People are always complaining about growth, but get this. The number of nonprofits and churches in greater Williamsburg has ballooned to 300 in recent years. They serve thousands of clients in myriad ways to make our community stronger.

The lead agent in all this is the United Way of Greater Williams­burg, whose 22 partner agencies are targeted this fall for a campaign of $1.99 million. The number is distinctive as that of our beltway and as a reminder that the community gets a big discount for all the work accomplished.

A brochure promoting this year's campaign explains that your donation helps five "Community Solution Areas":

* Improving health and wellness.

* Building self-sufficiency.

* Caring for people in crisis.

* Investing in children and youth.

* Promoting senior independence.

You can's ask for a more comprehensive approach than that. A compelling narrative on the back of the brochure details 24 hours "in the life of your United Way investement."

The United Way and other charites rely on thousands of people to donate funds for annual support. To that end, the Williamsburg Community Trust has reprised a local version of "Leave a Legacy."It's a national campaign that inspires people to make charitable bequests and planned gifts. The latter, aka "giving while living," is the fastest growing segment of philanthropy. Gifts are translated into scholarships, research grants, land preservation and a hundred other creative causes.

Sponsors of Leave a Legacy include the College of William &Mary, Ukrop's/First Market Bank, Williamsburg Ccommunity Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Williamsburg, Williamsburg Community Trust and Colonial Williamsburg. Several prominent people from those organizations and others are on the steering committee.

The Gazette inserted gratis last week a 36-page magazine that re-introduces our readers to the concept of charitable gift giving through bequests and "life income" gifts that offer tax advantages. The guide gives an example of how one fellow transferred securities to a charitable remainder trust and wound up earning more income than he was collecting in dividends. The premise begins with a will, which surprisingly many Americans don't have. Within the will and after one's children are the list of causes that you choose to support in perpetuity.

Even those with modest assets may be surprised to tote up their net worth. The Gazette has found that bank assets in our community have surpassed $1 billion for the first time. That's just checking and savings, and doesn't include the credit unions or brokerage houses. Our affluent population could be sitting on tens of billions in disposable assets, making charitable gift-giving a serious enterprise.

The charitable gift guide serves to keep vital donations here to serve our local needs. It lists the nonprofit and religious organizations that benefit, including the specific mission as defined by none other than the IRS. The guide also has estate planning attorneys, financial advisors, trust banks and accountants who can assist. If you haven't sent last Wednesday's paper to the recyling bin, you should rescue it to pull out the guide.

In a briefing Sept. 19 on Legacy at the Community Building, Nancy Sullivan of the Community Trust said, "The people who take this step and make this kind of commitment should be honored for having the vision to think beyond themselves and today's concerns."

A report in 1999 by the Urban Institute ranked greater Williams­burg No. 1 nationwide in its capacity of "social capital." Fall begins the season of giving, primarily with the United Way as it rallies the community for collective aid to the poor, the sick and others in desperate need. For long-term planning, Leave a Legacy fullfills an important mission.

More –– Visit UWGW.org and lalwmbg.org.