OPINION

Generosity during challenging times

The Examiner

Unprecedented may be the most overused word of the year, but there is no denying its accuracy in describing 2020. As our community braces itself for another coronavirus surge, this year continues to throw us more curveballs than any of us desire. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, your Community Foundation is reflecting on all that we have to be grateful for this year and the exceptional response we have seen from our community.

Phil Hanson

With more than 700 charitable funds, Truman Heartland fundholders are setting ecords for giving. So far this year, fundholders have provided $4.8 million in grants to nonprofits, surpassing last year’s grant total. Based on these trends, we are on track to hit $5 million in grants by the end of the year, a new record for your Community Foundation.

Most of these grants are from Truman Heartland donor-advised funds. Donor-advised funds play a critical role during times of crisis. When the COVID-19 shutdown began in March, we stepped up our communication with our fundholders about the needs of nonprofits working to help those most impacted. They responded generously with over $240,000 in COVID-19 response grants, accelerating our progress toward the $5 million mark.

Like a charitable giving savings account, a donor-advised fund helps generous individuals be strategic with their giving. Donor-advised funds allow investments to grow tax-free when the returns are strong, resulting in more money available to support charitable causes when there are immediate needs.

The remarkable response we have seen from our donors this year has been aided by a strategy referred to as “charitable bunching.” For the past few years, we have been working with donors, financial advisers and partners to encourage charitable individuals to start bunching their charitable giving with a donor advised fund.

With the newly increased standard deduction, many people may not be able to itemize their charitable contributions and receive the tax benefits from itemization. With a charitable bunching strategy, you put two or three-years’ worth of charitable contributions into your donor-advised fund at one time. This strategy allows you to exceed the standard deduction and provides additional tax savings.

Then, in the following years, you take the standard deduction and continue to support your favorite charities by making grants from your donor advised fund. This year, those easily accessible “rainy-day” funds are helping people maintain and, in many cases, increase their giving as the crisis continues to impact our community.

The holiday season is usually a critical time of the year for charitable giving for many nonprofits. Although there is nothing usual about 2020, I am confident we will continue to see significant charitable giving this season. In October, a study commissioned by the Nonprofit Alliance and RKD Group reported some very encouraging news. While 77 percent of donors said they had already given as much or more this year than all of last year, 36 percent said they plan to give more in December than they did in December 2019, and 44 percent said they plan to give the same amount. The generosity of the American people is truly something we should be thankful for during this holiday season.

The Truman Heartland continues to work across the region to share information on our website about nonprofits in Eastern Jackson County that are working hard to address the changing needs of our community. I encourage you to visit www.thcf.org/covid-19 to learn more about their work and how you can help.

These are unprecedented times, but as we have seen this year, our ability to help others and focus on our hopes for the future can inspire us to accomplish the exceptional.

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors. For more information, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816.836.8189.