Six Steps for Choosing the Right Charitable Organization for Your Legacy

When you think of the word legacy, what comes to mind? Is there a specific impact you want to leave on the world? Whether you want to play a role in mitigating the future effects of climate on health or help strengthen future global health systems that protect the health, safety and security of America and the world, one of the best ways to ensure you make the generational impact you want is to entrust the right partner organization with accomplishing your vision. These six steps will help you make informed decisions about the organization that can best fulfill your financial and charitable intentions and honor your legacy.

1. Evaluate mission and values.

Is there alignment between the nonprofit’s mission and values and your own beliefs and charitable goals? Check that the organization's mission resonates with your intended legacy and supports a cause you are passionate about. If you feel strongly about saving and improving lives and forging partnerships between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others to fight threats to health and safety, then the CDC Foundation is a great place to start.

2. Research performance and assess impact.

Look for a record of successful programs, measurable outcomes, and sustainable practices that demonstrate the organization's effectiveness. It can be helpful to understand the nonprofit's reputation in the communities it serves. The CDC Foundation provides annual reports to donors to share its organizational impact.

3. Review financial records.

Be sure to check the organization’s revenue sources, expenses and reserves. Are there financial statements, annual reports, and independent audits available? You want to ensure the organization manages its resources responsibly and transparently. Charity Navigator can do some of this work for you. It is a research tool that uses data from the IRS, partners and charities to create unbiased ratings. For 15 years in a row, Charity Navigator has given the CDC Foundation four stars, its highest possible rating. Only 1% of charities have achieved the same. The CDC Foundation also publishes its financial reports.

4. Consider background and history.

You’re looking for evidence of stability, so you can be confident in the nonprofit’s ability to successfully carry out a long-term legacy gift far into the future. Review the nonprofit’s leadership and governance structure. Can the nonprofit continue making an impact over time? Founded in 1995, the CDC Foundation has almost three decades of experience as the sole entity created by Congress to mobilize philanthropic and private-sector resources to support CDC’s critical health protection work.

5. Assess stewardship approach and engagement opportunities.

When you make a gift to an organization, what makes you feel appreciated? Examples of recognition can include receiving personal communication or having a friendly relationship with staff members. Some people also enjoy attending events or interacting with a nonprofit outside of providing philanthropic support.

6. Examine available legacy giving information and expertise.

What materials does the nonprofit provide for those interested in making a planned gift? Are there educational resources or knowledgeable staff to support you? The nonprofit should demonstrate an ability to assist and guide you in your philanthropic planning. Be sure to check out the CDC Foundation’s helpful planned giving resources as an example!

The CDC Foundation proudly houses the Healthy Futures Society, which recognizes individuals and families who have included the CDC Foundation in their will or other estate plans. Their generosity and foresight in leaving a lasting legacy enables the CDC Foundation to continue its lifesaving work in support of CDC. We are grateful for our members’ investment in helping others for generations to come.

Would you like to learn more about partnering with the CDC Foundation to carry out your estate plans? You can request an estate planning guide or reach out to Helene Erenberg, director of major gifts and individual support via email or by phone at 404.443.1139.


These steps are meant to serve as a helpful resource. These steps are not intended as legal or tax advice. As everyone’s personal circumstances are unique, please consult experienced and licensed estate planning professionals if seeking legal or financial advice.

Susanne Salehi
Susanne Salehi is an advancement officer for the CDC Foundation.