Using “Warm Hands, Cold Hands” to Advance Planned Gifts During a Lifetime

For CREATE AMAZING donors Nancy and Phil Meek, it all started with a picnic basket.

Former President Jeff Kimpton was paying the Meeks a visit. Trustee Emerita Nancy recalled, “So he walks across the street with a picnic basket, and I’m thinking that second rule of fundraising … there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But for the Meeks, it “worked out just fine.”

This visit prompted the Meeks to reevaluate their 2014 bequest.  

Over sandwiches and iced tea, former President Kimpton explained a situation: The tentative date for breaking ground on the new Music Building was looming, but Interlochen was still several million dollars shy from reaching the fundraising goal needed to break ground. Nancy and Phil already had made a generous estate commitment, but was there another way for them to help meet this challenge?

Nancy and Phil took a second look.

“Given the importance of the Music Building and what they were going to have to go through in a very short period of time to raise the money, we introduced the possibility of what if half of our bequest were changed to “warm hands.” And so that’s where the half a million-dollar commitment came from. It was essentially moving half of it forward.”

Nancy explained, “Warm hands is giving while you’re alive, and cold hands is setting up bequests that are triggered after you’re no longer living.”

Nancy first learned about the warm hands approach from a lecture in Boston. “In some ways it could have gotten us in a lot of trouble … but then the halfway thing I thought was really pretty creative because it keeps you in the loop so to speak. Now I feel like when they break ground … I’m going to be a part of it where I wouldn’t have felt that way if we hadn’t made that decision.”

Their gift had an even more powerful result. Their generosity also accelerated momentum toward achieving the Music Building Challenge—initiated by donors Bill and Linda Nelson—to reach the $17 million groundbreaking goal.

To the Meeks, “the fact that it may have leveraged some additional giving was neat from our standpoint.”

And leverage it did. Within three months, the Music Building Challenge had been met.

Another couple used the warms hand approach during CREATE AMAZING: Dee and Chuck Kelly (All-State ’43-46, Trustee Emeritus). But in a different way.

For Chuck and Dee, the decision was based on years of stewarding their Charitable Remainder Unitrust.

Chuck, a retired dentist, was a camp alumnus, Trustee Emeritus, former Alumni Board member, and original member of the Planned Giving Committee. His experience on the Committee inspired Dee and Chuck to create their first corpus from property they owned in 1982—later creating a second corpus through cash.

The Kellys admitted, “We didn’t really know what we were doing and neither did our attorney and neither did our accountant because they had never written a trust like this before.”

Over the years, the Kellys recognized the drawbacks of their giving vehicle. As interest rates fell and the stock market fluctuated, they realized “costs of trustee charges and accounting charges for tax returns and appeals throughout the years is really prohibitive to keep that corpus up.”

So they took over the trusteeship of their trust, saving costs by learning how to manage the trust themselves. But this constant vigilance was difficult to maintain, so they turned to the warm hands approach.

“Bottom line: we just thought we could definitely get more money to the charities by early termination than we could by waiting until we died and then who knows what would be left.”

Through this early termination, they supported Chuck’s major at Interlochen and named a space in the new Music Building.

Interlochen aligned with their values. In fact when called for this interview, Chuck was just finishing his clarinet practice.

“The philosophy of the whole program that is so much part of my wife’s and my value system [is] that we just recognized Interlochen as being something we cherished and something that sort of changed my life—and I think my wife’s some, too. I think for the better.”

These two couples have supported Interlochen in a variety of facets and recognized the importance of a new Music Building. Now—their names will be forever linked to a new home for Interlochen’s founding discipline.

And when asked what advice they would give to others about the warm hands approach toward reevaluating planned gifts, as the Meeks advised, “take a second look!”