasing new bug collections. Unfortunately, Mr. Drake’s rules regarding his gift were written several decades ago, making them as onerous as they are dated. Legal changes have made it hard to buy collections, so the money sits unused. While you can read more in the original article, when it’s all said and done, the gift cuts against the museum’s own ability to effectively manage the collection; the Smithsonian laments the waste.
Clearly, Drake loved his bugs and thus thought hard about ensuring his collection would live on. We can all — even the squeamish — appreciate his motivation and his planning. This case illustrates both what you can do intentionally right and what you can do unintentionally wrong. Accordingly, the case is instructive on several levels.
If you have a very specific gift to make there is much to do and think about. Proper planning can mean building your gift with more appreciation for its receipt and its longevity.
Reference: The Guardian (June 12, 2014) “Smithsonian Museum is bugging out over insect inheritance”
Image: By Edward Donovan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons