Thursday, January 08, 2009

Start a “foundation.”

A good friend once told me the story of how she and her relatives lost their family land in Georgia. As I remember it, there was a small subset of the family that had taken responsibility for paying the taxes, but couldn’t afford to do so anymore. They made some efforts to rally the rest of the family, but it was too late and they soon sold the land. My friend got a check for her share of the sale price. It was a windfall, but not a happy one. Given what her ancestors went through to obtain, develop, and work the land, she hated to see her family gone from it so quickly. It wasn’t a huge check – I’m guessing less than a thousand dollars, but given its origin she vowed to do something very special with it.

If you ever come into or accumulate a sum of money, especially one that is meaningful to you, consider starting a foundation. Here are some ways you can participate in long-term charitable giving with less money than you probably think.

* Contact your local community foundation. They may be able to help you set up a scholarship or donor advised fund that will allow you to direct your charitable giving and reduce your taxes. This is especially powerful if people pool their resources. When a dear friend and classmate passed unexpectedly a few years ago, her colleagues, friends, and family established a fund to support her favorite organizations and activities. It has been a nice way to honor her.

* Open a Calvert Giving Fund for as little as $5000. The principle is tax deductible and you direct your earnings to your favorite charities. Calvert says theirs is “the only 100% Socially Responsible Donor Advised Fund”. That means your principle is doing meaningful work as well.

* If the sum is a bit larger or if you are pooling it with others, you can start a foundation. The Council on Foundations has a helpful guide to get started.

Of course, these aren’t the only ways you can give. You can simply make a donation to your favorite organization, or invest in microloans and let them permanently revolve. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you use the money in a way that is as meaningful as how you received it.

”What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” - Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

1 comment:

Karama said...

Here's another article on the topic. Enjoy!