Revisiting Predictions about Charitable Giving

Political prognosticators love to make extreme claims on how a new policy will affect the future, then conveniently forget their predictions when the doom they imagined never arrives. In an effort to avoid being lumped in with those gasbags, I thought it would be intellectually honest to revisit a prediction I made one year ago.

In September 2018, I wrote the column “The Impending Decline in Charitable Giving” , in which I voiced a concern of many experts that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 would decrease the amount Americans donate to charities every year. The annual Giving USA report was recently published, so we now have a full year’s worth of hard data to review.

As a refresher, the anticipated decline in charitable giving was rooted in the fact that changing the standard deduction (from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples) would dramatically reduce the number of households that itemize deductions.

This prediction by tax experts on both sides of the political aisle has come true. In 2016, more than 46 million households itemized their deductions. In 2018, only about 18 million did.

Taxpayers can claim a tax deduction for charitable gifts only if they itemize their deductions. Hence, the new tax law eliminated the deduction for contributions made by 28 million households. Although most of us give for altruistic reasons, financial incentives still matter. By removing the financial incentive to donate, experts predicted that charitable giving would decline.

We can definitively say that the prediction has become reality. Giving USA found that donations from individuals fell by an inflation-adjusted 3.4 percent last year. Unfortunately, that’s not the only troubling indicator.

Total giving consists of donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and bequests. Individual giving tumbled to just 68 percent of total giving, the first time it’s fallen below 70 percent since 1954.

My personal belief is that giving will decline in 2019 as well. Most people don’t follow tax-law changes closely and didn’t realize their donations were no longer deductible until April’s tax deadline. For those families, the loss of the financial incentive to give will have its greatest effect in 2019.

Please note that I’m not commenting on the wisdom of the new tax law – that’s above my pay grade. An argument can be made that putting more money into taxpayers’ pockets is better for our nation. I certainly hope that proves to be true. However, the inescapable reality is that charitable giving is falling, and it is in my job description to figure out how Door County can adapt to the laws of the land.

That’s where a tool long offered by community foundations is more important than ever. At community foundations across the country, we are combining a tool called a Donor Advised Fund with the tax strategy of “bunching.” In effect, this “restores” the deductibility of charitable gifts for many families.

Consider a real example of a couple at the Door County Community Foundation. Bob and Sally Johnson (not their real names) are retired and annually donate about $12,000 to charity. Before the new tax law, the Johnsons’ itemized deductions included their donations, Wisconsin taxes and medical expenses. With the new tax law, they found themselves claiming the standard deduction of $24,000 and thus received absolutely no tax benefit for their $12,000 in contributions.

Thus Bob and Sally recently created the Johnson Family Fund, a Donor Advised Fund at the Door County Community Foundation. They plan to “prefund” their charitable giving for the next four years by donating $50,000 into their fund before 2019 ends. As a result, the Johnsons will claim itemized deductions of about $60,000 this tax year. Then in tax years 2020, 2021 and 2022, they will claim the standard deduction of $24,000 and make no direct contributions at all. Instead, they will donate $12,000 each year to their favorite charities in Door County (and beyond) from their Donor Advised Fund.

Bunching several years’ worth of contributions through a Donor Advised Fund at your local community foundation is proving to be an exceptionally effective tax-planning tool for many families that once itemized their deductions but now claim the standard deduction. If Bob and Sally use highly appreciated stock to make their $50,000 contribution, their tax savings will be magnified even more as they avoid capital-gains taxes.

Talk with your tax-planning professional to determine whether bunching several years’ worth of charitable gifts through a Donor Advised Fund might help you maintain your level of giving. Our charities need all the help they can get.

This article, written by Community Foundation President and CEO Bret Bicoy, originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Northern Sky Theater

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded the Ridges Sanctuary a Sustainability Grant from the Arts Fund. This grant supports a hearing loop for Northern Sky’s new creative campus.

“It is important that folks of all abilities are able to enjoy Northern Sky’s special brand of music theater,” said Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to support the hearing loop which magnetically transmits sound to hearing aids and cochlear implants so that guests with hearing loss can receive clear, customized sound inside their ears.”

 

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Pictured from left to right are Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation, and Holly Feldman, Director of Development and Public Relations at Northern Sky Theate

The mission of Northern Sky Theater is to create, develop and present professional musical and dramatic productions that will further the knowledge and appreciation of the culture and heritage of the United States.

For more information on Northern Sky Theater, please visit http://www.northernskytheater.com.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and the Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

 

 

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to The Ridges Sanctuary

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded the Ridges Sanctuary a Sustainability Grant from the Carol Coryell Charitable. This grant supports the Washington Island Environmental Education Pilot Program. The pilot program with Washington Island school will connect concepts learned in the classroom with place-based environmental education.

“The goal of the program is to inspire students to love and care for the places they call home. The benefits of place-based education for students are immeasurable,” said Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are excited to support this program that will teach students about the habitat while instilling a sense of environmental consciousness through education.”

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Pictured from left to right are Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer of the Door County Community Foundation, and Anna Foster, Ridges Environmental Interpreter at The Ridges.

 

The mission of The Ridges is to protect the Sanctuary and inspire stewardship of natural areas through programs of education, outreach and research. For more information on The Ridges Sanctuary, please visit www.ridgessanctuary.org/.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and the Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Door-Tran

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded Door-Tran a Sustainability Grant from the John and Nell Community Impact Fund, the Door County Kairos Fund, and the Women’s Fund of Door County. This grant supports the Half-Price Travel Vouchers Program, in partnership with the Door County Medical Center, which assists patients in getting home from the hospital when only a private taxi service is available. Through the program, Door-Tran provides the Emergency Service Department vouchers that they can use to authorize trips with a private taxi provider that operates outside Door-Trans normal business hours.

“One of Door-Tran’s main strengths is the role it continues to play as the central coordinator and catalyst for addressing the highly complex problems of available, affordable, and accessible transportation for a diverse and widespread number of Door County residents,” said Dick Egan, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to provide this grant to an organization that is doing such great work in our community.”

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Pictured from left to right are Nikki Voight, Mobility Manager Assistant, and Dick Egan, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation.

Door-Tran is a creative community network dedicated to connecting people to transportation services that are affordable, available, and accessible.  For more information on Door-Tran, visit www.door-tran.org

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and the Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

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Remembering the Birth of the Women’s Fund

The Women’s Fund of Door County is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how it began.

It was February 2008 when Jane Stevenson and I were dreaming up ideas about how the Door County Community Foundation could make our community stronger. Just a few months prior, Stevenson had announced her intention to retire, and I had been hired to fill the very large shoes of this petite woman. Although our assets were extremely limited in those days, the Community Foundation’s board decided it was worth paying both of our salaries for a month so I could enjoy the benefit of her wisdom and experience before she retired.

Stevenson shared that she regretted not being able to create a women’s fund before she retired. As a parent of three daughters (and three sons as well), this was an issue near and dear to my heart. I suggested that instead of letting her talents go dormant during retirement, perhaps we could work together to get one started.

That’s how the Women’s Fund of Door County began: with the only two employees of the Community Foundation sitting in a 393-square-foot office with a beautiful, grand dream and no practical way to bring it into reality.

If you’re going to undertake an impossible task, it’s best to do so in the company of people you know and trust. BJ Cassidy had spent many years at WPS, eventually overseeing its philanthropic activities. Sue Todey had grown up in Door County but left to serve as an administrator for the Green Bay Area Public School District. During my years in Green Bay, I virtually “grew up” working under their leadership on many community projects and had great respect for them. They had both retired to Door County and become active citizens here, so Stevenson appreciated them as well.

“BJ and I had worked together in Green Bay on equity issues and brought those efforts here when we both became full-time Door County residents,” Todey said.

During the spring of 2008, the four of us gathered for the first time at Door County Coffee to begin making plans. Rather than just launch a new fund focused on women and girls at the Community Foundation, we thought it was important to first determine whether there was actually a need for this new fund.

“We gathered a lot of data to show the needs and then began recruiting others to get the message out there,” Todey said. It wasn’t long before Orlaine Gabert, Sherry Mutchler, Barb Perloff and several others joined us as we interviewed local charities and studied the issues facing women and girls in Door County.

“It was astounding to learn that many women suffered from a lack of self-respect and self-worth,” Stevenson said. “They desired and desperately needed to be financially secure.”

“It was very apparent that the communities of Door County needed to identify the skill sets young women and girls needed to be able to achieve their dreams and aspirations for a prosperous life,” Cassidy said. “Many opportunities seemed to be out of reach for girls to be able to make a sustainable future.”

After a winter filled with meetings, interviews with charities, and considerable research, the need became clear. Thus, in 2009, the Women’s Fund of Door County was formally launched as a fund of the Door County Community Foundation. Our success was far from certain, however, and many were still skeptical about whether we needed such a fund.

“The biggest challenge was to create awareness in the community that – in this beautiful and idyllic county – there were women and girls struggling and needing support and hope for a better life,” Stevenson said.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that these women are never intimidated by a challenge. Thanks to the perseverance and commitment of these leaders, plus Sally O’Brien, Sharon Lutsey, Vicki Wilson and the many others who followed them, the Women’s Fund of Door County now has an endowment in the seven figures and invests more than $100,000 every year in programs that improve the lives of women and girls in Door County.

“The Women’s Fund is the voice and hope of women in Door County,” Stevenson said. “We believe when we give women and girls the tools they need to succeed, their families and our communities will prosper.”

“Today a dream has come true,” Cassidy said. “We are making a difference.”

This article was written by Bret Bicoy, the President and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation, and originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse.

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to HELP of Door County

The Door County Community Foundation recently HELP of Door County a Sustainability Grant from the Carol Coryell Scholarship Fund for Deserving Students. This grant supports the Voices of Men educational effort.

Voices of Men focuses on engaging men and boys in the work of ending sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are often thought of as women’s issues,” said Roger Johnson, Board member of the Door County Community Foundation. “Voices of Men works to change that perception and get people thinking about these as human issues and we are pleased to provide this grant in support of that mission.”

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From left to right are Roger Johnson, Board member of the Door County Community Foundation, Steve Vickman, Executive Director of HELP of Door County.  

HELP of Door County provides services and programs throughout the Door County Peninsula to victims of domestic abuse. They work to improve the well-being and dignity of individuals, families, and intimate relationships. HELP of Door County does this by supporting and enhancing their strengths to reduce the incidence of violence and conflict within their relationships. HELP does not provide counseling but they are here to listen without judgment, support without blaming and empower victims through advocacy and information. Due to the generosity of our community, all victim services are free and confidential. For more information on HELP of Door County, please visit http://helpofdoorcounty.org/.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

 

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Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Open Door Bird Sanctuary

The Door County Community Foundation recently awarded the Open Door Bird Sanctuary a Sustainability Grant from the Bernice & Gene Hawkins Charitable Fund. This grant supports the Birds Are for Everyone program.

The Birds Are for Everyone program allows local organizations to enjoy presentations made by the Open Door Bird Sanctuary at a significant discount while maintaining the fee structure which covers the costs of operations.

“The Open Door Bird Sanctuary raises avian awareness and inspires coexistence with the rich natural world of Door County,” said Marcia Smith, Chair of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to provide this grant which will expand the reach of the Open Door Bird Sanctuary and inspire new audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience a program.”

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From left to right, Rob Hults, Executive Director of Open Door Bird Sanctuary, Marcia Smith, Chair of the Door County Community Foundation, and Jillaine Burtin, CFO of the Open Door Bird Sanctuary.

Open Door Bird Sanctuary is a 34-acre sanctuary that provides homes for un-releasable birds of prey. They become incredible ambassadors of the environment and work with us to inspire and educate the public both at the sanctuary and at many other locations.

For more information on the Open Door Bird Sanctuary, please visit www.OpenDoorBirdSanctuary.org.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

 

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