Two of the wealthiest men in world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, recently issued a challenge to the nation’s richest individual’s asking each of them to give at least half of their wealth to charitable causes over a period of time. When you look at the size of the federal budget deficit, the rate of unemployment, and the rising poverty rate in America, it is clear that some help is needed but the government is really not in a position to provide it. It appears as though these two billionaires recognized this and you have to applaud their efforts. In fact, Buffet has given the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over $6.4 million since 2006 so he is certainly walking the walk.
Clearly the richest of the rich are in a rarefied position, but there are many people of significant means who would like to leave a lasting charitable legacy without incurring the cost of starting their own staffed foundation. A good way to do this is with the charitable giving vehicle known as a donor advised fund. To utilize this vehicle you place assets with a public charitable foundation of your choice that offers a donor giving program. This charity then owns the assets, but you as the donor can make recommendations concerning the grants that will be endowed from the fund. The value of the assets that you place into the fund is tax deductible for the year in which the donation is made, though grants need not be given out within that year.
The donor can name an account successor to make grant recommendations after his or her death, so the family imprint on the fund can continue on for multiple generations. If you are in a position to make a difference while avoiding the expense involved in the creation of your own charitable foundation, donor advised funds may be the ideal solution for you.