While we don’t get many inquiries about last minute gift ideas (you’re on your own for that!), we do receive a diverse range of questions at the end of the year. As you can guess, many people focus their charitable giving as the calendar winds down towards December 31. Below, I’ve listed several of the common questions we at DonorsTrust hear during December as many open their new donor-advised fund accounts.

The Questions

Christmas is almost here. What is the minimum information you need from me to open an account?

We have a full application on line (download here), but all I need is you name, address, name of your DonorsTrust account, and an initial contribution. The rest of the application materials (intent statement, secondary advisors, investment preferences, etc.) can all be done after the New Year when it may be more convenient.

And you can always open an account and fund it later, on your own time and in accordance with your financial planning. Having it ready to go is easy to do.

Can I just mail in a check?

Of course. It should be made out to DonorsTrust and sent to 1800 Diagonal Rd, Suite 280, Alexandria, VA 22314. Please note, it needs to be postmarked BEFORE January 1, 2018 in order to be considered a 2017 charitable contribution. If you are local and want to drop a check off, you are welcome to come by. Somebody will be here, except for Christmas Day, through close of business Friday, December 29th.

Can I wire in cash?

Absolutely. Call our office and we will provide you the ABA and account numbers.

It has been a bullish year in the stock market, so I’d like to contribute appreciated stock. How do I do that?

Yes, appreciated stock held for at least a year is a terrific way to fund a donor-advised account. Merrill Lynch handles most of our investments and financial accounts. Again, drop me an email, or call the office, at 703-535-3563, and we will provide you with our Merrill Lynch account and DTC number. Please note: unless you already have a Merrill Lynch brokerage account, you need to allow at least two business days for outside securities to clear our account in order for you to receive your full tax deduction.

How do I know if you will accept my recommendation of organizations that I would like to support from my DAF account?

We have supported over 1,500 organizations during the last decade, so the odds are good that a group you like may already have received our support. If you are unsure, email or call me and we can discuss the organization. The last thing I’d like you to do is set up an account, and then have us reject your recommendations for potential grants.

So, you do sometimes decline a client’s grant recommendation?

We do, although it does not happen frequently. DonorsTrust is different from a commercial DAF (and many community foundations), in that we exist to be much more than a simple and easy financial tool that benefits your giving. We restrict our grants to certain types of organizations. The most obvious restriction is that we can only support 501(c)3 public charities that have already received their IRS designation letter. More narrowly, however, we will not support charities that rely heavily on public funds (city, state, federal), nor those which appear to encourage (overtly or tacitly) the growth of the size and scope of government. Our core mission is to encourage private philanthropy to address civil society concerns, and to promote principles such as limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. (You can read more about our mission and principles, here).

I’m interested in faith-based groups, or animal welfare, or local arts and civic institutions. Can I recommend these organizations as potential grantees?

I hope you do! We make hundreds of grants to organizations that are not engaged in the public policy world. These include contributions to churches, synagogues, and mosques; literacy programs; food banks and social services; local theater troupes and symphonies. For a broad example of the kinds of groups we support, take a look at our 2016 Progress Report for a sampling for groups we’d support, or call us to discuss.

Can I set up an account and talk to you later about how I’d like to use it?

You can. Especially if you want to take advantage of 2017 tax breaks. Set it up now, and sometime early next year we can chat about how you’d like to use it, discuss the kinds of groups that interest you, and even set up a schedule to recommend grants. It’s important that we understand the principles and motivations that guide your giving. It’s your legacy that we want to be sure to honor.

Other questions? Our website and blog offer a variety of additional insights, as does our FAQ. You can also call our office, again at 703-535-3563 or email me directly at lbader@donorstrust.org. We’d be so happy to help you simplify your charitable giving here at the end of the year.

Lawson Bader

Author Lawson Bader

Since 2015, Lawson Bader serves as president and CEO of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Before coming to DonorsTrust, he amassed twenty years’ experience leading free-market research and advocacy groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He began his career in DC in as special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, then worked as a legislative analyst/paralegal with Pierson, Semmes & Finley, and managed government relations at SRI International. He is a former weekly columnist with Human Events, and a current contributor to Kiplinger and member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council. He also serves on the governing boards of the Atlas Network, State Policy Network, and Oakseed Ministries International. Lawson earned a BA in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and an MA in public policy from The Johns Hopkins University.

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