The Diversity of Private Philanthropy
March 04, 2013
People of all means give time, and money to support an art form, artists and organizations important to them. That desire to contribute can be lifelong, and is a process that evolves from being a volunteer, to financial support and ultimately a bequest or legacy gift. The process of determining how support moves from time, talent to treasure is a process that is personal and unique to every person or family.
We are approached by individuals who would like to make a long term gift to support the arts, encourage new artists (scholarship or award) or a particular organization. Charitable gifts can be implemented through a variety of structures. We try to begin the conversation to discover:
Would you like your gift to have an immediate financial impact or take a form that supports financially over time?
Will this be your gift or one that involves your family?
Is your gift to be made now, or in future as part of your estate plan?
The Immediate Gift
For an immediate financial contribution, a cheque or donation of securities is easily accomplished and is tax effective (particularly securities donations) and is gratefully received by the organization. A gift that will benefit over time requires thought and planning, often requiring the involvement of your legal and tax advisors. Charitable gifts are tax effective and where possible, try to implement a gift that is most beneficial to your personal tax status.
If you wish to retain a degree of influence or control over how your gift will be used, more complex documentation is a requirement. This will happen where you want to restrict the use of your financial gift for a particular purpose or time period. The arts organization you support may have a particular financial need (capital campaign, new production, outreach program) that aligns with your goals. In any situation, it is wise to talk with the organization about your desire to support and learn what can best help the organization meet their arts mission, whether in the short or long term.
As an example, should you decide to make an endowed gift, your intent is to create an income stream for the arts organization and the principal is to remain intact. That can be in ‘perpetuity’ – one way to think is to see this as a gift lasting 100 years or longer. Or, the principal could be held for a fixed period, say 10 or 15 years, during which income and/or some of the principal is paid out. At the end of the time period, the organization benefits from a stable source of funding and perhaps a final capital gift.
Honouring a Family Member
In the situation of honouring a family member, considering the benefits of an award or scholarship can be very meaningful to the person and family member – whose personal legacy lives on through supporting future generations of artists.
When making a gift to an arts organization, It is important to understand the organizations’ financial position – your desire to make a long term gift could be counter-productive if the organization is struggling to meet the financial demands of current programs. An arts organization whose operating income covers expenses, may be delighted to receive a long term endowed gift, where the income provides flexibility for planning, adapting and a source of extra income to support their arts mission. You will want to know if the organization has the capacity or access to expertise (such as the OAF) to effectively manage an endowment, or long term fund. Will an endowed gift meet the current or first priorities of the arts organization ? Discussions like this can help you clarify if your long term gift will be of greatest value, today and in future to the mission of the arts organization.
It is always a good idea to consider the contingencies – what would I like to happen to my gift in the event – the organization ceases to exist, or the program it supports comes to an end. Everything has its own life span and having the ability to re-direct to related artistic causes means your gift will continue.
For every person wanting to support the arts financially, there are many options that exist to meet your goal or which can be tailored to your financial situation and the goals you and your family have. Making an informed decision is most important, whether the gift is one time and immediate or one that will last a generation.