Giving Opportunities


A bequest is a gift made by will or trust. A bequest can allow you to make an important contribution to a charity without diminishing your assets during your lifetime. Here is sample bequest language to include a bequest to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum:

I give [the residue of my estate], or [ __% of the residue of my estate], or [the sum of dollars] to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for the benefit of its Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

If you have already prepared a will, your attorney can add Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum as a beneficiary through a simple amendment called a codicil. Also, if you wish to designate your gift for a specific purpose or bequeath an item for the collection, we strongly advise you to discuss your intentions with us to ensure we can fulfill your wishes. Please note, our policy is to accept objects only if we intend to accession them into the collections.

Endowment Opportunities

With a gift of $50,000 or more, you can establish the ultimate legacy—a named general operating endowment to provide funding for the museum and its activities in perpetuity. Endowed opportunities are also available for designated areas of interest at the museum.

Retirement Funds

Retirement plans such as IRAs and 401(k)s are subject to “double” taxation. The combination of estate and income taxes can seriously erode the value of retirement savings if left to an individual other than a spouse. Naming Cooper Hewitt as the beneficiary or contingent beneficiary of all or a portion of these assets is an option to consider: leaving other, less taxed assets to your heirs.

Life Insurance

Life insurance can offer another way to make a major gift to Cooper Hewitt. By naming the museum as the beneficiary (or contingent beneficiary) of an existing policy, you retain lifetime ownership of the policy, keeping the right to cash it in, borrow against it, and change the beneficiary.

Charitable Gift Annuities

This type of gift provides you and/or another beneficiary with fixed income for life in exchange for an irrevocable gift of cash or securities to Cooper Hewitt. The rates of return depend on your age at the time of the gift, but rates are generally higher than those available from money market accounts or CDs, for example. Income payments can be given to you on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual, or annual basis. You can start receiving income immediately or defer it until you retire. You will receive an income tax charitable deduction immediately upon making your gift, and a portion of each annuity payment is tax-free income.

Charitable Trusts

A Charitable Remainder Trust provides you with income for either life or a fixed term from the date the gift is made. When the trust terminates, Cooper Hewitt receives the trust’s principal. An immediate income tax charitable deduction is available for an amount equal to the present value of what the museum can be expected to receive when the trust terminates. You select the beneficiaries, trustees, and the distribution rate.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust, a trust that is planned to provide a fixed payout.

Charitable Remainder Unitrust, a trust that is planned to provide a variable payment that fluctuates with the value of the underlying assets.

A Charitable Lead Trust allows you to transfer assets to a trust that pays an annual amount to Cooper Hewitt for a set number of years, with the assets in the trust ultimately passing on to another beneficiary, such as your children. With proper planning, the trust may be able to help you pass assets to a younger generation with significantly reduced gift or estate taxes.

Gifts to the Collections

The museum welcomes gifts for its permanent collection. We ask that gifts be made in the areas in which we collect, and that you notify Cooper Hewitt of your intentions in advance so that we may review and approve your gift. You may also choose to give a fractional interest in an object during your lifetime, which will allow for a current charitable gift deduction for the value of the percentage that is given to the museum. Your remaining interest in the work would be promised to Cooper Hewitt and could be given during your lifetime or through your will or trust.

Please Note

The purpose of this web page is to provide information of a general nature only. Advice from your own legal and tax counsel should be sought when considering any gift arrangement.

Featured Image: Installation view of Models & Prototypes Gallery. Photo by Matt Flynn © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum