Over the summer Bill Gates and Warren Buffet issued a challenge to the nation’s richest individuals asking them to pledge that they will donate at least half of their fortunes to charity over time. Gates himself has promised to give away almost all of his wealth, and he has already given billions of dollars to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the last several years. He is certainly walking the walk, and indeed, many people want to make charitable giving a part of their legacies who don’t have the resources to start their own charitable foundations.
A great solution for “the rest of us” is the donor advised fund. With these vehicles you place assets with a donor advised giving program, and they can be housed in a for-profit financial services company, a community fund, or a public charity. Through a single donation into the fund you can make recommendations endowing grants to any number of charities, so efficiency is one of the great appeals of the donor advised fund.
From a tax perspective you can deduct the entire market value of the donation from your income taxes in the year you make the donation, but the grants do not have to be immediately endowed. So you could find that a year-end contribution to charity would behoove you as you were doing your taxes and make a single donation into the fund quickly and easily. In addition, appreciated securities placed into a donor advised fund are not subject to capital gains taxes.