C-Suite Agenda

Why You Need to Finalize End of Year Giving Now

Jean Shafiroff

Year-end giving may require some additional planning in 2020, and now is the time to decide who you’re going to donate to if you haven’t already.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected charitable organizations in various ways, so it is especially important that you don’t wait until the last minute.

“The pandemic’s devastating financial impact on low-income communities has created an increased strain on nonprofit resources as charities stretch their dollars to serve more people,” said Sara Elghobashy, Director of Development at New York City Mission Society. “Planning year-end giving early allows donors to maximize their charitable contribution by identifying how much they’re capable of giving this season and researching the nonprofits that would create the largest impact with their gift.”

With the pandemic-related economic slowdown diluting the earnings of businesses and individuals, you may consider a reshuffle this year, perhaps supporting nonprofits that are immediately addressing issues arising from the coronavirus or from other crises we have experienced, such as the widespread wildfires on the West Coast and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.

Given this year’s unprecedented circumstances, you may want to give extra consideration when deciding where your donations will have the greatest impact. And doing things at the last minute is stressful – and we’ve already had plenty of stress this year.

Eight tips for year-end donating:

  1. Who to donate to?
    Decide which causes are most meaningful to you, your family, or your business stakeholders. Does your immediate region, where your customers and employees are most affected, have greater needs on account of the pandemic? If your company does business internationally in areas that have been hard hit, you may want to help organizations working in that area.

    Get input from your employees. The giving process is something that can help to keep your employees happy and make them feel that they are helping to make a difference in their community.

  2. Look for designated Covid-19 relief programs among your favorite charities
    Some long-established charitable organizations have directly responded to the pandemic by starting their own emergency Covid-19 programs, such as food pantries expanding their services to meet the greater need, and American Humane’s Feed the Hungry Covid-19 Program, which provides food to animal shelters whose funding has dried up as a result of the virus-related downturn.

    “Our mission at American Humane is to help animals wherever and whenever they are in need, whether that be fire ravaged communities out west or in shelters and rescues across the country,” said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “We created the Feed the Hungry fund specifically to address the dire need facing animals left homeless because of Covid-19. With the help of our wonderful supporters, we can help ease the suffering of some one million animals.”

    Locally, you can specify nonprofits involved in helping to alleviate the effects of the virus such as medical facilities, food banks, organizations that assist the needy, or those supporting frontline and essential workers with everything from providing personal protective equipment to arranging temporary housing and transportation.

  3. There is a bigger tax deduction for charitable donations in 2020
    In response to the increased need stemming from the pandemic, the CARES Act allows individuals and corporations to deduct a higher percentage of income for charitable donations, so you can give more and save more on taxes.

    “As individuals consider end-of-year philanthropy, I hope they assess the benefits of the CARES Act, said Ana L. Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, which helps women in need to attain economic security. “Investing in women is so important because women do so much and in turn invest in their families, multiplying the impact of a gift.”

    This new tax rule applies only to the year 2020, and there are certain guidelines, so you should consult your tax advisor for details.

  4. Do your research
    If making a corporate donation to a charitable organization that is new to your business, look into how it is run. How much of their annual revenue goes to administrative costs – it should be no more than 20%, maximum – and what percentage goes directly to its programs?

    Examining the organization’s 990 form, the IRS report for nonprofits, will help to answer those questions. Check their record with the Better Business Bureau, and look them up on CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org, two of the most reliable among websites that help to vet nonprofit organizations.

    Read what’s been written about the charity in the media, and if you’re thinking about a major gift, get on the phone with a board member.

  5. Adhere to foundation mission statements
    In some cases, larger donors, like foundations, are increasing giving in certain areas, such as health services and medical research, to help make up for the funding gap arising from unprecedented demand caused by the pandemic.

    However, if you have a family or corporate foundation, remember that funds must be distributed in line with the objectives laid out in its mission statement. For instance, Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses on five key areas: public health, environment, education, government innovation, and art and culture, per their mission statement.

    With such a broad focus, you may be able to find some Covid-related causes that fall within the foundation’s giving guidelines, but legally, you must adhere to the mission statement.

  6. Focus your contributions to make the maximum impact
    Larger donations to fewer causes you are passionate about or that need the most help may be something you want to consider this year. Targeting a smaller number of charities that are most important to you, your employees, or your clients, and giving as much as you can will make more of a difference and help to transform lives.

    In the current economic climate, just about every type of nonprofit organization is experiencing a crunch, even those not directly involved in fighting the pandemic, from museums to arts institutions to homeless shelters, so figuring out what you want to focus on takes some time.

  7. Smaller donations still go a long way
    Even if your investments are down or your corporate income is reduced due to the pandemic, smaller donations can go a long way. If you have less to give this year, do what you can; there is still great need in your community and around the world.

    Realize that a smaller donation can still have a huge impact, particularly for smaller charities in your community that may be stretched due to the pandemic. A gift of, say, $20,000 could help enable a small organization with low overhead to deliver critical services for months.

    Planning early will help reassess where your donations should go.

  8. Consider donations of goods or services or volunteering
    Don’t forget that you, your family, and your employees can give items other than money. Consider engaging your employees in organizing or participating in coat drives, food drives, Thanksgiving meal drives or holiday toy and gift drives. These kinds of activities can be a feel-good bonding experience, and also make it easy to give, usually requiring a drop-off at a given location.

    Volunteering may help charities as staffing levels have shrunk and as retirees, who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, have shied away from doing volunteer work to stay safe. The value of volunteers to organizations is priceless, it helps them reduce their expenses and put more resources into their programs.

And helping others makes us feel good. 


Written by Jean Shafiroff. Have you read?
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Jean Shafiroff
Jean Shafiroff is one of New York’s leading philanthropists and the author of “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give.” Frequently referred to as the First Lady of New York Philanthropy, she serves on the boards of the New York City Mission Society, Southampton Hospital Association, French Heritage Society, Couture Council (Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology), Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board and Global Strays. Jean Shafiroff is a National Ambassador for the American Humane Society and an Honorary Trustee of the Jewish Board, where she has served for 28 years. An expert on giving, Shafiroff believes that it’s a business’ duty to give back both locally and globally. Jean Shafiroff is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or connect on Instagram.