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Kim Laughton, President Of Schwab Charitable. (Photo: Business Wire)

Stocks in this article: SCHW

Schwab Charitable, one of the nation’s leading national donor-advised fund organizations, closed its 2012 giving season with a record level of charitable contributions and new accounts as individuals and their advisors embraced Schwab Charitable’s tax-smart, simple and accessible approach to supporting the non-profit causes about which individuals care most. Spurred by an uncertain tax environment amidst the fiscal cliff debate, contributions more than tripled and new accounts doubled over the same period last year.

Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable. (Photo: Business Wire)

Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable. (Photo: Business Wire)

“We are thrilled to witness such a robust giving season and to see the significant jump in interest and activity. It speaks to the fact that more individuals are recognizing that a Schwab Charitable account makes their charitable giving easier and more strategic, and that these accounts are within everyone’s reach,” said Kim Laughton, president, Schwab Charitable.

A donor-advised fund allows investors - either directly or with the help of an advisor - to contribute cash or appreciated assets to a charitable account to realize the greatest possible tax benefits and to then support charities of their choice over time. Serving a wide range of philanthropic investors, Schwab Charitable’s account sizes range from $5,000 to over $500 million.

Guidelines for Granting

In addition to making year-end contribution decisions, many advisors and individuals have been actively recommending grants to individual charities.

“We approved 70% more grants in the fourth quarter this year than we did last year, and we expect to see this granting activity continue through the first quarter because of the many new accounts recently established,” said Laughton.

Schwab Charitable has outlined five areas for individuals and their advisors to consider when thinking about a granting strategy in 2013:

  1. Develop a purposeful strategy for giving: Be proactive and purposeful about your giving. Take a step back and think about what you want to achieve with your charitable dollars, and consult a financial advisor to help you determine priorities and the level of support you want to provide throughout the year. In addition to reflecting your values, a purposeful strategy can also help you to say no to solicitations that do not fit within your strategy. Check your progress against the strategy throughout the year. Your donor-advised fund account online summary can help by displaying grant history by cause, so that your activity can be monitored and you can ensure that it is consistent with your giving plans.
  2. Choose the organizations to support: You can support one or many causes from your donor-advised fund. Deciding what causes to support might be a decision you make on your own, or it can be a wonderful thing to do together as a family. Schwab Charitable provides clients with a number of resources to help with this process.
  3. Decide on grant timing and amounts: A donor-advised fund allows for giving over time and you may recommend grants of $50 or more at any time to any IRS-approved 501(c)(3) public charity. Consider whether the causes you are supporting are likely to benefit most from a one-time grant at a certain time of the year, or a series of gifts throughout the year.
  4. Choose your desired level of recognition: Do you want to be recognized for your charitable gift or would you prefer to give anonymously? With a donor-advised fund, you may choose how to be recognized for each grant you recommend. Those who want maximum recognition can have their gifts accompanied by letters on stationery personalized with their account’s special account name.
  5. Consider the long-term: Donors are able to extend their charitable giving beyond their lifetimes through the Charitable Legacy Program. Used in conjunction with a holistic estate plan, this program gives qualified donors the flexibility to provide charitable organizations with support over time after their death.

Opportunity for advisors: Help clients with simpler but more strategic charitable giving

As they incorporate charitable giving into their overall financial plans, individuals are looking to advisors now more than ever for advice on giving and granting strategies. Charitable planning and giving is an important component of any tax planning or financial planning discussion, and conversations about giving intentions and strategies are a good way for advisors to build deeper relationships with clients.

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