Three experts explore some of the creative ways people can give, including donor-advised funds
by Nancy Crowe for the Presbyterian Foundation | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Your church’s members regularly write checks or give from their bank or credit card accounts. That’s great, but what if they could give in a smarter way that leaves more money for the church?
They can, said the presenters of a Sept. 20 webinar, “Giving Beyond Cash: Encouraging Creative Gift Making with Complex Assets.” Greg Rousos, president and CEO of New Covenant Trust Company, James W. Murphy, Director of Operations and Stewardship Resources of the Episcopal Church Foundation, and Bryan Clontz, founder and president of Charitable Solutions, LLC, reviewed how these gifts give more and why a donor-advised fund is one way to facilitate them.
Donor-advised funds are growing by leaps and bounds, Murphy said. Anyone can create one with a minimum donation of $2,500 to any qualified charity. You can make as many grants as you want for $100 or more each, and numerous investment options are available. The Presbyterian Foundation offers Donor Advised Funds, and you can find out more about those here.
Rousos said research shows congregations are good with income-based giving but challenged with major gifts such as those received by secular nonprofits.
“We typically ask for people to give with their checking account or credit card,” he said, “but when people give from their wealth instead of their income, there is a sixfold increase.”
Be a better bird dog
Church leaders may be apprehensive or untrained in asking for these larger gifts. It’s worth the effort to learn, Clontz said.
Non-cash giving is one focus area of his planned giving risk management consulting firm, Charitable Solutions LLC. “Be a more comfortable bird dog for these opportunities,” he urged. “All other charities are doing this.”
Clontz showed census wealth data indicating liquid assets are the smallest piece of everyone’s balance sheet. Yet 88% of all donations in this country come from this bucket, Clontz said.
However, say you give from the Amazon stock purchased for $5 and worth much more now? That makes for a bigger gift with more tax advantages.
Non-cash type assets
The primary sources of non-cash giving are real estate and privately held business interests, Clontz said. Real estate usually doesn’t mean the primary family residence. It’s more likely to be an apartment building owned as an investment, for example, or land holdings.
Such a gift doesn’t have to be the whole piece. You can give a percentage of the interest in your quadruplex, he said, and it doesn’t have to be near the church. “We’re talking global real estate holdings,” he said. It’s also important to factor in depreciation.
Privately held interests can be C-Corp and S-Corp stock, limited partnerships or LLCs.
Other sources include restricted stock and tangible personal property such as art and collectibles, though the latter is trickier when it comes to taxes.
Then there’s the “weird stuff,” Clontz said: a quarter horse, Paris condo, timber deeds, book royalties, an NFL team, a pile of dirt and animals preserved by a taxidermist. All of these were actual donations, he added.
Reactive vs. proactive
With large numbers of Baby Boomers retiring, downsizing and perhaps in a position to make non-cash gifts, why not make it easy for them? It’s important to be proactive about these and all other opportunities to make gifts go further … and make them to the church, Clontz said.
“Your donors own all these assets. They love you and want to be able to support you,” he said.
Wherever Clontz goes, “the most charitably inclined people always give cash, and it’s the least tax effective way to give.”
Stewardship and finance committees can talk about ways to create awareness and ease around non-cash giving, even if it’s just adding a website button to click to learn more.
Rousos encouraged church leaders to reach out to their regional Ministry Relations Officer for ideas and assistance. Charitable Solutions is a partner to both the Episcopal Church Foundation and the Presbyterian Foundation/New Covenant Trust Company for processing these special gifts beyond cash. This collaboration continues to help donors to be more generous and often provide them solutions they never imagined.
But have the conversations, Clontz urged, because those bigger donations “are happening. Except to you.”
Nancy Crowe is a writer, editor, and animal wellness practitioner based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Send comments on this article to Robyn Davis Sekula, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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