“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” said the Lord Jesus. And Americans – and especially people of faith – take that exhortation seriously. Our contributions of nearly half a trillion dollars in 2020 alone were greater than the entire gross domestic products of most European countries. And more than 80 percent of giving is done by individuals, much of it to faith-based organizations.
A question too few generous Americans ask, however, is how they should give. Charitable giving strategies exist to give more, and more effectively, and they are not just for the wealthy: surprisingly, according to the Philanthropy Roundtable, households earning under $50,000 a year give more as a percentage of income than anyone except the very wealthiest.
Bill Davell: But charitable giving strategy seems so self-serving.
Christine Yates: Dave Ramsey points out that one key purpose of strategies for achieving financial peace is the opportunity to give more. A giving strategy allows you to give more, give more effectively and give with more peace and satisfaction. In other words, to be – and receive – an even bigger blessing.
BD: So what giving strategies should everyone consider?
CY: A strategy is about being focused and purposeful, which is a key to success in life as well as effective giving. Here are some threshold ways to accomplish that:
- Budgeting: Being purposeful starts with putting aside amounts for giving in your yearly or monthly budget (the key to financial success) for all the kinds of giving you do, not just church giving but also giving to other causes and to individuals – think about helping family members or responding to GoFundMe requests. The way to be able to respond confidently is to consider ahead of time how much you can give and set it aside so you are ready when the need arises.
- Focus: Requests to give come at us from many directions at all times. You – and those you support – will get the most satisfaction from giving to causes important to you, including those to which you also volunteer time. And if your gifts are focused, you can afford to give more to the causes important to you. So when requests come in “over the transom” (as people managing corporate giving call it) don’t be afraid to indicate that your giving is already planned and subscribed for the year.
- Homework: Know to whom you are giving. Many so-called charities are scams, others are badly run and don’t achieve what they promise, and others have large administrative expenses (religious organizations have among the lowest). The indication that your giving is subscribed helps deal with pressure to give, especially when you’re confronted on the spot.
BD: What about tax strategies for giving? It seems a lot more people don’t benefit from tax deductions given the higher standard deduction.
CY: It’s true that the higher standard deduction appears to make charitable deductions less worthwhile. But there are ways of arranging giving to get around that seeming limitation, including:
- “Bunching” giving planned over several years into a single tax year, or making gifts during a specific, high-income year,
- Donating appreciated securities to avoid tax liability, or tangible assets to avoid estate tax liability,
- Giving directly from IRAs instead of realizing taxable income – essentially a tax deduction,
- Buying a life insurance policy and naming a charity as beneficiary (which also allows you to “leverage” the premiums for an ultimate higher payout).
BD: The discussion of being purposeful reminds me of the phrase “planned giving.” What is that about?
CY: “Planned giving” is generally associated with gifts that will become effective upon death, but as you can see, it can also be about making giving part of a financial plan during a donor’s lifetime. It takes into account not just income, but various kinds of property and use of financial instruments and charitable structures. That’s why we at Tripp Scott tend to speak more about charitable giving strategies.
For upper income individuals, these strategies can involve specialized structures, be they donor-advised funds, family foundations, or other ways of avoiding not only income taxes but gift and estate taxes that might not affect those not in these top brackets. But anyone can make planned gifts of accumulated savings or valuable property – and people who have planned and managed their money well during their life often have such assets even if they have not been top earners.
Whatever your situation, the Estate Planning Group at Tripp Scott can sit down with you and examine strategies that can help you maximize the impact of your giving in this life and beyond, while also helping you ensure a secure financial future for your family. You can contact us at (email of author), at 954-525-7500 or via https://www.trippscott.com/contact-us.
If you have any topics you think my be of interest to our readers, we encourage you to email us at [email protected].