How a Donor-Advised Fund Can Help Your Charitable Giving

By Beth Schanou, JD

Giving is an important part of our society. It provides us the opportunity to support causes we believe in and make a positive impact. Giving isn’t always about donating money. It can also include volunteering time or donating goods and resources. Here are some examples of the impact:

  • In 2018, Americans gave $427.71 billion.
  • Approximately 90% of high net worth households give to charity.
  • Adults are more likely to give if their parents gave to charity.
  • Approximately 77 million Americans, or 30% of the adult population, volunteer their time, talents, and energy.
  • In 2018, charitable giving accounted for 2.1% of the gross domestic product.

Financial donations from individuals directly to charity account for the largest source of charitable giving. This type of giving, for example, consists of writing a check to a charity and that charity benefiting immediately. Without that charitable inclination on the part of the individual, most donations wouldn’t happen. 

The Tax Impact of Charitable Giving

The personal financial and income tax impact from charitable giving can affect the size of the gift and the timing of giving. If a family has a large taxable income year, they may be willing to increase donations to reduce their income tax liability. 

We sometimes see this when families are in their peak income-earning years with retirement on the horizon. We also sometimes see this when a transaction or other event causes a one-time spike to taxable income, such as substantial bonuses, payout of deferred compensation or sale of a business. 

In any of these cases, the family may be willing to donate more and receive the benefits of a larger income tax deduction. Donations can also be deferred until death to manage estate taxes or create a charitable legacy. 

Two savvy ways to donate 

Did you know you can donate in a high-income year, and charitable grants can occur in a subsequent year? Two of the most popular charitable vehicles for this technique are the private foundation and a donor-advised fund. 

Many people have heard of private foundations but are less familiar with donor-advised funds (DAFs). They were created in the 1930s but didn’t begin growing in popularity until the 1990s. DAFs are a charitable giving vehicle sponsored by a public charity that allow the donor to make an irrevocable charitable contribution and be eligible for an immediate tax deduction. Over time, the grantor can recommend grants to IRS-qualified public charities.

donors-charities-graph

DAFs and Private Foundations Compared 

Personal involvement after the initial funding is quite distinct between the two.

A DAF provides a turnkey solution for the donor. Costs associated with a DAF are relatively minimal.

A private foundation, on the other hand, is a charitable organization with operational needs that might include employing staff, hiring investment managers and actively managing grant-making. Funding into a Private Foundation needs to be substantial enough to justify the costs associated with creating and operating the organization. 

Another distinction between a DAF and a private foundation is the limit for an income tax deduction. Cash donations to a DAF are deductible up to 50% of adjusted gross income (AGI), but cash donations to a private foundation are limited to 30% of AGI.

DAFs also have an advantage with the deduction for appreciated stock up to 30% of AGI, whereas private foundations are limited to 20% of AGI.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

 

Donor Advised Funds Private Foundations
Organizations you can support IRS-qualified public charities Many organizations and individuals, as long as the grant is made for a charitable purpose
Growth Potential
Donations of Non-Cash Items
Income Tax Deduction (% of AGI)

50% cash

30% appreciated assets

30% cash

20% appreciated assets

Tax on Investment Income None 1% or 2% of net investment income
Option to Support Anonymously ×
Ability to Name Successors

Using a donor-advised fund for charitable giving or another financial vehicle can have a lasting impact on society and provide benefits to the donor as well. 

Optimized giving is complex, and should follow a plan just like the rest of your financial journey. For guidance in your charitable giving decision-making, contact an advisor today.

Let’s talk!

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