Wealth – Giving in Tight Times

As the economy hangs in limbo, the need increases for donations to assist individuals and families

Ellen Paris. Social Scene 0 Comments

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For 30 years, Betty Barker has given her time and money to local and national charities. As she continues, she notices trends in philanthropic giving, especially amid the slumping economy. People still give to causes they consider worthy, but “newer categories,” she says, recently have seen the greatest shortfall of donations.

“Philanthropy is impacted like everything else, because investments are the lifeblood of philanthropy for foundations, corporations, and high-net-worth individuals,” says Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based Council on Foundations, an international association with more than 2,100 members comprising foundations and corporate giving programs. “When investment returns are down, there is a direct impact on the ability to give. Unfortunately, economic downturns create greater need for the general public. That’s where we see the greatest giving going right now: to organizations that directly lend assistance to individuals and families.”

In a Council on Foundations survey, more than 320 members showed broad support for families affected by the economy. Eighty-six percent supported grants that either directly or indirectly aid families, provide human services, assist low-income populations, or support economic development.

Desert organizations feel the slower pace of giving. That’s why KDI Kares — the nonprofit arm of KDI Elements, a Palm Desert-based company that designs, manufactures, and installs flooring and countertops — held a new-shoe drive for children this past summer. KDI Kares collected and delivered more than 500 pairs of shoes to the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission. “We know there are people less than a paycheck away [from being able to meet basic needs] and those who have lost jobs and are in desperate situations and need help for basic living,” explains KDI Kares founder Annie Klein, who launched the Shoebox Hero Drive.

The College of the Desert Foundation, a historically well-endowed entity that supports the COD mission, also feels the pinch. “We are seeing a reduction in people giving,” says Laurie Muhlhauser, the foundation’s interim executive director and director of development.

However, she suggests the desert will outpace other parts of the country in charitable donations. “I think the giving will continue, yet may be somewhat reduced and very targeted. Donors will focus on key charities and organizations that touch their heart.”

Scott Schroeder, director of development at Palm Springs Art Museum and chair of the Desert Communities Association of Fundraising Professionals’ local National Philanthropic Day, expects a robust turnout for the Nov. 19 annual luncheon. Created by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, National Philanthropy Day recognizes outstanding philanthropic individuals and organizations. At the museum, Schroeder helps donors structure their giving. “We are trying to find more creative ways to make it easy for donors to stretch out pledge payments,” he says.

Words of caution: Examine the financial stability of an organization before writing a check. Visit www.charitynavigator.org. Ask to see the books.

James Casey, president and CEO of Palm Springs-based Integrated Wealth Management — which manages foundation endowments and oversees planned-giving programs for many affluent individuals and organizations, including the Screen Actors Guild — points to a charitable remainder trust as a good way to give, especially in compromised real estate markets. “If people want to get out of the current real estate market, a CRT is an excellent [asset option], while helping a charitable organization of your choice,” he says. CRTs are complex, so check with your attorney, accountant, or private banker to see if one is right for you.

Alfred Neil and Geoffrey Zamboni of Palm Springs recently created a CRT with a Florida property to benefit Desert AIDS Project. “The property had been in my family for ages,” Neil says. “Rather than sell, we thought we would do something good with it and make Desert AIDS Project the beneficiary of the CRT. In the meantime, we receive lifelong income from it.”

Remember, as more givers watch every dollar, charitable organizations’ needs increase. Give smart and target your dollars to charities that touch your heart and need you most.

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