Making a difference. We all want that in our lives. We want to make a difference to our family and friends; we want to make a positive impact at work; and we want to make our neighborhoods stronger and healthier. One way to expand our reach is to support nonprofits that are doing good work in our communities.
As 2018 closes and with the new tax law in place, it is worth revisiting some of the options for charitable giving. What are some tax-efficient ways to make a difference?
- Stock gift: Many people hold specific stocks for long periods. You can make a bigger impact by donating long-term appreciated securities, including stock, bonds, and mutual funds, directly to a charity. Compared with donating cash, or selling your appreciated securities and contributing the after-tax proceeds, you may be able to automatically increase your gift and your tax deduction. When you donate stock to charity, you’ll generally take a tax deduction for the full fair market value. The charity typically accepts the stock and then sells it, applying the value to the purpose you designate.
- IRA rollover: If you are 70 1/2 or older, you can give IRA assets directly to a nonprofit without taking them first as income. The IRA owner can donate a total of $100,000 of IRA assets per year to one or more charities and still take the standard deduction.
- Bequest: By putting a charity in your will or trust, you reserve capital for your own use during your life, remove assets from your estate, and make a difference. The process and language is very simple. You simply designate the charity and the amount. For example: “I give, devise and bequeath to Spurwink Services in Portland, Maine, [insert dollar amount or percentage of your estate] to be used for its general purposes.”
- Charitable deductions: In the new tax law, Congress nearly doubled the “standard deduction” to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for couples filing jointly. Those taking the standard deduction will likely not itemize on their tax return, creating a higher hurdle for charitable donations. One option is to bunch several years’ gifts into one year, which could push you over the standard deduction and provide an incentive to itemize.
Of course, there are ways that you can make a difference outside of writing a check. Here are a few ideas:
- Gather stuff: Organize an item drive at work or with your neighbors. There many unmet needs, so ask your local nonprofit what gaps you can fill. It could be diapers, warm winter clothing, food, or school supplies.
- Online options: Do a Facebook fundraiser (or other online fundraiser) to benefit a nonprofit. This type of online event harnesses the power of your network for the benefit of a cause that matters to you.
- Volunteer: There aren’t enough hours in the day to do the work at a nonprofit. You can contribute your talents and time. Pitch in by volunteering at an event, painting a classroom, or stuffing envelopes.
- Advocate: Use your voice at the State House or with Congress. Our legislators really value hearing from the people in their district about what policies and issues are important to them. Keep their email addresses handy and their phone numbers in your Contacts folder.
As we look towards a new year, let’s be intentional with our time and treasure. Working together, we can make Maine a healthier place to live and work – for all.
Kristen Farnham is Spurwink’s Vice President of Development.