We hope you had a Merry Christmas and a holiday season full of family and friends. This is very busy time of year for your community foundation and all of us in the philanthropy business. As I write this column, the final days of the year approach and daily we are hearing from people who want to do more with their charitable giving and establish a charitable fund.

We are seeing a great deal of interest in the “charitable bunching concept” that I mentioned in earlier columns. Under the new tax laws with the higher standard deduction, more donors are utilizing a donor-advised fund and bunching as a tax-wise charitable giving tool as the year comes to a close.

It’s too early to get statistics on total charitable giving in 2018. However, I still stand by the prediction I made in my January column, “An alternative outlook on charitable giving under the new tax law.” We won’t have official numbers from Giving USA until July 2019, but contrary to the predictions of others in the philanthropy world, I anticipate that compared with 2017, charitable giving will be up.

To refresh your memory, the study commissioned by the Independent Sector predicted a decrease in charitable giving as a result of the higher standard deduction and many fewer households being able to itemize their charitable deductions. However, according to one recent survey, at the end of the third quarter of this year, charitable giving was up year to date. Although giving was down slightly in the first two quarters of the year, strong contributions in the third quarter now have charitable giving up compared with the first three quarters of 2017. Here at your community foundation, we are also seeing very strong contributions, and we are on pace to have a record year. I will report back with official results in July, but I think my faith in people and their motivations for giving will be proven correct.

I want to encourage high school and college students in our area to take advantage of this holiday break and go check out the scholarships available from Truman Heartland at https://www.thcf.org/Grant-Scholarship-Seekers/Scholarships. We have a new general scholarship application that will be a time saver for students (and parents). For example, high school seniors complete one general scholarship application and then receive information on the scholarships they are eligible for and what additional information is needed for each scholarship.

Scholarships are available for students pursuing undergraduate, graduate and technical degrees. The deadline for the general scholarship application is Feb. 1, and students have until Feb. 11 to submit additional items. This past year, we awarded scholarships totaling over $287,000 to 218 students in our region, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to check it out.

As we prepare for 2019, I would also remind all the baby boomers in our area who are looking for volunteer opportunities in the new year to utilize our Boomers Get Connected resources at https://www.thcf.org/Boomers-Get-Connected. We continue our work with area nonprofits and governments looking for volunteers and help them connect with boomers in our communities to better utilize their time and talents.

Happy new year to all!

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation, based in Independence. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call the foundation at 816-836-8189.