I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For — The Universal Charitable Deduction

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For — The Universal Charitable Deduction

I’ve found myself engaged in a good deal of conversations about the charitable deduction in 2017, but I still haven’t found what I am looking for (Just in case you care, the version of the U2 classic song that I prefer is this one (with Bruce Springsteen). Today, I spent a second day of 2017 on Capitol Hill.  The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners gathered 800 professionals in Baltimore for its national conference this week.  Fifty of us met with 62 Senator and Representative’s offices.  In fact, we met with staff from 10 of the 26 Members of the Senate Finance Committee. We had done something similar in February where we were discussing Speaker Ryan’s “Blueprint”. but today was very different.  We are on the verge of getting a tax reform Bill.  The “Big Six” in the Senate issued a 9 page plan which outlined their goals for reform and while thjs plan does not offer a lot of detail about how tax reform would actually occur, I know what I was looking for… the Universal Charitable Deduction. On the face of it, the plan seems to simplify the tax process.  It doubles the standard deduction while retaining the charitable deduction for those that itemize. As one representative said today “I thought they spared the charitable deduction.”  While on its face it appears they spared the charitable deduction, in fact, the plan could end costing the charitable community up to $14.7 billion per year. Currently,  roughly 1 of 3 of taxpayers itemized their deductions.  It is estimated that when the standard deduction is  doubled, around 1 of 20...
Tzedakah, Sadaka, Dāna, Charity: Traditions in Giving

Tzedakah, Sadaka, Dāna, Charity: Traditions in Giving

Over the past 10 days Jews around the world, myself included, observed the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During these days, I along with countless others, turned our thoughts towards Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Tzedakah (charity). Between the trio of powerful hurricanes that ripped through the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, powerful earthquakes devastating neighboring Mexico, and the ongoing struggles of poverty, poaching, and refugees in central Africa, there is no shortage of need around the world. As I reflected on my own faith traditions of helping those in need, I was prompted to think about what other faith traditions say about charitable giving, especially during their highest holy days. Uniting Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism (amongst other things) is charitable giving. Here are some thoughts on charitable giving from these traditions: For Christians, the role of charity is first built on teachings in the Hebrew Bible. However, in addition to Hebrew teachings of performing mitzvahs are lessons in the New Testament. Jesus’s parables and actions also speak to the morality of charitable sentiments. The Gospel of Luke, for example, notes “love thy neighbor as thyself” and asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The lesson is that we are interconnected, everyone is my neighbor and thus all should be considered.    Buddhists also see the interdependence of all things and have an awareness of the helplessness of those less fortunate. Practicing selflessness in this way is thought to increase one’s own merit and is also seen as an antidote to greed. Giving is an expression of the natural qualities of kindness and compassion....
Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving

Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving

In our ongoing effort to help make planned giving more accessible, collaborative and beneficial for charities, we hosted a workshop led by fundraising expert Laura Kaufman. The fourth in our series of free seminars and workshops, Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving, invited Chicago-area nonprofits to learn about strategies and tactics for engaging donors over a long time horizon. Laura covered three major areas with us: The Individual Donor (ID) Marketplace. What is Engagement and Why Does It Matter? Driving Donor Engagement. State of Giving: National and Chicago Area Trends Nonprofits are experiencing more giving than ever before. In each category, numbers are on the rise, year over year. According to Giving USA’s report, giving by bequest is up 2.1%, giving my individuals is up 3.8% and total giving has increased 4.4%. The next question is, where is the money going?  This chart from Giving USA breaks it down nicely. Drilling down to the specific Chicago area market, the Chicago Community Trust shared some interesting data. Compared to a national average of 59%, 73% of Chicagoans give to charity. 49% of Chicago households volunteer and 78% of dollars donated by Chicagoans stay in the region. What is Engagement: Often overlooked, donor engagement is absolutely critical for the long-term health of an organization. While nonprofit fundraisers are busy managing many initiatives for their organization, donor engagement must be the core of their day-to-day. Research shows doing so will make capital and annual giving campaigns go more smoothly, netting better results. The donor engagement cycle can be broken down into these simple components: Recruit/Inspire, Learn, Engage, Ask, Thank, Repeat, Upgrade and...
On Capital Hill: Talking About the Fate of the Charitable Deduction

On Capital Hill: Talking About the Fate of the Charitable Deduction

On May 30, 1985, I skipped high school.  No, it was not senior skip day, nor did I really desire a break from school.  I wanted to travel from Appleton to Oshkosh to see President Reagan speak.  He had just introduced his plan on what would eventually become the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and first went to Wisconsin to sell it to the American people.  Contrary to my parents wishes, I did hear the speech in person and watched the ensuing process that produced the new tax code.  It was something that sparked my interest in learning about taxes and how (and why) they work the way they do. In law school, my intellectual curiosity about taxes turned towards the charitable deduction and was one of the major factors that drove me to pursue a career in charitable gift planning.  I fell in love with the fact that our country effectively allowed citizens to choose where their tax dollars could make a difference.  Over the years, my admiration has grown into awe as I have participated in conversations about the deduction that sparked amazing charitable gifts changing the course, and even saving, countless lives. My awe of and now concern about the charitable deduction led me to go to Capital Hill on February 16th where I joined nearly 200 nonprofit leaders in a whirlwind day of meetings hosted by the Charitable Giving Coalition (@ProtectGiving). We visited 130 House of Representatives and Senate offices, including 23 members of the Senate Finance Committee and 26 members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The goal of these meetings was to...
A Window of Opportunity: Donor Advised Fund before December 31?

A Window of Opportunity: Donor Advised Fund before December 31?

On December 9th, the markets hit their 13th record close since the November elections. Accompanying the records in the market, we have also seen what feels like a record number of opinions of what the change in administrations will mean for taxes.  Some of these opinions have focused on the potential tax changes and their effects on the charities and the charitable deduction.  Fidelity Charitable offered what I consider a measured and reasonable framework for the possibilities. It is safe to conclude that there is at least a good likelihood that the benefits of giving in 2016 may be more tax wise than in future years. If you believe that to be true, these next few days may be ideal for starting a donor advised fund.  Here’s why: Tax Benefits in 2016, Grant in 2017 and Beyond:  Right now, this simple and unique benefit of a donor advised fund could be its biggest.  Donors can take a deduction in 2016 and reserve the right to recommend grants in future years.  If you can use a tax deduction this year, you can get it and “lock-in” its’ benefits. You do not have to decide where you want its support to go at this time, you can choose the charity at a later date. You Don’t Need to be Bill Gates:  If you have been following donor advised funds for several years, you may remember the gift minimums to be $25,000 and above.  These minimums have come down over the years.  In fact, The Advise Us Fund‘s gift minimum is $2,500.  With the lower minimums, it may be feasible to “pre-pay”...