Posts tagged ‘taxes’

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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May 22, 2018

New Research Proves Cash Is Not King in Fundraising

If you want to raise significantly more money for your nonprofit organization, you need to diversify the types of gifts you seek from individuals. That’s what successful charities do to raise significantly more money each passing year. Conversely, relying solely on cash contributions will likely stunt your organization’s growth.

Those are the key conclusions of a newly released study by Prof. Russell James III, JD, PhD, CFP®, philanthropy researcher at Texas Tech University. The study examined more than one million filings with the Internal Revenue Service by nonprofit organizations.

The following chart reveals that, from 2010 to 2015, nonprofits that consistently received gifts of stocks or bonds grew their contributions six times faster than those receiving only cash:

James’ study found the results are not limited to just those years. When looking at three-year rolling averages, organizations consistently receiving non-cash gifts grew much more quickly than those receiving only cash contributions. The study identified the same general growth pattern regardless of the starting size of the charity or the type of charitable organization.

James observes:

Beyond simple opinions or war stories, the previous results conclusively demonstrate that organizations raising non-cash gifts experience dramatically greater growth in total contributions, both contemporaneously and over the long term. Why? This is likely due in part to the effects of mental framing.

First, it is important to understand that wealth is not held in cash. Census bureau estimates suggest that only about 3% of household wealth is held in cash and checking accounts. When fundraisers ask for cash, they are asking from the ‘small bucket.’ This makes a psychological difference because it changes the reference point for the gift. The same gift may seem ridiculously large when compared to other checkbook purchases (elective expenditures from spendable income), but quite small when compared with total wealth (other non-cash assets). Donors who have never made a gift from assets may simply never have considered giving from wealth rather than giving from spare income. This is particularly important considering findings from experimental research demonstrating that people are much more willing to make charitable donations from irregular, unearned rewards (such as might occur with an appreciated asset) than from regular work earnings.

[Second,] gifts of appreciated assets are also cheaper than gifts of cash because the donor avoids capital gains taxes. This special benefit is particularly important under the new tax law, because it applies to all donors, even non-itemizers who can’t use charitable deductions.”

Intuitively, most fundraising professionals have already known what the James study now proves. So, if fundraisers know they should be seeking cash AND non-cash gifts, why do so many ask for only cash or merely make a feeble attempt to get non-cash donations?

James answers:

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March 21, 2018

15 Things You Might Not Know about Planned Giving

There’s a lot about planned giving that’s worth knowing and that can help you raise more money. Fortunately, it’s not necessarily all complicated.

Yes, vast differences exist from one planned giving program to the next. Some nonprofit organizations invest heavily in planned giving with dedicated staff and marketing. Other charities invest little and have development generalists talk with donors about gift planning from time-to-time. Despite the differences from one organization to another, there are a large number of points in common.

To help you be a more successful fundraising professional, I want to share 15 insights about planned giving:

1.  Almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift. A common myth about planned giving is that it is just for rich people. However, that’s not the case. For example, anyone who owns a retirement account, a life insurance policy, appreciated stock, or a home can be a planned gift donor. As H. Gerry Lenfest, the mega-philanthropist, wrote in the Foreword to Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing,  “Planned gifts are the major gifts of the middle class.”

2.  The average age of someone who makes their first charitable bequest commitment is 40-50. Another misconception about planned giving is that it is something that old people engage in. While that’s true for certain planned gifts (e.g., gifts from an IRA, or gifts to set up a non-deferred Charitable Gift Annuity), donors of any age can create a charitable provision in their Will or set-up a Beneficiary Designation.

3.  High-income women are more likely than men to use complex gift planning tools. High-income women (those with an annual household income of $150,000 or more) are more likely than high-income men to seek expert financial advice. They are also more likely to establish Donor-Advised Funds or Charitable Remainder Trusts. So, do not ignore female prospects. Instead, be prepared to talk with high-income women about sophisticated giving options.

4.  Using a challenge grant for a planned gift appeal can create urgency leading to action. Research shows that people tend to avoid conversations or decisions involving their own demise. One way to shift the focus of the planned giving conversation from death is to use a challenge grant to encourage prospects to think about making a planned gift commitment so that the organization receives an extra benefit. A challenge grant also creates a sense of urgency that gives donors a reason to act now rather than further delay making a planned gift decision.

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February 6, 2018

We All We Got. We All We Need.

How would you like to be a champion fundraising professional?

It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.

The Super Bowl LII Champion Philadelphia Eagles provide us with a great example of what it takes to be the best in any profession. While Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins — he’s also an entrepreneur and philanthropist — didn’t originate the sentiment, he articulated a statement that became a team slogan and nicely sums up the champion creed:

We all we got. We all we need.”

Let me explain.

To succeed, we need to recognize that all we truly can depend on is our team and ourselves. Furthermore, that’s often enough. More specifically, in the fundraising world, here’s what it means:

Build a strong team. Hire, or encourage your organization to hire, talented staff who believe passionately in the organization’s mission. Such people will almost always enjoy greater fundraising success than a hired mercenary who only wants a job and a paycheck. Remember, not only does your organization rely on the people it hires, so do you.

James Sinegal, Co-Founder of Costco says:

If you hire good people, give them good jobs, and pay them good wages, generally something good is going to happen.”

Enhance the team’s skills. Even talented, experienced people can enhance their skills. As professionals, we must never stop learning. We must always strive for improvement. This will make us more effective, and heighten our self-esteem. It will also keep us from getting bored.

Will Smith, an accomplished television and movie actor, continues to hone his craft and refuses to simply walk through his roles. As he says:

I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent, [but] what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.”

Recognize you can only control what you can control. As an example, you could have angst about whether the new tax code will have a negative impact on philanthropy. Or, you could examine the new code to see how you can leverage it for greater fundraising success. In other words, you can choose to worry about something over which you have no control, or you can decide to take steps to adapt to the new fundraising environment.

Self-help author Brian Tracy puts it this way:

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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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December 23, 2016

Was 2016 a Good Year for #CharitableGiving? Will 2017 be Better?

We’re rapidly approaching the close of what has been a tumultuous year. In 2016, the USA experienced an unusually bitter presidential campaign culminating in the unexpected election of Donald Trump. In the UK, voters chose to exit the European Union; the surprise Brexit vote sent shockwaves around the globe. The civil war in Syria continued to spin out of control resulting in a massive wave of refugees. Terrorism continued to be an international problem.

Uncertainty, fear, and stress are all words that one might use to describe the atmosphere in 2016 given much of the news. However, at least for fundraising professionals, there has also been much good news:

total-giving-as-a-percentage-of-gross-domestic• The third-quarter 2016 annualized Gross Domestic Product growth rate is 3.5 percent, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is important because philanthropy closely correlates to GDP with overall giving being approximately two percent of GDP.

• Personal income has modestly increased in 2016, according to the BEA. Individual giving correlates to personal income at the rate of about two percent.

• The stock market has been achieving new record highs since the election with the Dow approaching 20,000. Increased stock values mean foundations will have more money to grant and individuals will have more appreciated securities they can donate.

• The price of crude oil is the lowest it’s been in more than a decade, according to Macrotrends. This means lower gasoline and heating oil prices for consumers thereby providing them with more disposable income.

• Third-quarter 2016 corporate profits were up, rising to the highest level since the first-quarter of 2015, according to Trading Economics and the US Bureau of Economics Analysis.

• The nonprofit sector saw #GivingTuesday philanthropic support worldwide grow at the rate of 44 percent, reports NonProfitPRO. While this might not reflect an increase in philanthropy, it does reveal the public’s philanthropic spirit at a time of year historically defined by commercialism.

• Blackbaud, which analyzes more than $18 billion in charitable giving, sees a 3.5 percent increase in donations in 2016 compared with 2015, reports MarketWatch. You can read my comments in the article as well as additional information from Blackbaud.

• Some progressive charities have seen dramatic increases in philanthropic support since the election, reports MarketWatch. It remains to be seen whether this represents an increase in philanthropy or merely a shift in giving priorities. In any case, it reveals that contributions are often driven by philanthropic passions.

• In a Harris Poll survey for CARE USA, 15 percent of respondents say they have or will increase their charitable giving in 2016. While I have a number of problems with the survey methodology, the results are nevertheless somewhat hopeful.

Taking all of the positive news together, we can expect to see that philanthropic giving has increased in 2016. To learn how much growth we have experienced, we’ll need to wait until all of the data has been compiled and analyzed. While I don’t expect a massive growth rate, I do expect good growth. Furthermore, I expect the good news to continue into 2017:

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