Letter to a Deceased Woman

There is no act of kindness greater than a bequest gift to your favorite charitable organization. Yet, only 7% of donors in America have left a gift to charity. Also, bequest donors are reluctant to identify themselves while they are alive.  This letter was first published in a Catholic Charities newsletter in 2003. It’s purpose was to remind the organization of how important each and every donor is….how we can never take their gifts for granted. And, also, to thank every generous bequest donor as we encourage others to do the same.

Dear Charlotte:

One year ago, just prior to Thanksgiving, we learned of your death. We had invited you to attend our annual Thanksgiving mass. The post office returned the invitation with a label marked “undeliverable/deceased.”

Fortunately, Teresa, one of our data entry staff members recognized your name. She remembered, years ago, you had made arrangements with four banks, to have Catholic Charities the ‘pay-upon death’ beneficiary of your money-market accounts.

You passed away April, 2003. It just so happens that in October 2003 Catholic Charities was going through an unusually difficult cash-flow shortage. By November our leadership was having serious conversations about cut-backs. Then, the news came to us, a women named Charlotte, a donor we never knew, had left us a gift at each of four banks. The total was $543,187. Our cash flow shortage was over.

Charlotte, I want you to know not a single day has passed when I have not gone to our Good Samaritan Chapel to say a prayer for you and all of the people you have helped through your extraordinary donation. Our President, Jim Stutz and I had a conversation a few day’s after depositing your gift. We vowed from that day forward we will never forget you- the women named Charlotte. We vowed to hold ourselves accountable in this way….we will imagine that you reside at the head of our meeting table… from time to time you will ask us “what did you do with my money?”

This last year, your money (and that of other donors as well), helped us to collect and distribute more than a million pounds of food to families who were hungry, more than 120,000 meals were served to the homeless, more than 1,700 unemployed adults were given job skills training and job search assistance, nearly 33,000 children and 36,000 older adults were provided compassionate care.

Charlotte, we invite you to reside at our meetings. We want to share more details. We want you to know more about our plans and aspirations. You will continue to challenge us to do more on behalf of the poor. We promise we will have a good answer to your question, “what did you do with my money?” My only regret, Charlotte, is I was never able to thank you when you were still alive. Thank you.


Daniel R. Shasserre

1 thought on “Letter to a Deceased Woman

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Perhaps our “donor” information on the back of our drivers’ licenses should also include a reminder to leave something behind for others, as Charlotte did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s