Philanthropy is a journey: Our Tips for Giving With Confidence

By Rebecca Rothey, Chief Philanthropy Officer

As I was listening to a presentation by the author of a new book, In Defense of Philanthropy by Beth Breeze, it struck me that the need to defend philanthropy may come as a surprise to some readers. However, as Beth pointed out, there is a growing effort to denigrate philanthropy and the value it brings to our communities. At The Community Foundation, we have the privilege of  working directly with generous individuals and families who care about their community, and seeing firsthand the impact that philanthropy can and does accomplish for our region and beyond.

As we enter a new year with continued uncertainty about the pandemic, our economy, and even the very future of our democracy, philanthropy remains more important now than ever. I remain heartened by the many ways in which our donors have stepped up in response to community challenges – from combating gun violence to supporting animals, the arts, and the environment. Notable examples include:

Peace For DC was established by a grieving father to address the rise of gun violence in DC. Peace for DC will build community capacity and fund evidence-based gun violence intervention solutions to drastically reduce DC homicides over the next 5 years—and help bring racial and economic justice to DC’s most under-resourced communities.

Ann Manheimer established her legacy to provide a way for people to prepare for service-oriented work that will meet future societal needs. Her inspiration grew from her career at the US Department of Education, volunteer work with seniors and animal rescue, and travel to places of both great natural beauty and stunning man-made art.

On July 4, 2020, 11-year-old Davon McNeal lost his life to gun violence as he was leaving a Stop the Violence cookout with his mother. After consulting Davon’s mother, DC residents Mary Grace and Al Rook founded the Davon McNeal Memorial Fund to give at-risk youth in Wards 7 and 8 a respite from potential violence through pro-social programs in sports, the arts, and education.

We are proud to partner with these donors to help pursue their philanthropic goals by making the set up and administration of their charitable giving simple and convenient for them -- including suggesting the best structure for the charitable fund, providing staff expertise, receiving gifts, making grants, and covering accounting.

While the word “journey” has become over-used, through the course of my career I have learned that those moved to address concerning challenges or to preserve valued purposes engage in an ongoing learning process. Philanthropy does not have all the answers. What it has is a commitment to asking questions and to acting in response to current answers. Answers inevitably lead to more questions. Better to generate a new set of questions, and possibly more effective answers, than to do nothing.

We are grateful that you have chosen to partner with The Community Foundation on your philanthropic journey. As we approach the end of another unprecedented year, I want to leave you with a few of my top tips for the most effective way to maximize your giving and philanthropic work, now and in the future:

  • Gift appreciated stock that you have owned for more than one year. With the possibility of capital gains tax rates going up next year, this year may be an especially advantageous time to gift assets held long-term. With the past year and a half’s market gains, you may still have long-term gains in your portfolio and there is an opportunity to capture the gains into a philanthropic fund. Donating appreciated securities to your fund may mitigate the impact of capital gains taxes. As a reminder, always let us know when you are making a gift of stock.

  • If you are over 70.5 years old, make a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA. While these gifts may not be granted to a donor-advised fund, there are several other ways for you to directly transfer up to $100,000, including your required minimum distributions, from your IRA to minimize your reportable taxable income . Ask us how!

  • Bundle your giving into a donor-advised fund. With the currently higher standard deduction and limitations on SALT deductions, only approximately 8% of tax filings now itemize. A large gift in one year to a donor-advised fund can potentially lead to a larger charitable income tax deduction in the year given and the grants can be made over a period of two or three years.

  • Maximize your gifts of cash to take advantage of the opportunity to deduct up to 100% of your adjusted gross income through the end of this year. These gifts may not be made to a donor-advised fund.

I encourage you to speak with your financial advisor or accountant about the most tax efficient ways to give.

As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or want more information about any of these options. You can reach us Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Please note our holiday closures on December 24 and 31, and special hours on December 23 and 30 when we will close at 1 p.m.

I wish you a safe and connected holiday season.