The Carlson Bequest Gave St. Paul’s an Endowment

Mr. Albert Carlson lived a long life in Natick and Wellesley, worked at the Harwood baseball factory, and passed away in 1988 at the age of 92. He was not known to be wealthy when he died, but he did something that has had impact through the years: he left part of his estate, amounting to just under $1 million, to St. Paul’s. The leadership of the church at that time used his gift to establish an endowment, which has been extremely helpful in stabilizing our finances over the years.

For nonprofits, most of the operating income flows from annual giving by the congregation. At St. Paul’s, these pledges are made in the fall, and are used throughout the year for everything from clergy salaries to maintenance of the buildings. Except in unusual circumstances, surpluses are rare, and every dollar that comes in also goes out right away.

Endowments are different in how they are spent and bequests are different in how the gift is made.

Endowment funds are invested and the main portion (the principal) is, for the most part, never spent. Rather, the return on investments goes to meet needs that are not easily managed by annual giving.

In some cases, the need will be for an unexpected property repair. In other, less desirable situations, there may be a shortfall in annual giving, and the endowment income will prevent, say, a reduction in staff salaries.

A bequest is a different kind of giving. The donor makes the gift through his or her will by designating that a portion of the estate go to the nonprofit named in the will. The executor of the estate then transfers the funds on the death of the donor.  

If the donor prefers, the bequest can be put to work immediately, like an annual gift, and it can go to a specific purpose, like building maintenance or Christian formation. Directions regarding how to use the bequest would be specified in the will.

As far as we can determine, Mr. Carlson was not an active member of St. Paul’s during his lifetime. Nor do we know his motivation for making such a generous gift to the church on his passing. However, it is not uncommon for a bequest to be the largest gift someone makes to a cause that is dear to their heart.

Over the past 30 years, Mr. Carlson’s bequest, which established our endowment, has made a difference in the lives of St. Paul’s parishioners in ways that are unknown to most of us. Moreover, he set an example that has been followed since that time, as the church has received a number of bequests of various kinds, and all have gone to support our life together as a community.

As a follow-on to the series of Financial Wellness Seminars presented by Karen Van Voorhis, St. Paul’s has now established a bequest program. If you would like to include the church in your estate planning, please let us know. We have skilled professionals ready to help you secure a legacy that will have impact for generations to come.

Please contact the Rev. Jon Strand at joncstrand@gmail.com for additional information.