In 2018, we will continue sharing first-hand stories of how clients use their DonorsTrust donor-advised accounts in different ways. This is Ann Fitzgerald’s story, the fourth installment in our series. You can read the previous article from Peter Flinch here.
How much time do you spend thinking about other people’s money?
If you work for a nonprofit in the freedom movement, the answer could be “quite a lot.” Nonprofits promoting individual freedom and free markets generally don’t accept government funding. They rely on voluntary contributions from individuals, private foundations, and corporations. As a result, these groups devote much time and great effort to thinking about their donors’ philanthropic interests and giving capacity.
Now, how much time do you spend considering your own philanthropic dollars?
Probably a lot less. In fact, if you’re like me, you likely don’t think of yourself as a “philanthropist” at all.
Honing My Charitable Focus
Focusing on your individual philanthropy, however, has many positive benefits both professionally and personally. Becoming a thoughtful donor—at any level—allows us to experience the joy of giving and what it means to make a difference for causes we care about. Moreover, it educates us on what it’s like to be a donor and—hopefully—encourages us to do a better job in thanking and recognizing our own supporters.
I found that the easiest way to achieve my personal philanthropic goals was to establish a donor-advised fund (DAF) at DonorsTrust.
But wait, you’re thinking…aren’t donor-advised funds only for super-rich people?
The answer is no! I certainly don’t put myself in that category.
I initially established an account mainly for tax savings. I had proceeds from a house sale and knew I’d be making charitable gifts in the future. So, I reasoned, why not put the money in a donor-advised fund and take the tax deduction in that year?
The Path to DonorsTrust
The decision to go to DonorsTrust was easy. I had recommended it to donors and nonprofits alike for years. DonorsTrust is committed to supporting and promoting the principles of liberty: limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. It encourages philanthropy and individual giving—as opposed to government involvement—as an answer to society’s needs.
A DAF was an attractive vehicle because it gave me the immediate benefit of making a charitable donation while allowing me to retain influence over where and when future gift distributions may be made. Meanwhile, the money in the account is invested so my charitable funds grow over time.
Working with the knowledgeable staff at DonorsTrust to set up an account couldn’t have been easier. And since then, it’s been extremely intuitive and convenient to use the fund to support causes I care about.
The Added Bonus
But something unexpected happened in this process. I learned something about myself and what I care about. You see, DonorsTrust asks each account holder to write a personal statement about philanthropic intent.
Sounds easy for a fundraiser, right? But it actually took me a while to put into words what I care about and how I want to prioritize my giving. It made me consider whether my charitable dollars were aligned with my priorities. And it gave me a new appreciation for donors who grapple with the very same concerns, albeit on a much larger scale.
Many of us have the privilege to work with wealthy individuals who generously donate to causes that promote the foundations of our civil society. We owe it to them to be knowledgeable about giving vehicles like donor-advised funds. And we owe it to ourselves to think about how our own money and philanthropy can make a difference in the world.
Ann C. Fitzgerald is president of A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates, a national consulting firm for nonprofits.