Posts tagged ‘charitable tax deduction’

August 17, 2018

It’s Time to Stop Whining about Donor-Advised Funds!

The New York Times whined recently about Donor-Advised Funds in an article carrying the headline, “How Tech Billionaires Hack Their Taxes With a Philanthropic Loophole.”

While you personally might not complain about DAFs, you can sure bet some of your organization’s senior staff and board members may line up with some of the experts cited in the misleading piece in the Times.

I’m here to tell you and others that it’s time to stop whining about DAFs. Regardless of how you feel about them, DAFs have been with us since the 1930s, and they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. So, you and your organization will be far better off if you understand how to benefit from DAFs.

I’ll give you six tips. However, as a former newspaper editor, I feel compelled to first bust the myths peddled by the Times.

“Billionaires.” The Times seems to suggest that DAFs are a tool being used by and only available to billionaires. David Gelles writes, “DAFs allow wealthy individuals like Mr. Woodman to give assets — usually cash and stock, but also real estate, art and cryptocurrencies — to a sponsoring organization like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Fidelity Charitable or Vanguard Charitable.” While many wealthy individuals establish DAF accounts, so do middle class people. Some sponsoring organizations require just a $5,000 contribution to create one.

As a result of the new tax code, some donors will no longer itemize deductions on their tax returns because of the increase in the standard deduction. However, if they are close to being able to itemize beyond the standard deduction, some will choose to bundle their charitable giving. In other words, they’ll give in some years but not others. In the years they give, they’ll itemize. One way some of these donors will give is to establish a DAF with a large contribution in a given year. Then, they’ll continue to support their favorite charities each year by recommending annual grants from their DAF account.

The bottom-line is that DAFs are not just for the super-wealthy.

“Hack Their Taxes with a Philanthropic Loophole.” The headline in the Times lets you know the reporter’s inappropriate bias right from the start. The wealthy are not doing anything cute, clever, sloppy, or nefarious by creating a DAF. Any donor who creates a DAF is simply following the clearly written provisions of the law.

If giving to charity is a “hack” in the pejorative sense, if receiving a charitable-gift deduction for donating to a nonprofit organization is exploiting a “loophole,” then perhaps we should do away with the deduction for donations all together. However, can we agree that would be stupid?

The bottom-line is that setting up a DAF is no more evil than creating a foundation or trust or, for that matter, giving directly to a charitable organization. Donors who engage in careful tax planning have more disposable income or assets, which has historically led to more giving.

“Charities Can Wait for Funds Indefinitely.” Gelles writes, “So while donors enjoy immediate tax benefits, charities can wait for funds indefinitely, and maybe forever.” He goes on to state that foundations are required to give away five percent of their assets each year, but DAFs have no similar requirement. That’s true, but…

While DAFs are not required to make minimum distributions, the average DAF distributes far more than the minimum required of foundations. According to the 2017 Donor-Advised Fund Report, compiled by The National Philanthropic Trust, DAFs contributed 20.3 percent of assets to charities in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. For the third year in a row, growth in grants from DAFs has outpaced the growth of giving to DAFs.

Why would a donor just let money sit in a DAF account “forever” after setting up the irrevocable account? While the sponsoring organizations would love that – they earn fees for managing the accounts – a donor derives zero benefit from warehousing money in a DAF, beyond the initial deduction. Instead, donors benefit when that money can be put to good use. Furthermore, they’ll benefit when the recipient charities recognize their support and express their gratitude.

The bottom-line is that most donors have no interest in warehousing their money. They want to use their DAFs to help build a better world. It’s the job of fundraising professionals to inspire these people to recommend grants from their DAF accounts.

“Philanthropy is Becoming Less Transparent.” The article quotes David Callahan, author of The Givers, as saying, “The world of philanthropy is becoming less transparent, and that’s not a good thing.” While I’m not really sure what point Callahan was making, the Times wants us to believe that DAFs are part of the transparency problem as people use them to hide their giving.

A few years ago, I was curious about how secretive DAF grantmakers really are. Here is what I was able to report:

Vanguard Charitable reports that 95 percent of its grantmakers share their name with the charities they support. Schwab Charitable, another large DAF management organization, says that 97 percent of its grantmakers share their name. Fidelity Charitable reports that 92 percent of its grantmakers provide information for nonprofit acknowledgment. This means that charities are able to continue to cultivate and steward these donors.”

The bottom-line is that when donors are inspired to give through their DAF, they almost never do so secretively.

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May 24, 2018

New Charitable Gift Annuity Rates Announced

The American Council on Gift Annuities has announced an increase of its suggested maximum payout rates for Charitable Gift Annuities for the first time since 2012. The rates will be rising by 0.30 to 0.50 percentage points for those ages where most annuity contracts are done. The new rates become effective on July 1, 2018.

For some sample ages, the following table compares the current single-life payout rates to the new rates:

 

Current Rate through 6/30/18 New Rate, effective 7/1/18
Age 60 4.4% 4.7%
Age 70 5.1% 5.6%
Age 80 6.8% 7.3%
Age 90 9.0% 9.5%

As the above table illustrates, a 70 year-old donor who creates a Charitable Gift Annuity in July will receive a payout rate that is 9.8 percent greater than the rate currently available. Nonprofit organizations may find that the new, higher payout rates will generate greater interest in CGAs.

You can find the complete new rate schedule by clicking here.

When marketing your CGA program, there are a few tips that philanthropy researcher Prof. Russell James, III, JD, PhD, CFP® has found that can help you achieve greater success:

1. Tax Avoidance. Because the new tax code means that most donors will not itemize when filing their taxes, you might think you shouldn’t bother discussing tax avoidance when speaking with donors. However, that’s not necessarily the case. First, many of those who can afford to make a CGA donation will be tax itemizers who will be able to take advantage of the charitable gift deduction. Second, anyone with appreciated securities can avoid capital gains tax by establishing a CGA with a gift of stock rather than cash.

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January 30, 2018

Russell James: Three for the Price of FREE!

One of the nation’s leading philanthropy researchers provides us with helpful insights about the new tax code and its impact on charitable giving. He also offers valuable information about planned giving.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP® articles, books, and videos will benefit any fundraising professional. Here are just three that will be a big benefit to you:

1. A Donor’s Guide to the 2018 Tax Law (video)

In just nine-and-a-half minutes, James explains how key provisions of the new tax code can benefit donors. With his insights, you’ll be in a better position to inspire more donations and larger gifts to your nonprofit organization. Simple illustrations and great examples will help you easily grasp the concepts.

Do you know?: Just one of the things you’ll learn from the video is that donors can contribute appreciated stock to avoid capital gains tax. Even non-itemizers can benefit from this. While this provision of the tax code remains unaltered, what has changed is that the new code makes this provision even more valuable for donors. James explains how in the free video:

2.Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning (e-book, updated January 2018)

I’m honored that James has allowed me to offer you a free copy of his 433-page e-book Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning. James designed the newly updated book for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning. This introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation in an accessible way.

Do you know?: Wealth is not held in cash. It’s held in assets. James has found that only one percent of financial assets are held in cash! So, if you want larger donations, you need to talk with supporters about making a planned gift from non-cash assets (e.g., stocks, personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.).

If you want to learn more about planned giving or help a colleague gain a fundamental understanding, you can download your free copy of Visual Planned Giving by clicking here.

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January 5, 2018

How Bad is the New Tax Code for Your Charity?

If you’ve been reading the mainstream press, or even some of the industry media, you might believe that the future is all doom and gloom for charitable giving thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. But, how bad will things really be for you and your nonprofit organization?

As a former newspaper editor, I know that the media lives by the axiom: If it bleeds, it leads. In other words, negativity attracts readers and viewers, which in turn attracts advertising dollars. So, it’s no surprise that the media have put the new tax code in the most negative light when it comes to charitable giving.

Fortunately, reality is something quite a bit different. Let me explain, using figures from 2016 (the most current numbers available).

Overall, charitable giving totaled $390.05 billion. US Gross Domestic Product totaled $18.6 trillion. Therefore, total philanthropy in 2016 equaled 2.1 percent of GDP.

As a result of the new tax code, charitable giving could decline by approximately $21 billion, according to Patrick Rooney, PhD, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University.

However, is that number accurate? Unfortunately, we have no way of truly knowing as Rooney himself states.

For example, the estimated philanthropic decline of $21 billion does not take into account the impact of a likely increase in Gross Domestic Product.

Because philanthropy closely correlates to GDP at the rate of approximately two percent, we can expect a rise in GDP to result in a rise in giving.

So, how much will GDP rise? Again, no one knows for certain. The estimates vary greatly from 0.08 to 0.35 percentage points. The Tax Foundation provided the latter estimate. Applying that percentage to the 2016 GDP, we would see GDP increase by $651 billion. If two percent of that increase goes to charitable giving, that would be approximately $13 billion. So, Rooney’s prediction of a $21 billion decline in philanthropy could be mitigated partially by GDP growth resulting in just an $8 billion drop in giving. However, even that number could be further offset by growth in foundation giving resulting from robust growth in the stock market.

Simply put, the new tax code could increase GDP and stock values leading to more charitable giving that could, at least partially, offset any potential decline in giving resulting from the new tax policy.

For the sake of discussion, however, let’s assume a $21 billion drop in giving, as Rooney outlined. That would take philanthropy as a percentage of GDP from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent, using 2016 numbers. This is still within the 40+ year historical range.

The bottom line is that the new tax law could result in a decline in charitable giving. However, we don’t know for certain if that will be the case and, if it is, how much the dip will be. Even if there is a dip, giving will still remain at historically typical levels, around two percent of GDP. Furthermore, there is the possibility that the pundits are mistaken and that charitable giving will actually increase. Time will tell.

While the new tax code may change how and when people donate, history teaches us that changes in the tax code have only a short-term impact on the amount of giving though the methods and timing may vary. For example, the Reagan tax cuts resulted in greater year-end giving in 1986 before giving normalized thereafter. Furthermore, while a dip of billions of dollars is a big number, the reality is that it is not massive in the context of overall philanthropy.

Here are some of the relevant items you need to know from the 500+ page Tax Cut and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017 by President Donald Trump:

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February 3, 2017

Urgent: Join #Fundraising Colleagues for Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

President Trump’s tax plan would reduce charitable giving by 4.5 to 9 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Analysis from the American Enterprise Institute estimates that Trump’s current tax proposal could eliminate more than $17 billion in annual giving.

It’s time to join the fight against any efforts to reduce charitable-giving incentives. As the US Congress drafts tax-reform legislation and negotiates with the Trump Administration, The Charitable Giving Coalition, Chaired by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is hosting an advocacy day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Feb. 16, 2017.

capitol-hill-by-elliott-p-via-flickrTo participate, you must email Ali Davidson (adavidson[at]urbanswirski.com) to register by the end of business on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. When you register, provide your name, organization, state, and Congressional district. There is no charge to participate, but you will be responsible for your own travel and lodging expenses.

The “100 Years of Giving Fly-In” advocacy event is a great chance to meet with policymakers and their staff to advocate for maintaining the full value of the charitable deduction, as well as its possible expansion.

Over the years, I’ve participated in a number of advocacy events with AFP. They are fun and interesting. Moreover, it’s exciting to help make an important difference for the entire nonprofit sector. But, to make a difference, our sector needs to show up. You need to show up.

The Charitable Giving Coalition says:

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January 27, 2017

Your #Charity is Losing Big Money If It Ignores This Giving Option

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you’re ignoring one high-potential giving option. Sadly, it could be costing your nonprofit organization a fortune.

I’m talking about gifts of appreciated securities (e.g., stocks).

The Wall Street Bull.

The Wall Street Bull.

Just days ago, the Dow broke through the 20,000 level to set a new record close. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 are also in record territory. As stock values have continued their post-election rally, many more Americans now hold appreciated stocks.

In 2016, 52 percent of Americans said they owned stocks in some form, according to Gallup. While that’s down from the 65 percent who owned stocks prior to the Great Recession, a majority of Americans still hold stock, directly, in mutual funds, and in retirement accounts.

Given that most Americans own stock and many of those stocks have appreciated in value, the nonprofit sector has a tremendous opportunity.

Contributing appreciated stocks provides donors with some important benefits:

  • It gives donors access to a pool of money with which to donate that would not otherwise be available to them for other purposes without negative tax consequences.
  • Contributors who donate appreciated stocks may be able to avoid paying the capital gains tax on those securities.
  • Donors may also be able to take a charitable-gift tax deduction based on the value of the stock donated.

Given the benefits for the donor and the nonprofit organization, I’m puzzled about why more charities aren’t stepping up to promote gifts of appreciated securities.

I know. I know. You’re organization’s website probably mentions this giving option in passing. For example, my alma mater Temple University promotes gifts of appreciated stock and mutual funds on its website. Unfortunately, it takes three clicks from the Home Page to find the 82-word statement buried on the vaguely named page “More Ways to Give.” I suppose that’s a bit better than the charities that don’t mention this giving option at all.

On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union does a better job of promoting stock gifts on its website. Furthermore, unlike Temple University, the ACLU site provides all of the information and instructions a donor will need in order to make a gift of stock.

To help donors understand the value of donating stock, The National Philanthropic Trust, which manages Donor Advised Funds, includes a hypothetical case study on its website to illustrate the value of donating appreciated stock.

Savvy donors, perhaps more donors than in recent years, are already benefitting by donating appreciated stocks.

For example, NPT saw an increase of stock gifts last year. Eileen Heisman, NPT’s President and CEO, reports:

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November 15, 2016

Will the Election be Good or Bad for #Fundraising?

[Publisher’s Note: This is not a political or partisan post. Instead, this post will explore the affects the recent presidential election is likely to have on fundraising and philanthropy in the short-term and beyond. As always, civil and on-topic comments are encouraged, whether or not you agree with the points covered in the post. However, overtly political or partisan comments will not be published nor will the rants of internet trolls.]

 

Donald J. Trump appears to have secured enough electoral votes to become the USA’s 45th president. His election will become official when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19, 2016.

After a bruising, though not unprecedented, election cycle, the nation remains deeply divided and emotionally raw. What does this mean for fundraising and philanthropy?

Impact of Election Donations on Charitable Giving:

At the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, research from Blackbaud was presented that looked at the impact of political giving on charitable donations in the 2012 election cycle.

Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, observes:

Fundraisers have long debated whether or not political fundraising affects charitable giving and, for decades, important fundraising decisions in election years have been based largely on the conventional belief of a fixed giving pie. The study’s overall assertion is that political giving during the 2012 election did not, in fact, suppress charitable giving. Donors to political campaigns continued their support of charitable causes.”

According to the study, donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave 0.9 percent more to charitable organizations in 2012 compared to 2011. By contrast, donors who did not give to political campaigns reduced their giving to charities in 2012 by 2.1 percent. These data findings held true across all sub-sectors as well as the demographic segments of age range, household income, and head of household gender.

The research only provides us with a snapshot. It is not predictive. More research will need to be done to identify whether or not the results will be consistent over multiple election cycles. However, based on the analysis of the 2012 campaign cycle, we certainly have room to be cautiously optimistic about 2016.

Year-End Giving:

If history is an indicator, the 2016 election will have little or no impact on overall year-end philanthropy, according to Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

voting-by-becky-mccray-via-flickrAt times, elections have had an effect on the giving of some individuals. For example, in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, some major donors feared that he would secure a 28 percent cap on tax deductions.

Out of fear that the cost of giving would, in effect, be going up in 2009, some of these individuals front-loaded their 2009 philanthropic support to 2008 year-end. Nevertheless, the impact on overall giving was modest.

While Trump has promised major tax reform, it’s doubtful that donors will expect significant changes to the tax code to be enacted and go into effect in 2017. Therefore, it’s equally doubtful that major donors will shift 2017 giving into 2016.

Given that the 2016 election was unusual in many ways, it is certainly possible that year-end giving will deviate from the historical norm. For example, the stock market reached a record level following the election. If stock values continue to grow, we could see an increase in year-end gifts of appreciated securities. However, regarding overall philanthropy, I think the smart bet is on history.

Giving to Individual Charities:

It is very likely that certain individual charities will see an uptick in donations as a result of the election outcome.

Many years ago, Richard Viguerie, a pioneer of conservative direct response fundraising and Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, said that people would rather fight against something than for something. We’ve seen it before; we’re seeing it now.

For example, when Obama was elected, the National Rifle Association received significantly more contributions as some feared that the new president would impose more stringent gun control measures.

Now, Kari Paul, of MarketWatch, reports:

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November 4, 2016

It’s Not Just What They Say, but How They Say It

To raise more money, listen carefully to your prospects and donors. They’ll give you vital insights about their philanthropic interests and ability to give.

Furthermore, they’ll give you clues about how to most effectively present to them.

Tom Hopkins, the sales guru and author of Low Profile Selling, suggests that by adapting your presentation style according to prospect preference, you’ll be far more successful.

Let me explain.

If you’re visiting with a prospect to make the case for support of a particular initiative, he may say, “I see what you mean.” That could be a clue that the prospect prefers to relate to information visually.

fennec-fox-ears-by-caninest-via-flickrSo, you would be wise to adapt your presentation to be more visual. For example, you could share a printed copy of the case for support. Or, you could show the prospect a brief video that illustrates what you’re saying. Another way to engage such a prospect is to ask her to imagine. For example, if you work for an animal shelter, you might ask, “Can you imagine how happy you’ll make dozens of puppies and kittens with your support?”

Alternatively, your prospect might say, “I hear what you’re saying.” That could indicate that she prefers getting information by listening.

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May 18, 2016

New Donor Advised Fund Legislation Introduced in Congress

Late last year, the Federal Government made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent. Now, just months later, Congress is considering a bill that would expand the IRA Rollover provision. If passed, the measure would allow donors to contribute IRA dollars to a Donor Advised Fund in addition to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.

Arc of Washington by Eric B Walker via FlickrIn the US Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced S-2750, Charities Helping Americans Regularly Throughout the Year Act. In the US House of Representatives, Rep. George Holding (R-NC) introduced a companion bill: HR-4907, The Grow Philanthropy Act of 2016.

(Just as an aside, I have to ask: Who came up with these bill names? I’m not sure if they suffered from too much creativity or not enough. In any case…)

The Senate bill has been assigned to the Finance Committee while the House bill has been sent to the Ways and Means Committee. At this point, it’s unclear whether either bill will receive a floor vote. And, if a vote is held, it’s uncertain whether the measure would pass. You can track the progress of the bills at GovTrack.us.

Even if the bills do not pass this year, it’s doubtful the matter will be dropped. Remember, it took many years before the existing IRA Charitable Rollover became permanent. So, unless the new measure passes this year, I think we can expect the matter to come up again.

Some fundraising professionals believe that DAFs are good for the nonprofit sector because they encourage more giving. Others believe that DAFs are harmful because they divert funds away from operating nonprofit organizations. Still others believe that it doesn’t matter what we think about DAFs because they’re here to stay.

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February 5, 2016

It’s Not Too Late to Think about Year-End Giving

No, the headline does not contain a typo. It’s not too late to think about your 2015 year-end giving. It’s also not too early to begin planning for your 2016 year-end appeal strategy. Let me tell you why.

Only about one-third of tax filers itemize on their tax returns. Therefore, year-end giving for tax avoidance is simply not that important to the majority of donors. Furthermore, survey after survey indicates that tax avoidance is a very low motivating factor for most donors. So, why put a tremendous amount of energy and resources into doing a year-end fundraising campaign? Here are some of the rationales:

Herd Mentality. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is a busy time for charity appeals. The largest number of direct mail appeals is sent at that time. For phone fundraising, it is also the busiest time of year. So, since everyone else is doing it, fundraisers think they should be out there, too. #GivingTuesday helps perpetuate this mentality.

Heaping Pile of Mail by Charles Williams via FlickrIt’s the Right Time. For some charities, doing a year-end campaign around the holidays is appropriate given the mission and/or history of the organization. Consider The Salvation Army and its red-kettle campaign, or the Toy-for-Tots effort geared to providing holiday presents for children. For other organizations, donors are simply accustomed to seeing and responding to a year-end appeal.

Year-End is a Time of Giving. With Hanukah and Christmas falling at year-end, there is certainly a giving spirit leading into the end of the year. Charities hope to piggyback on that giving spirit.

Charities Simply Must Appeal at Year-End. This relates to the first two reasons above. Fundraisers think they have to do a year-end appeal because it’s the thing to do or because the organization has always done one. Without giving it much thought, fundraisers conclude that a year-end appeal is simply something that is best practice.

Despite the conventional wisdom, doing a year-end appeal might actually short-change your organization. There might be a more effective way for you to raise money.

I’ve worked with charities that have tested a year-end appeal against a beginning-of-the-year campaign. Many of these charities found they could raise far more money in January and February instead of at year-end.

Why did those charities raise more money at the beginning of the year rather than at the end of it?

Interestingly, the reasons can be found when taking a closer look at the reasons I’ve outlined for year-end giving:

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