Wealthy Americans Are Donating Tons Of Money To These Funds—And Reaping Huge Tax Breaks

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Photo: Salvation Army USA West via flickr

Think the dampened economy has squashed philanthropy? Think again. While the 2007 recession may have pilloried big business and sapped the nation’s pockets, charities have waited for the smoke to clear and now they’re launching a comeback.

Their method: donor-advised funds, a philanthropic giving vehicle for corporations, individuals, and families to gift assets (including cash, mutual funds, securities, bonds, and some real estate) to charities in exchange for the ability to direct their contributions and reap sizable tax breaks and a capital gains tax exemption, not to mention heaps of good karma. 

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, assets at the largest funds grew 10 per cent from the dawn of the recession in 2007. Furthermore, this same group of accounts experienced a 16 per cent increase in total assets, led by a 25 per cent surge at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, which the Chronicle identified as the biggest donor-advised fund in 2012. 

#10 Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

Total Assets: $408.8 million

The Federation's donors contributed almost $97 million to their funds in 2011, an astounding 222 per cent increase from 2010.

It gave over $300,000 to the Birthright Israel Foundation, over $1 million to the Jewish Federations of North America, yet only $180 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#9 Chicago Community Trust

Total Assets: $1.2 billion

The windy city has an answer to the empire state's philanthropic surge, and it's responding in part by giving $10,000 to the American Indian centre to prevent hunger and promote nutrition.

It also gave $35,000 to the Arab-American Family Services foundation. Still, the trust was the only fund of the top 10 to see a decline, though slight, in its total assets.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#8 New York Community Trust

#7 Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Total Assets: $941.6 million

It's the fund to the tech stars that magnanimously gives to all.

Corporate donors include LinkedIn and Facebook, according to the Chronicle, and recipients like the Hawaii Community Foundation ($4.2 million) and The Guide Foundation for the Blind of Smithtown, New York ($500) are grateful for the contributions.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#6 National Philanthropic Trust

Total Assets: $1.03 billion

The trust held $1.03 million in 2011, doling out nearly $900,000 to Central and South American charities, according to its tax documents.

According to the same documents, it's CEO/President Eileen R. Heisman raked in nearly $400,000 that year.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#5 Jewish Communal Fund

Total Assets: $1.07 billion

Though it contains only 2,714 funds to Fidelity's nearly 53,000, the Jewish Communal Fund still manages to give back in a big way with its $1.07 billion in totals assets. Recipients include the Harlem Children's Zone ($2.6 million) and The Friends Seminary School in New York City ($561,000).

The fund also makes a point of putting members' fees right back into further charitable donations. Since 1999, JCF's board of trustees has granted more than $9 million to a variety of important projects in the Jewish community through its Special Gifts Fund. Examples include the Collegiate Leadership Internship Program and Met Council's Masbia Kosher Soup Kitchen Network

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#4 National Christian Fund

Total Assets: $1.43 billion

A $10,000 minimum donation will gain you access to the National Christian Fund, which distributes its dollars to animal societies, women's organisations, religious groups, and other organisations.

Just ask the pooches at the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah how far $4,700 goes. Hint: it's a lot of puppy chow.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#3 Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

Total Assets: $2.33 billion

This Philadelphia-based fund donated a hefty $1.01 million to Harvard University. They also distributed their funds to a wide range of charities, including the March of Dimes Foundation ($210,000) and The Lincoln centre for the Arts in New York City ($6,800), among many others.

It's president, Benjamin R. Pierce, made over $200,000 in 2011. It also gave $10,000 to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#2 Schwab Charitable Fund

Total Assets: $3.05 billion

The second largest fund accrued $3.05 billion in total assets last year, and gave $1.5 million to the University of California at Berkeley Foundation.

You don't need to be a billionaire to start a fund with Schwab, however. A mere $5,000 is needed to start an account with the fund.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

#1 Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund

Total Assets: $5.57 billion

The colossal fund enjoyed a 31 per cent increase in donor funds during 2011, according to the Chronicle.

Its 52,000+ smaller funds gave small and large to hundreds of charities, including $100 to St. Columba's Episcopal Church and Nursery School in Washington D.C., and $750,000 to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to preserve historic Williamsburg.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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