A Picture of Generosity

by Laura Chiesman

What do you think the chart below represents? Could it be the stock market growth over time? Or perhaps the advancing crime rate in some large city? No, in fact this is a picture of charitable giving in America over the last 40 years.

According to Giving USA 2018, charitable donations in 2017 exceeded $410 billion! Total charitable giving has increased in current dollars every year since 1977, with the exception of three years that saw declines: 1987, 2008, and 2009. Charitable giving continues to be an upward trend.

The National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) reports there were approximately 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States, and as we see above these charities are mostly supported by individuals. It is quite clear to our wealth services firm in Satellite Beach, FL that, despite some headlines and sentiment to the contrary, Americans are a very generous lot!

There is plenty of evidence of this generosity every year around this time as taxpayers work to gather their receipts and records to document their donations. There are always questions that are best explored with a tax preparer – Do we need to provide copies of receipts for the clothes and furniture donated to Goodwill? Does the check I gave to a young couple at church for their rent (or mission trip) count as a tax-deductible donation?

As I peruse the sometimes multiple-page lists of organizations that benefit from the generosity of individuals and families, I have questions too – Are all these dollars being well used? Are the organizations all properly structured to receive tax deductible donations? And very often I wonder, how does someone manage to give to so many different organizations, and would large donations to fewer causes possibly have greater results than small amounts to many?

It’s obvious that the more you give, the more requests come flooding in – through the mail, by phone and increasingly via email. According to Charity Navigator, this is because many organizations make a practice of selling donor names and information. So, you give to one heart-string-pulling animal rescue group and very soon you find yourself on the lists of many small, previously unheard of, charities. All have compelling stories so how do you choose? And how can you protect yourself from “request overload” and inefficient or even unscrupulous organizations?

Charity Navigator has advice to help avoid some of the pitfalls of giving. Read “Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors,” and start with one or two of their tips to simplify this part of your financial life and possibly optimize the effect of your generous giving. If you have any questions, we here at our wealth services firm in Satellite Beach, FL are available to discuss your wealth management or financial planning needs.

You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this publication serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from FirstWave Financial. A copy of the FirstWave’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.