David Moskowitz made a promise to donate 10% of his annual income to charity and has been consistently doing so for 2 years now. Recently, however, the rise of Occupy Wall Street and the foreclosure of a laid off neighbor’s home had him reconsidering. He believes he’d be missing the point if he didn’t give more to a local jobs training program. He, the Occupy movement and the rising poverty are swaying this holiday season’s donors to do the same.
Recent surveys show increased pledges at the end of 2011. However, economic issues and government cutbacks seem to have donors reassessing where to give. Respondents are prioritizing food banks and homeless shelters. Foundation Center’s vice president Lisa Philp said statistics show many Americans living paycheck to paycheck. When human-service or basic-need organizations reach out, there’s more receptivity among donors, she added. But philanthropic adviser Susan Winer said donors now are being smart and thoughtful about where they give. The survey showed that accountability, transparency, ethics and good governance are important considerations in choosing which charities to support. Philp suggested that donors check how nonprofits operate through Charity Navigator or Guidestar, or let professional philanthropists take charge. Fidelity Charitable president Sarah Libbey said donors can try to volunteer to better understand how organizations operate. But donors have to note that they can only suggest where they want put their irrevocable donations.
Americans deny that tax deductions influence their being altruistic. Still, donors scuttle to meet IRS’s January 1 deadline for write-offs where charity normally relies on. But that may not be the case this year as debate over tax breaks to end in 2013 continues. $250,000-a-year earners might stall but then again, progress of itemized deductions may be limited by the legislative table. Tax advantage may also come from public charity-run DAFs (donor-advised funds) which may allow quick tax deductions for donors.
Fidelity Charitable saw creativity in terms of donations for the year with 6 appreciated securities account out of 10 donations. Offers of complex assets like private stocks were 5 times higher compared with 2010. Drake Zimmerman, a chartered adviser, said that by giving assets instead, long-term capital gains taxes are avoided, then there’s more charitable capital. Giving is also made easier via Twitter and Facebook, SMS and mobile device credit card payments. Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University executive director Patrick Rooney called the system a modern charities digital footprint which allows multiple platforms for donors, a way that can recruit them for the long run.
Each of Gillian and Adam Jones’s 3 daughters aged 17 to 26 were given $500 to donate to their chosen cause. Their choices were their church’s soup kitchen, a local after-school reading program and Occupy Wall Street. Adam Jones who finds it hard to see people struggling to make ends meet wanted his girls to feel they were directly going to help someone else in need.