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Few Charity Donors Look Beyond Cash Gifts: Fidelity Charitable

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A vast majority of donors in a new survey conducted by Fidelity Charitable said charitable giving was at least as important to them, or more, than other financial priorities, but most were unaware of the variety of giving options available.

Only half of donors had used a giving method other than cash, despite having other assets that could be more advantageous to give.

Eighty percent of survey respondents said they owned appreciated assets, but only 21% had ever given those assets to charity.

And although 90% of donors had a life insurance or retirement plan, just 9% had named a charity as a beneficiary of the plan.

W5, an independent research firm, polled 950 charitable donors on Fidelity’s behalf in 2015 and early 2016, asking them how annual gift size, wealth, age and advisor relationships affected awareness and use of nine different charitable giving methods.

Those methods were bequests, donating appreciated assets, family or private foundations, donor-advised funds, naming a charity as the beneficiary of a retirement or life insurance plan, charitable trusts, charitable gift annuity, community foundations and making a qualified charitable distribution from an IRA.

“Our research uncovered remarkably low awareness and use of the full range of tax-advantaged giving methods,” Matt Nash, senior vice president of Donor Engagement at Fidelity Charitable, said in a statement.

“This giving gap may limit potential savings and prevent people from giving more to the deserving charities they support.”

The survey found that retirees donated more to charities than full-time workers, but were less likely to report they were confident about giving at the same level in the future. They were also less likely to use a giving vehicle.

For example, only 39% of retirees used methods such as a distribution from an IRA, compared with 50% of those working full time.

And 23% of retirees used a legacy vehicle, such as a bequest or charitable trust, compared with 28% of employed donors.

Despite lower overall wealth, donors under 50 were much likelier than older ones to use advanced charitable planning strategies.

The poll found that 62% of younger donors used a charitable giving vehicle, and 25% of these used three or more vehicles.

So did those who gave more than $20,000 to charity each year. They were most likely to know about and use giving methods beyond cash, credit card and check. Still, a quarter of these donors did not use advanced giving methods.

Fifty-three percent of donors in the poll said they had discussed charitable planning with an advisor, and were likelier to be aware of the variety of giving vehicles available.

Even so, they were not any more likely to put this knowledge to use in their giving practices, the survey results showed.

“Americans have a strong commitment to philanthropy, but those who give have varying understanding of the range of ways they can support their favorite causes,” Fidelity’s national fundraising manager Brian Deacy said in the statement.

“While advisors are doing a good job discussing charitable planning, there is certainly ample opportunity for them to add value by helping educate their clients about the smartest ways to give.”

Nonprofit development offices, too, have an opportunity to inform donors how various giving methods can benefit both the organization and themselves, according to Fidelity.

It said donors are most likely to know about bequest giving, but far fewer have included a charity in their will. Even fewer donors know about other legacy and gift planning vehicles and methods.

— Check out Wealthy Donors Worry Their Gifts Are Wasted on ThinkAdvisor.


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