I’ve been meeting my mother at the ferry terminal when she comes home from work. It’s a long commute for her, but she’s been making “ferry friends” and, on this occasion, introduced me to one of her neighbours whom she met on the boat that day.

As we all started up the hill together, he asked me what I do. (It’s a short walk home, but pretty much all uphill.) I told him about Tiny Frog Strategies and then accidentally slipped into industry language, saying that we focus on planned giving.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Well, it’s also called legacy giving,” I said, feeling silly for my slip. “It’s when people choose to leave a gift in their will to a non-profit that they support during their life.”

“Oh, that,” he said. “Say, I could use your help with that.”

It turns out that he was going to retire in a couple of weeks. (He was counting down the days of after-work ferry trips.) As a natural part of the process, he was thinking a lot about what he was going to leave behind. He was an instructor in forestry at a community college. He said the industry had changed dramatically since he was young. Now it involved integrating with agribusinesses and approaching the profession from a sustainable perspective. He spoke about the professors that he had himself, now long since passed on, especially remembering how they had influenced him and how he looked to them as positive role models.

In fact, that was part of how he thought I could help him. Some of his peers from school had done well in the industry. He was sure that, with the right language and the institutional backing, he could secure significant gifts for the college from his colleagues. Their financial success would then also benefit the next generation of students. He could see the need for expanded resources for the students in his classroom right now.

This man was retiring at the end of the month, but he wasn’t slowing down. (Literally. I was panting as we climbed and I tried holding up my end of the conversation.) He had been approached by a company that wanted him to mentor their new employees. This company saw that new graduates had potential but not experience, and the company really wanted someone to go into the field as a mentor. For him, this opportunity was another way to give back, and he spoke passionately about continuing to interact with the next generation, especially trading the classroom for time out in the woods. It made sense to me that someone who was interested in forestry would rather be tramping around the forest.

We reached the top of the hill and parted ways, but the conversation stayed in my head. For me, it underscored the difference between an industry lexicon and a friendly-to-the-average-person word choice. Talking about legacies with this man brought up a great passion for his career, his respect for his own mentors and peers, and the commitment he had to the next generation.

That’s the kind of conversation that matters.

Have you experienced a difference in response when using “legacy” vs. “planned”? Maybe you even have a better phrase that helps people understand the concept quickly. If so, I’d love to hear it. Leave your comment below.

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