Meet Sally Alspaugh, CLU, ChFC, CAP

Reprinted from:
CAP Share, Advancing the Philanthropic Conversation
The American College of Financial Services, Issue 26: July 2017

Those of us who have the good fortune to know Sally Alspaugh are immediately touched by her warm, engaging manner and easy smile. Drawing on her depth of knowledge and a keen ability to clarify the complex issues of family legacy planning and estate tax laws, Sally has helped to inspire and motivate families to design their legacy in a way that reflects their personal values and experiences.

Sally with SnakeSally’s transition to the world of philanthropy grew from seeds planted during her career in life insurance and estate planning with Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, now CIGNA. Simultaneously she established the Clarus Group in suburban Cincinnati serving clients in dual capacities as both fee-based consultants through Clarus Consulting and as investment advisers through Clarus Financial.

As philanthropic planning became a major emphasis in her work with clients, Sally sold her company in 2007 to become an independent Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy®, presenting her advanced philanthropic and charitable giving strategies in language audiences can understand. As a consultant, she works with families on their legacy plans and with nonprofit organizations, helping them to capture the hearts of their donors.

Her work in the Cincinnati area has brought her acclaim and respect in the media. Sally has been a guest expert on radio and in print, and was a featured columnist in the financial section of the Cincinnati News Eastside Weekend for years. She is also a past president of the International Association of Advisors (AiP), a past board member of the AiP Foundation, and past winner of AiP’s annual Fithian Leadership Award.

Sally also finds time to share her expertise with students in the CAP® program, having recently moderated two successful online National CAP® Study Groups. “CAP® has most specifically helped me to see the BIGGER picture,” she believes. “Donors, professional advisors and nonprofits have different backgrounds, agendas and goals. It takes good listening, discernment, wisdom and patience to navigate through these various waters in order to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to all.” Most importantly, Sally recognizes that a CAP® should start out understanding what the donor/ client wants to achieve, and then blend in the other parties to the conversation.

Family Legacy Planning 

In her private practice as a philanthropic consultant, Sally has developed a comprehensive two-part workshop called “Building Family Legacies Through Philanthropy.” “The first half is Legacy Past and the second half is Legacy Future,” she explained, “because the word legacy [can be used] both ways when you look it up in the dictionary.” From this thought, she originated a phrase that embodies the premise of the workshop: “When memories are shared they become stories, stories reveal values, values can lead to a vision and the vision can lead to a legacy.”

The exercises Sally developed for the workshops have spurred a di erent dynamic that she feels enables families to share things with each other that they may not have revealed before. She starts out with a helpful fill-in-the-blank phrase borrowed from Scott Farnsworth in Florida – “I come from a family who (BLANK)… and from them I learned (BLANK) …” Those two sentences, claims Sally, are an easy way to get people to open up and reveal their stories.

Planned Giving in a Nonprofit Setting 

When she began working at Xavier University in 2010, a Jesuit Catholic University in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sally carried her successful techniques to planned giving on a full-time basis for the institution.

With their blessing, she continued her presentations to donors on behalf of the University until 2014 when she “exchanged students for animals” and accepted her current position with the Cincinnati Zoo as Director of Estate Giving.

Rated by peer zoological parks as one of the best zoos in the nation, the Cincinnati Zoo continues to set the standard for conservation, education and preservation of wild animals and wild spaces. It is an energizing environment and Sally creatively taps the Zoo’s “wow” factor in her role, as when she visits law firms and takes along an animal and its keeper. “That’s the drawing card,” she acknowledges. She then presents content and tells them what gifts the zoo is seeing and what gifts they are not seeing. “And then I do a real brief case study with multiple techniques, donor advised funds, sale of a business, and I have to say the attorneys are absolutely engaged because I don’t think they see the multiple techniques to solve a situation, at least not in Cincinnati.”

The Challenges 

When asked about the challenges she faces in her role at the Zoo, Sally finds that most nonprofits are used to thinking of their needs first and not necessarily that of the donor. Although they recognize the importance of the donor’s best interests, it is not always foremost in the conversation. “The need for the gift is so prevalent,” says Sally, “that to get the bigger picture of satisfying family wealth issues is hard to do.” She asserts that her practice has always led her to serve the donor/client first and the Zoo second, but meeting the needs of both is a balancing act.

On the CAP® Program 

During her time as a financial advisor, Sally first learned of the CAP® program from Elton Brooks, the first Wallace Chair in Philanthropy at The American College. “Elton Brooks came to my office and sat across the table from me and asked ‘would you consider being part of a study group to get your CAP®?’ and I just about jumped in his lap!” she laughs. Sally has the distinctive honor of being one of the very first individuals to earn the CAP® designation. “I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to meld the perspectives of donors, advisors and nonprofits into their lives,” she adds. “It can enrich our communities for generations to come.”


Beneficiaries Aren’t Just People Anymore

One of the easiest but often overlooked opportunities to leave a gift from one’s estate is the beneficiary change opportunity that comes with an IRA, a 403-b, a 401-k, group life insurance, an existing life insurance policy or an existing commercial annuity.

beneficiariesAll of the above-mentioned require a designated beneficiary to be named with the plan or policy. With employer-sponsored plans, a custodian is hired to maintain the details of each participant’s account including beneficiary designations. Usually, there is an open-ended opportunity to make changes and the process is no more difficult than to request a “Change of Beneficiary” form from the custodian, make the changes, sign and return the form. No attorney is needed, not even a notary.

The options are to name a primary beneficiary, usually one’s spouse if married, and then a successor beneficiary, sometimes called a contingent beneficiary. The successor/contingent beneficiary would receive the death benefits if the primary beneficiary is deceased.

It used to be that only persons could be named as beneficiaries –but no longer. The law now allows non-persons to be named and that is where a charity can fit. On the primary beneficiary line the percentages can be spelled out to indicate which individual and/or what charity will get what percentage. For example, I might sign off on 90% to my spouse and 10% to a favorite charity. Likewise, on the contingent beneficiary line I could say 90% to my children equally and 10% to a charity or charities.

Of course, these designations are revocable but from the charity’s point of view, we would hope that once a form has been signed and filed, there would only be a small number of folks that would choose to change their minds later on. My prediction is that instead of getting mostly bequests from people’s wills after a probate process, we will see more of the type of gifts I’m describing here due to the ease of making the changes.

By the way, beneficiary designations never go through probate.

My experience tells me that if someone is inclined to make a bequest to a charitable institution, they soon discover that they have to see an attorney who will send them a bill for their services. So I think many people tell themselves, “I think I’ll wait until I have two or three reasons to see my attorney.” Unfortunately, procrastination is part of human nature and I’m afraid that many good intentions have gone unexecuted.

As far as life insurance policies and commercial annuities are concerned, again a “Change of Beneficiary” form is what is requested from the insurance company. The legal owner of the policy can make a beneficiary change any time. Primary and contingent beneficiaries are named just as with employer sponsored plans.

Another idea that should be kept in mind that adds to the attractiveness of this gift-making opportunity is that the proceeds of retirement plans have never been taxed and therefore when the proceeds are distributed either during life or at death the taxes are due. Even though there are rollover opportunities for beneficiaries to postpone the taxes, the fact remains that the distributions will be taxable. Not so with distributions to charities. Charities receive the proceeds tax free as long as our tax laws continue to recognize the 501-(c)(3) status of exempt organizations.

In conclusion, I’ve been told that Baby Boomers value convenience, flexibility and personalized attention. I think that having an easy and efficient way to make a difference to a charity through this approach meets those criteria and will be utilized more and more in the future.

— Sally