A boost for tomorrow's philanthropists

What’s hot when it comes to gifts for the graduate? You guessed it. Once again, the ever-popular, flexible, and tax-effective donor-advised fund carries the day. More and more parents and grandparents across the country are giving a graduating child or grandchild a donor-advised fund, pre-established and pre-funded, in the name of the graduate.

Donor-advised funds as gifts to the next generation are on the rise at innovative community foundations. “We’re inviting our donors to consider ‘gift funds’ as a way to engage their own family members in philanthropic values,” said a community foundation CEO. “We help the donor create the fund, including online access, so that the donor can literally ‘put a bow’ on the fund establishing document and roll it up like a diploma. The donor adds a card with our website and login credentials and presents it to the child or grandchild as a gift. Both giver and receiver love the experience.”

What's more, the donor-advised fund is a gift that keeps giving. “Many families consider regular communication to be a key part of the online philanthropy experience,” commented the community foundation CEO. “This way, the family’s values stay intact across generations.” Keeping in touch online is key. Families are becoming increasingly reliant on the donor-advised fund dialogue to share stories about the joy of giving based on personal experience. Some families even share a list of favorite charities that have meant the most to the family over the years. “Telling stories and sharing experiences is itself a gift,” added the community foundation CEO, “because what our donors’ families want more than anything is positive communication among family members, especially as children grow up, graduate, and move away.”

Family communication is always a plus, and communication across the generations is even richer when it’s focused on a topic like philanthropy. Intergenerational dialogue is a major advantage of selecting a donor-advised fund to anchor a family’s emotional connections. Hats off to donor-advised funds!



1. Work with the donor relations team to approach one or more families to give gifts of donor-advised funds to their children or grandchildren. Share these donor stories in a follow up article.   

2. Launch a mini-campaign in May to raise awareness about donor-advised funds. For example, after you post this article on LinkedIn, include this article in a special "graduation" edition of your donor e-newsletter and share the idea at your next board meeting. You can even forward the e-newsletter to your local radio station and offer to be interviewed about "creative gifts for the socially-conscious graduate."

3. Reach out to your scholarship fund donors and suggest that they consider giving a donor-advised fund to one or more graduating students who have been supported by a particular scholarship. 

Donor-advised funds and your personality type

Personality type matters, even when it comes to supporting community causes. Your "social impact personality type" is especially important as you gear up to structure your donor-advised fund at the community foundation. A donor-advised fund is a terrific vehicle to help you and your family organize gifts to charities, whether you identify as an "investor," a "connector," or an "activator." 

Why should you ask the professionals at your community foundation about opening a donor-advised fund in the first place, though? Donor-advised funds are the fastest growing philanthropic planning vehicle in today's wealth management marketplace. Donor-advised funds are popular because they allow an individual or family to make a tax-deductible transfer that qualifies as a charitable contribution, and then later recommend gifts to favorite charities from the fund when the time is right. A donor-advised fund operates a lot like a checking account just for charity, except it’s established according to the IRS guidelines that create the tax advantages. Plus, when you establish a donor-advised fund at your community foundation, you know you are setting up your charitable giving to make the biggest impact in the community through the causes you love the most. 

So how does personality type fit into the equation? People who lean toward the investor personality type are typically a good match for setting up a donor-advised fund to maximize tax benefits. If you’re the investor type, you probably enjoy acting independently as much as you enjoy "doing good" with a group. You look at the bottom line when you invest in the community, both from the perspective of your own financial objectives as well as those of the nonprofit organization you support. In other words, you’re looking at charitable giving and social impact as an investment to improve the lives of others, and you want to maximize results not only for the people you intend to help, but also for your own tax and estate planning portfolio. Investors love the elegance of the donor-advised fund to achieve many goals through one vehicle.

Does it work for non-investor types, though? You bet! Activators, who like to focus on a particular cause, are also well-suited for a donor-advised fund because they can gain valuable insights about community impact by working closely with the team at the community foundation. Connectors love donor-advised funds because they enjoy the opportunities through community foundations to get together with other donors and involve their friends and family members in their favorite charitable pursuits.

Investor, activator, connector. Where donor-advised funds are concerned, everybody’s got a good side. What’s yours?


1. Motivate your whole team to get inside the minds of your donors. At your next team meeting, talk about the three social impact personality types of donors and brainstorm about ways you can engage each type to get even more involved with your community foundation. (Download our free e-book to read up on the personality types!)     

2. Convert this article into easy talking points for the next time you or your community foundation's CEO is speaking to a group of potential donors. People love to gain insights about themselves. By talking about your prospects' social impact personality types, you'll automatically create an emotional hook to elevate their interest in working with you.

3. Before your next staff meeting, ask everyone to take the Social Impact Personality Type Quiz embedded on our "book" page. See if your team thinks the quiz gets their type right! Either way, your team will begin to understand why it is so important to elevate the personal touch with donors and prospects in today's work-life-community mindset. We're living in a social impact culture!

When cash is out

We've all heard the saying "cash is king." Most of the time that's a fantastic rule of thumb. But sometimes cash isn't the best way to support your philanthropic endeavors. How can you tell? Here are three clues to keep you on the lookout for opportunities to get more bang for your giving back bucks.

1. If you're holding highly appreciated assets, such as stock or real estate, and you are also planning to make a significant gift to charity, consider giving the appreciated assets instead of cash. Why is that? Because assets like appreciated stock can be sold by the charity for 100 cents on the dollar--no capital gains tax applies. That means the charity ends up with more money to work with than you would if you sold that same asset yourself. 

2. If you want to support several charities all at once but have a single large asset you plan to give to the charities, consider using your donor-advised fund to facilitate the contributions. You can transfer the asset to the fund, get the tax benefits, have the asset converted to cash, and then allocate the proceeds to several different charities of your choice. 

3. Think outside the box, too. Giving something other than cash means contributing any asset you have that it is highly appreciated. Sometimes even artwork, jewelry, antiques, limited edition books, and other collections can be contributed to your donor-advised fund.

And, before you get worried it's too complicated, remember, giving anything to charity is worthwhile. Whether you are contributing stock, real estate, books, or even canned food from your pantry, it's all good! Every gift makes a difference to the nearly 1.6 million charities in the United States that are raising money to support their missions.


1. Use the article as the core content for a professional advisor newsletter. Send the e-newsletter to your list of attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors. But don't stop there! Ask five of your most loyal advisors to forward the e-newsletter to three of their colleagues. Immediately, you'll expand the reach of your message to 15 new advisors. Plus, you'll create positive feelings with your five loyal advisors . . . they will feel good just knowing they are helping their community foundation grow charitable giving in your region.    

2. Consider filming your CEO talking about the benefits of giving illiquid assets. Here is an example, but it certainly does not have to be that fancy. Just give your CEO this article as a set of talking points, pick up your phone, and hit record! Post the video on your social media channels and ask three of your colleagues to share it or like it. 

3. Include this article in your next set of board meeting materials. Sometimes board members forget that the community foundation is an excellent vehicle for unlocking highly-appreciated assets--even those that are typically hard to value. 

Evaluating the DIY charity option

Has starting your own charity ever crossed your mind? If the answer is "yes," you are not alone. Today's social impact culture mindset means more and more people are evaluating the options for making a difference in the community. Thousands of new charities are started each year by people passionate about a cause. If you've got a cause you're passionate about, how do you know whether starting your own charity is right for you? 

Here are two key questions to ask yourself before you get started. Be sure to ask the professionals at your community foundation for advice, too, as you work through these questions.  

First, do you really want to start a charity, or is a for-profit structure better for you? The answer starts with what you want to accomplish. And then you can see what revenue model is best. Either way, you have to ask for money--either by selling a product or service, or asking for people to give to support your cause. Check out the pros and cons of a nonprofit versus for profit.

Second, find out whether an existing charity already doing something similar. There are well over a million charities in the United States, so chances are pretty good that there is one that is doing what you want to do. Competition for dollars is high. Requests for charitable contributions are filling up everyone's inboxes, not just yours! A great idea is to consider incubating your idea as a volunteer within an existing charity to test the idea and get early traction. 

Remember, starting a charity is just like starting a business; it's just governed under a section of the tax code with rules relating to the deductibility of donations and the exemption from taxation. You still have to make sure ends meet and that your expenses don't exceed your revenue. 


1. You, your team, and your CEO no doubt get lots of calls from people who want your advice about starting a charity. Or, they are looking for ways to quickly start a charity so they can establish an income stream for themselves. It's all good--but sometimes it can be challenging to explain that your community foundation is not a good fit to help them. Use this article as a set of talking points for phone calls, or link to it in your email responses to the "DIY" inquirers.  

2. Share this article with your staff, along with a brief refresher course on the key requirements of a 501(c)(3) organization--specifically the requirement of public benefit versus private inurement, and the requirement that the organization be organized for exempt purposes. You can refer to the IRS circular, which does a great job laying out the rules and regulations for what qualifies as a 501(c)(3) organization. 

3. Have some fun with this topic at a roundtable of "Next Generation Donors." Invite the children and grandchildren of your donors to a brown bag lunch to discuss their hopes and dreams for the community. Then, connect the dots to organizations that are fulfilling these missions already. Talk about the benefits of working with an established organization versus starting an organization from scratch. 

Shopping, giving, and making a difference

Have you ever wondered how giving happens at the cash register? The answer is more than $400 million, and that number is on the rise.

Here are three things you need to know about making a contribution to charity when you’re doing your grocery shopping or visiting your favorite retailer.

First, if you enjoy giving at the register, you are not alone. 72% of American consumers have done it at some point, and 65% felt positively about the retailer after they made the gift.

Second, if you don’t give at the register, you might be one of the 44% of non-givers who take a pass simply because they don’t know anything about the cause. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason not to give. Focusing on the causes you love is the best way to do good for others and make sure you feel good, too.

Third, don’t forget that there’s another way to shop and give. Look for brands where a portion of every purchase goes to support a cause. TOMS Shoes has made this famous with its “One for One” program where every item purchased helps a person in need.

Your community foundation understands that each person has a unique social impact personality type. Giving plans look a little different for each person. Your community foundation can help you add charitable giving to the mix of other activities you enjoy in the community, including not only purchasing products that support a cause, but also volunteering, recycling, serving on boards, donating food and clothing, celebrating at events, sharing with people in need, marketing a favorite cause, and even caring for your own health and wellness. It's all good. 


1. Purchasing products that support a cause is a fabulous photo op! Consider posting this article on social media and then following it up with a mini social media campaign called "Products We Love." Take snapshots of products that support a local cause and include information about the charitable organization next to the photo. Don't forget to link back to this article so you can reinforce the value of your community foundation as the focal point for all philanthropy! 

2. Make a point to stock your break room and conference room with products that give back. Then, create a version of this article that includes those products and the causes they support. Create a quick one-pager to place next to those items in your conference room. Your visitors will be impressed that your mission is well-rounded and reflective of all of the ways people "do good" in today's social impact culture.

3. Use the article to launch conversations with donors. Finding out what products they purchase is a fabulous way to get to know your donors on a more personal level and understand what motivates their desire to make a difference in the community. 

You and your community foundation, working side by side

When families embark on a journey to make philanthropy a part of their lives across generations, it often starts with simple concepts: Having fun as a family, getting in touch with nature, being authentic and open about values, donating canned goods or clothing to families in need, recycling cardboard and aluminum cans, celebrating every birthday and holiday with a big cake and a gift to charity, buying wrapping paper from the school fundraiser, contributing to a handful of favorite charities--even eating healthy food and appreciating every peaceful moment. In today's social impact culture, “doing good” is a powerful way to create a sense of belonging--in the family, the community, and the world.

Your community foundation helps you take it to the next level, so both you and your community get the most out of your family's social impact experiences. Here are four steps that make it all work. 

You're good! 

Studies show us that before a person can become deeply engaged, emotionally and intellectually, in a community or a cause, or even philanthropy in general, he or she must feel affirmed that what he or she is doing already to “do good” is in fact good. This includes not only giving to charities, of course, but also volunteering in the community, recycling and respecting the environment, donating canned goods, serving on boards of directors or committees, and attending community events. It can also include purchasing products that support a cause, marketing favorite charities through social media, and even committing to personal and family health and wellness. Your community foundation knows you are making a difference in lots of ways. 

A little learning goes a long way

Your community foundation can give you the educational resources you need! Learning about philanthropy is in high demand across all generations. Students are interested in techniques that result in lives actually being changed for the better. Parents want to know how to teach their young children about doing good. Grandparents want to know how to leverage philanthropy to create a multi-generational platform for preserving family values. Young professionals are seeking new ways to access business information about nonprofits, especially online. Corporate executives seek techniques for charitable planning that meet their tax and estate planning objectives. Your community foundation can help with all of this, and more! 

Get inspired!

Stories are powerful. Your family's unique story about making an impact will inspire others to pursue their own charitable objectives, too. The cause selected is an important part of any story! Other factors include how did the experience with philanthropy made the giver feel and the ways the giver’s life was enriched by feelings of gratitude and the ability to help people in need. Your community foundation wants to understand your own story of philanthropy and find out what inspires you the most. When you are giving to the causes you love, everyone wins--you, the community, and the organizations you support! 

Take action

Motivation is the moment of truth! Does a student, an employee, an executive, or a parent have the tools and information to act on a philanthropic desire? That's what your community foundation is committed to doing. People at all levels of giving frequently voice this frustration: “I want to help, but I just don’t know how I can help.” Your community foundation can offer ideas for specific actions you can take to support your community and the causes you love. You'll be motivated and happy because you will know that your act of doing good, no matter how big or how small, makes a real difference.

Executives, civic leaders, parents, employees, students–and anyone else engaged in philanthropy--will love the expertise of their partners at the community foundation, and the community will be all the better for it. Now that’s success by doing good.


1. Recognizing the impact of today's social impact culture mindset on the success of your communications strategy is important not only for your communications team to understand, but also for your entire staff to embrace. An easy way to get everyone oriented to the new donor engagement reality is to share this article with all of your colleagues through an internal email, and then ask each team member to fill out a simple "10 Ways to Do Good" checklist or even something far less formal. The point here is that you are causing your colleagues to reflect on the relevance of the community foundation's mission in today's marketplace. Your community foundation is critical to keeping the social impact conversation going strong!  

2. Consider adopting the framework in the article as the basis for your donor education program: Affirmation, Education, Inspiration, and Motivation is a winning methodology for getting donors further involved in supporting the causes they love through your foundation. An easy way to put this into action is to use this article as the basis for a two-pager titled "Our Donor Education Program," and supplement the text above with a listing of your donor education events or other resources. 

3. "Side by side" and "hand in hand" are strong messages to describe your commitment to working with your donors. Use the cut and paste photo for your first post, and also as inspiration to find other images of "side by side" and "hand in hand." Post the article on social media and then follow it up each day with the additional images, linking back to the article to maximize reach. 

Connecting your company with your community

If you’re a leader in your company who is responsible for your community engagement program, how can you figure out whether your workplace could use a little help from your community foundation on your company's approach to social impact?

Here are three clues to help you solve the mystery.

Clue #1: Your Inbox Isn’t Big Enough Anymore

Are you getting more and more letters and emails asking your company to support worthy causes? Do invitations to charity events land in your inbox almost every day? Do some of these requests come from important clients and customers? Do some even come from employees in your own company? How do you know which causes are worth supporting? You are not alone! The number of nonprofit organizations is increasing steadily, at the rate of nearly 30,000 new organizations each year. The total number of nonprofit organizations in America now totals well over a million! No wonder your inbox is filling up. Your inbox isn’t likely to be empty anytime soon. An overflowing inbox could be the first clue that your company needs a little help. And there is a solution! Consider organizing your company's charitable giving through a corporate donor-advised fund at your community foundation. It will help you keep track of your donations. Plus, you'll be able to better respond to inquiries from charities by explaining that your charitable giving is handled through a corporate fund, making it easier to streamline your ability to process requests. 

Clue #2:  Where Did This Foundation Come From?

It happens. Someone in the office is cleaning out a filing cabinet, recycling old papers, creating space, decreasing the carbon footprint. All good! And that someone stumbles on an important-looking file. A file that doesn’t appear to have been touched for a while. As in a few years. “Do we have a corporate foundation?” that someone asks. “I’ve never heard of it.” Where did that foundation come from? Perhaps it got lost in the shuffle of the merger. Or maybe the person in charge of the foundation retired last year and it’s just never been reassigned. Or maybe a handful of people know all about it, but the everyone else is in the dark. It happens! And it’s okay, because something can be done! Get in touch with your friends at the community foundation to help you organize your foundation structure through an easy-to-use corporate donor-advised fund. 

Clue #3:  Our Budget is Out of Sync with Our Giving

Your company supports a wide variety of causes by making monetary gifts to its favorite charities. Sometimes, though, the timing of those gifts is not quite lined up with the company's budget. For example, your company might have a terrific year and be able to give a lot to charity before December 31, but management is concerned that next year's budget might not be as flexible to make gifts to charities. Establishing a corporate donor-advised fund at your community foundation is a great way to meet both the company's budget goals and giving goals. For example, a company can transfer $50,000 to a corporate donor-advised fund prior to December 31, so it's a final transaction for purposes of the company's budget, taxes, and financial statements. Then, during the following year or over multiple years, the company can support charitable organizations with gifts from the donor-advised fund. The structure of the donor-advised fund allows you to plan the timing of your gifts to charities without worrying about balancing your giving goals with the company's budget.  

Got a clue? Or two or three? Sounds like it's time to get in touch with the professionals at your community foundation. 


1. Corporate philanthropy is the next frontier. Do not miss out! This article is a fast and easy way to demonstrate that your community foundation is the best resource for corporate giving. Many companies struggle to understand how the corporate donor-advised fund fits into their community engagement programs, especially since the social impact culture mindset has infiltrated corporate America. Use this article as the basis for an email campaign, directed to the community engagement professionals at the largest companies in your region. 

2. Don't stop with the campaign! Now is the time to start beefing up your mailing list. Set a goal of adding 100 community engagement professionals to your corporate email list over the next 100 days.  

3. Use this article as a set of talking points for your CEO's presentation to chambers of commerce and other business leader audiences. Ask your board members for ideas to reach this key audience. 

Match your giving activities to your own personality type

Americans give more than $400 billion to charitable organizations every year. Giving is a popular activity in today's social impact culture. Not everyone likes to give in exactly the same way, though. The ways you like to give depend on your unique personality and how your preferences impact your social impact activities. 

For example, if you consider yourself to be an "activator," here are four activities you might enjoy as you do your giving: 

1.    Giving an increasing amount of money each year to a favorite charity based on the organization’s demonstrated results to improve the quality of life for the people or causes it serves.

2.    Giving money to three different charities collaborating to achieve a specific goal, such as increasing the graduation rate within a particular school, discovering new drugs to treat cancer, or rebuilding a community center in a blighted neighborhood.

3.    Giving to disaster-relief efforts after a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake.

4.    Giving money to charities with the condition that the charity report back on the results achieved with the money (e.g., 100 meals were served to homebound seniors).

For people who are natural connectors, these four things are typically appealing: 

1.    Hand-delivering checks to charities as an opportunity to say “hello” and “thank you” to the people working so hard to improve the lives of others.

2.    Giving money to a best friend’s favorite charity.

3.    Collaborating with family members during the holidays to make one big gift to a single charity instead of many small gifts to different charities.

4.    Encouraging children to add money to a piggy bank designated for charity and then mailing the money to the charity in an envelope with pictures drawn by the kids, or giving online with a credit card and emailing the pictures.

Finally, if your social impact personality type is an Investor, here’s are a few ideas to consider:

1.    Structure an estate plan to include several bequests to favorite charities.

2.    Give appreciated stock to a charity instead of cash, to minimize capital gains tax exposure.

3.    Set up a donor-advised fund to organize annual giving to charities.

4.    Establish a budget at the beginning of the year to include a percentage of income designated for gifts to charity.

The point here is that you'll enjoy giving to your favorite causes a lot more if you first understand your own personality and your preferences for helping others.

So what do you think? Is it time to get in touch with your good side?


This article is actually 13 articles in one. Start by posting the full article on social media. Then, follow up each week with another post, going deeper into each of the four ideas listed under each personality type. Don't worry--you don't need much content! Use a photo and a quick quote from your CEO, a donor, or a professional advisor to create pops of content. Always link back to the full article to get maximum traction. 

Get a jump on your charitable giving budget

Whether it's January, May, or September, it's always a good time to check in on your budget.

So how do you factor in your charitable giving? To get started, consider planning your social impact budget around three points—amount, timing, and category.

1. How much? That’s the $64 question. Or more, depending on your budget. The first thing to keep in mind when setting a budget for supporting your favorite causes is that giving money isn’t the only way to do good. If your wallet is tight, if your corporate budget is lean, or if your interests are varied, consider other social impact activities such as volunteering, serving on a board, donating gently-used clothing, purchasing products that support a cause, marketing your favorite charities through social media, and more. It all counts. Set your social impact budget based on what makes sense for you and your family or your company. 

2. How often? Charities are looking for support all year round. The vast majority of charitable contributions are made during the holiday season, but you don’t have to do it that way. Consider spreading your giving throughout the year. Your tax deduction is unaffected, and you’ll be giving the organizations you support a much-appreciated boost to cash flow.

3. Who gets it? Most people support a wide variety of charities. To see where your dollars, time, and energy are going, try sorting the organizations you support into the major categories of social impact:

  • Community Development

  • Arts & Culture

  • Children & Families

  • Health & Life Sciences

  • Education

Keep in mind that religious giving frequently falls into one of these five categories, depending on your gift’s purpose.

Budgeting for social impact can be as easy as 1, 2, 3. You’ll love watching the numbers come alive as you celebrate the causes you love the most.


1. Item 1 in this article is designed to deliver the message that "your community foundation Is for you." A common concern of donors is that they are either too big or too small to set up a donor-advised fund with you. "Too big" and "too small" are relative terms, as we know! Some donors think $1 million is too small; others think $20,000 is too big. Your development team needs the opportunity to qualify the prospects. So, by signaling that every gift matters, you are casting a wide net around prospective donors. What's the action step here? Share this article with your donor relations and development teams so that all of you are coordinating a messaging strategy to cast that wide net.   

2. Item 2 in this article is designed to encourage donors to establish donor-advised funds throughout the year, not just in December. Use language like "it's always a good time to give" when you post this article on social media, and then repeat the message when you amplify the article through shares and likes. 

3. Item 3 in this article is a platform for you to share your community investment initiatives in the context of your donor-focused outreach. Post this article and then follow up with "ideas for smart investments" in each of the categories listed. Or, even better, substitute the cut and paste categories with your community foundation's own leadership initiatives and post follow-up articles about each one. Always link back to the original article to connect the dots to your donor engagement strategies. 

Do women "do good" better than men?

Who’s more philanthropic--women or men? If you guessed women, you are correct.

Most people have a general sense that women are more likely than men to get engaged with their favorite causes. What might surprise you, though, are the statistics showing the economic impact of women’s purchasing power when they buy products that support a cause.

It starts with the preferences of all consumers:

  • 79% of consumers said they would likely switch brands based on associations with a good cause, when price and quality are equal

  • 85% of Americans say that they have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about

  • 85% of consumers say it is positive for companies to involve causes in their marketing

So how do women figure into the equation? Women tend to align their lifestyles with social impact activities to a greater degree than men. Not only are women more likely than men to give to charity in the first place, but when they do give, they are likely to give more, especially by exercising their buying power. Women influence or make 85 percent of all consumer purchases, according to Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team, and sh-economy.com. Check out how that breaks down in major consumer spending categories.

Women influence or make purchasing decisions for:

  • 91% of new homes

  • 66% of personal computers

  • 92% of vacations

  • 80% of healthcare

  • 65% of new cars

  • 89% of bank accounts

  • 93% of food

  • 93% of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals

What this means is that savvy brands who target consumers through cause marketing efforts are especially successful when they focus their campaigns on women.

This also means, if you are a woman, remember that your purchasing power counts as doing good! Buying products that support a cause can really add up at the checkout counter, which means you’re making a big difference in the lives of others.

Finally, keep in mind that connecting the dots across all of your charitable giving activities--including purchasing--will help you see the big picture of the difference you're making in your community. Your community foundation is your partner in philanthropy as you and your family celebrate all the ways you are doing good.   


This is a terrific article to kick off a campaign to get women philanthropists even more involved. If you haven't already, build an email list of just women--donors, daughters of donors, women civic and business leaders, women in nonprofit leadership. Push the article in an e-newsletter to this group, or as part of an invitation to a Women in Philanthropy Roundtable.