Gates these days is almost as well known for the ongoing good work of the Gates Foundation as he is his private sector success. Jobs, by contrast, kept gates of secrecy around whatever philanthropic impulses he possessed. His giving track record remains shrouded after his passing from pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, and while his will could shed some light on that, there’s yet no public knowledge of who has the will, when it will be disclosed, and whether charities will get anything.
Here’s what is certain: The death of Jobs has sparked conversation about the motivations and merits that surround anonymous giving. And for those who either eschew the spotlight or hold to a religious tradition that espouses anonymous donation, giving in secret sounds downright attractive.
“Giving is a very personal way of expressing one’s values,” says Kim Gerstman, associate director of development for the Population Council, an international, nonprofit that conducts biomedical, social science, and public health research. “Someone might donate to help fight a disease that impacts them personally — but they do not wish to publicly disclose that connection. And some wealthy individuals are concerned that recognition will translate into being flooded with requests.”
Though he first attended the Hollywood Bowl more than 30 years ago, Ron Moormeister remembers well those Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts. His voice waxes rhapsodic as he recalls the lineup: Mandy Patinkin, Julie Andrews, a Tchaikovsky Spectacular complete with the bombastic 1812 Overture.
So when he hit it big in 1995 — selling his insurance brokerage firm at age 49 — he decided to help the orchestra and to get a tax benefit too. He used a charitable remainder trust, or CRT, a creative strategy that allowed him to give away his money, yet still derive funds from it based on a mix of tax deductions and investment.
When it comes to scams, the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. is just like any other tragedy that callous crooks have taken advantage of. Fact is, from the days following Sept. 11, 2001, thieves have been using the attacks to pocket your cash by either trying take advantage of interest in donating to help those affected or by trying to get money intended to help victims and their families.
More recently, the anniversary has spurred an increase in scams using the attacks as the hook. With the enormous growth in social networking over the past decade, that is where much of the new attempts to con you can be found.
Ten years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find philanthropy specialists in most private banking and investment firms. But today, philanthropic services are a major division of most wealth management operations, offering clients a myriad of investment vehicles and services to do good.
“It was an add-on before, something extra that they did to be kind or nice, but I think it’s now a business magnet for dealing with all different parts of an individual’s wealth,” says Eileen Heisman, CEO and President, National Philanthropic Trust.
“Up until that point,” Franklin recalls, “I had no idea we had a family foundation.”
At 29, Michael J. Greene of Chicago is a young philanthropist in the making, though he hardly fits the stereotype. He doesn’t drive a Porsche; in fact, he just sold his VW Passat with 90,000 miles and uses public transit to get around.
Nor does Greene have a huge bankroll to back his pet project, a new website called WorldPennyJar dedicated to disaster relief, health, education and the environment.
With a depressed housing market, an unemployment rate hovering around nine percent and stocks struggling, you would think it difficult to convince people to give to those in need. But a Giving USA Foundation report released today shows total charitable contributions — for individuals, corporations and foundations — rose 3.8 percent in 2010 to an estimated $291 billion.
Charitable bequests were up a whopping 18.8 percent last year, rising to $22.83 billion, while individual giving rose 2.7 percent to $211.77 billion.
Developing our children into charity champions isn’t rocket science. What it takes is a decision, direction and discipline.
The first step is to decide when to introduce the concept of charitable giving to your children. “A child of about four- or five-years-old can begin to understand the concept,” says Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. The exercise of cleaning out a child’s room and then taking them, with their old toys and clothes, to a shelter can be an educational experience. It shows that other kids need stuff that they take for granted.
Whoo hoo! A refund. Speaking personally, this is the first time in about 10 years that I’ve qualified for a refund. I think it’s because I took this full-time job at Reuters and signed up to have big bucks deducted from my paycheck. And it’s because 2010 tax breaks passed retroactively actually lowered my total tax bill (and those of many others).
This year, the average tax refund is pushing $3,000, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Many financial advisers believe that it is a big mistake to get a big refund. Getting a big refund means you’ve loaned the IRS money all year long without earning a penny in interest. “My gripe with large tax refunds… is two-fold,” Eleanor Blayney, the consumer advocate for the CFP Board of Standards, said in a recent press statement. “First, they make mincemeat of any attempt to manage your cash flow. Second, they often go unplanned.” She advocates budgeting your taxes as closely as you possibly can to the amount you’ll actually owe when the year ends, and integrating the extra cash you’re not sending the IRS into a reasonable spending and saving budget.
Giving money away has such an emotional component to it that it’s hard, sometimes, to think about in strategic terms. But the truth is that if you pay as much attention to your giving strategy as to your investing one, you can have more impact and fund more of the organizations you care about without getting sidetracked by requests.
Tom Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group, which advises both philanthropists and nonprofits, and co-author of the forthcoming book Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Result, has been thinking about how to make your philanthropy count for a long time. Before co-founding Bridgespan in 1999, Tierney, who has an MBA from Harvard, had been chief executive of Bain & Co. But as he reached his mid-40s, he made a career shift that few on Wall Street understood at the time. “Midway through the ’90s, I started asking, ‘Are there other ways to live my life?’ ” he recalls. “I had a couple of senior partners come into my office and shut the door, and say, ‘are you okay?’ They were expecting me to say I had gotten bad news from the doctor.”