Enid M Ablowitz, CFRE, CSPG

Making Money Matter

A donor-centric resource for better giving .


Enid’s Blog is a conversation about giving, where you can find:

  • New articles that continue her popular monthly Boulder Daily Camera MAKING MONEY MATTER column;
  • Tools for donors;
  • Best practices for non-profits and fundraisers;
  • Donor stories;
  • Gift and estate planning strategies;
  • Blurbs on news-worthy philanthropic reports or events or resources;
  • Commentary on issues.

Contact me at [email protected] with your questions and opinions. Join the conversation.

‘Til next time — Give Well, Give for Good.

Oops! But It’s Not Too Late.

You had great intentions, but the month just got away from you.  You meant to make your charitable gifts, but somehow you didn’t quite get it done.

To get your charitable deduction for 2016, you can:

  1.  Write a check and be sure it is postmarked before midnight, December 31st.  But be careful: the IRS says “Delivered When Mailed” only applies to the US Postal service, not to private delivery services or private postage meters. And, a receipt is still your best bet.
  2. Use your credit card and verify that the transaction will be posted before midnight, December 31st.
  3. Call your broker and make a gift of investment securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.)  To preserve the effective date on or before December 31, the transaction must be transferred and on the books of the corporation.  That means the asset must be out of the donor’s control.  Remember, close of business 2016 for financial institutions may be Friday, December 30th this year.
  4. Feeling really generous?  A gift of real estate can be done by executing a deed to the property naming the qualified non-profit, delivering it to the non-profit, and having the deed properly recorded (and following any other local laws) ….again, by December 31st.

Great-  you know how, but do you know why?  If you don’t know what organizations you want to support, no worries.  You can decide later.  Just call your broker or your local community foundation and ask to set up a donor-advised fund.  Give and figure out the distribution in 2017 or whenever you choose.

No more procrastination.  Give now!



Seven Steps to Better Charitable Giving

You make donations, but do you give well? Here’s a roadmap to better giving, now and later.

1. Capture your Commitments

Make a list of the organizations you have supported or plan to support in 2016 and the total amount you’ve given to each. Include walks, drives, sales, thrift store donations, fundraising events, auctions, and donations with cash, by check or by credit card. Then add the non-profits where you volunteer. Calculate the amount of time you spend each year, then multiply the number of hours by the value of an hour of your time. Add up all the subtotals to see your total charitable commitment.

2. Ask Yourself “Why?”

For each organization and with just a few words, answer the question, “Why did you make this gift?” Habit? Loyalty? Perceived obligation? Passion for the mission? To honor someone? Write down your primary motivation. Highlight or bold the gifts that have given you the most satisfaction. Why did you select each of them?

3. Make Mission and Metrics-Based Decisions

Can you identify the mission of each organization you support? Do you know how your charitable gifts are used by the organization? Do you care about the particular programs and how effective they might be? How closely aligned is your giving to your personal values? Hint: if alignment isn’t there, you probably have little satisfaction in giving and it feels more like paying a bill. Rate yourself by choosing one of these four categories for each entry: Mission alignment? Values alignment? Both? Neither?

4. Be Tax-wise and Leverage Your Giving

If you itemize, consider the value of your charitable income tax deduction and any Colorado child care charitable tax credit you might receive to figure out the actual net cost of your gifts. Look at whether this is a tax year where charitable deductions would reduce your overall tax rate. Calculate your tax savings and consider using your savings to enable additional giving.

5. Give from Assets too!

Now think beyond just your income about whether you have any appreciated assets that could increase your giving capacity further based on the net cost after possible capital gains tax avoidance. You may find you can be even more generous.

6. Get Tough

When you get this far, you are ready to create a focused annual giving plan that is based on an alignment of your values, the organizations’ capacity to deliver results, your understanding of your capacity to give from both income and assets and acknowledging the real cost of your gift after taxes. Eliminate the organizations where your alignment and satisfaction are low. Review the top few organizations on your spreadsheet and consider increasing your support. You may even want to look into related organizations or explore a new impact area. Make your giving thoughtful and purposeful.

7. Plan Longer Term

If you are already a significant, thoughtful donor with an annual giving plan, think beyond where you are now. Commit to multi-year gifts, restricted gifts for a purpose, gifts of complex assets, life income gifts and beneficiary designations/bequests. Consider gifts for capital projects and for endowments for the sustainability of the organizations you want to thrive.

Bottom line for better giving: if you don’t have a plan, create one. If you do, review it, prune it, and focus. Use your charitable deductions to leverage your gifts so you can give more. Think about giving assets, giving with impact now and planning ahead for yourself and the organizations that matter to you.

And remember, while it is never too early or too late to give, if you want a tax deduction for 2016, your transaction must be fully completed (postmarked, processed, transferred) before December 31st.

A Primer For Donors: 21 Ways To Make A Charitable Gift

Here are some of the ways you can think about strategic giving to a qualified non-profit.

  1. Give cash. (Up to 50% of your AGI can be a charitable deduction.)

  2. Write a check. (Same as cash, but be sure the check is mailed by Dec. 31 for the tax deduction in the same year.)

  3. Use your credit card for a one-time payment. (Ditto-same as cash, but be sure it is processed by year end for your deduction.)

  4. Sign up for a monthly automatic electronic funds transfer. (Easy, but it can feel like paying a bill)

  5. Sign a pledge, then pay it over one year or over multiple years. (Makes it easier to make a larger gift.)

  6. Donate stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares or other equities. (Check out the tax benefits of avoiding capital gains when giving appreciated assets.)

  7. Donate a car, boat, plane, collection (art, books, coins) or other tangible personal property. (Nice way to simplify your life and avoid the hassles of selling.)

  8. Give copyrights, patents, trademarks, or rights like oil, gas, water, or mining rights. (Nice way to give an income stream or illiquid asset.)

  9. Buy into a pooled income fund. (Usually a very low threshold for an income producing charitable gift)

  10. Buy a charitable gift annuity. (Be sure you are working with a reputable non-profit.)

  11. Create a donor-advised fund. (Strategic way to get a deduction immediately, then decide later how to distribute the charitable funds.)

  12. Set up a charitable remainder trust. (Complex but powerful planning tool for giving a larger gift and retaining a life income for yourself or others.)

  13. Set up a charitable lead trust. (Sophisticated tool for transferring assets with tax avoidance on appreciation through a charitable gift of the income from an asset for a period of years to a non-profit.)

  14. Create a retained life estate for your personal residence. (Give the asset, but continue to live there.)

  15. Give an outright gift of property you own free and clear. (Make a large gift, avoid selling hassles, and get significant tax benefits.)

  16. Sell a property to a willing non-profit through a “bargain sale.” (The lower than market value pricing creates the charitable gift.)

  17. Donate financial assets like bank accounts and certificates of deposit through a “pay on death” designation (easy, no immediate impact.)

  18. Name a charitable organization in your will for a dollar amount of money. (Make sure you actually have a will or the State will decide who gets your money.)

  19. Name a charitable organization in your will as a beneficiary of an asset or a percentage of an asset (Another way to designate your intentions)

  20. Name a charitable organization in your will as a beneficiary of a percentage of your estate. (A very effective strategy as it takes into account inflation as well as the possibility of a diminishing estate.)

  21. Name a charitable organization as a beneficiary of an IRD –Income with Respect to Decedent– asset such as an IRA account or retirement plan (Give what may be the highest taxed dollars first.)

Many of these strategies require some advance planning and may have complex rules attached to them, but don’t let that stop you. Freeing up unused assets, for example, can increase your capacity to give. So can life income gifts and/or giving from your estate.

Once you have figured out what to give, think about the kinds of support you can provide to the organizations that matter to you:

  • Funds for current operations of the organization
  • Expendable funds for the ongoing programs of the organization
  • Special funds for specific programs
  • Dedicated funds for starting new programs
  • Capital funds for physical plant construction, expansion or modernization
  • Endowments to provide unrestricted or restricted income

My advice?

Be values-driven, do your homework, and be generous.

Contact your legal counsel, your accountant, or your favorite non-profit for more information about strategic giving. If you would prefer to seek more information confidentially, send your questions to: [email protected].

Portions of the material above are excerpted from a Making Money Matter column originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera, October 17, 2012.

In the News: Thank you, Enid Ablowitz

Unsolicited positive feedback is a lovely gift and one to be cherished, especially when it comes from a highly regarded leader in your field.

 Janet Beardsley, CEO of the YWCA in Boulder, wrote a letter to the Editor of the Daily Camera acknowledging the final April 2nd MAKING MONEY MATTER newspaper column, Fare (and give) Well.   Her letter was humbling to read and for me, a recognition and realization that maybe, just maybe, the pebbles dropped, the nuggets shared, and the passing on of knowledge and insight can actually make a difference. Thank you, Janet.

In her letter, Janet also spoke of her impending retirement in September and referenced a passing of the torch to a new cadre of non-profit leaders.

Much like what is happening in many other sectors, the non-profit world is clearly being impacted by the tide of baby boomers who are stepping down from leadership positions within non-profits and choosing to contribute differently. Retirement is being redefined in positive ways, from the abrupt, gold watch to rocking chair model to a new kind of adaptation as the nature of work changes for everyone

Ubiquitous technology, asynchronous communication, just-in-time learning, consulting (both paid and pro-bono shared values/mission based) are all altering the possibilities of off-site, part-time, and sporadic contributions to the success of the enterprise.   In other words, the “retiring” leaders are a valuable resource for the new cadre of aspiring leaders.

Too often, institutional memory is undervalued or even anathema. Too often in the name of fresh new ideas, traditions or core truths or whatever is considered old-fashioned is discarded. That said, some of the most creative new ideas actually come from the seasoned leaders with the experience, insight and wisdom to see possibilities that may not be evident to those who haven’t had the breadth that comes with an enduring commitment.

The best hope for real organizational success in the non-profit world is to recognize that ‘new and improved’ sometimes turns out to be repackaged; fads come and go, and sustained success allows for creativity, growth and change while preserving the best of what made the organization successful in the first place.

Old-timers (preferably described as seasoned professionals!) in the non-profit world know a few truths that simply don’t change:

People give to people who have a shared purpose.

Long-term relationships matter.

Every donor is a universe of one.

Janet’s letter was hopeful and optimistic. Endings create new beginnings. Enid’s blog is a result of being inspired to commit to writing more articles, sharing more ideas, answering more questions, and building MAKINGMONEYMATTER.COM into a valued resource for donors to self-educate, non-profit leaders to build a donor-centric culture of philanthropy within their organizations, and fundraising professionals to elevate their practices.

Old dogs can learn new tricks, and I still have a few up my sleeves.

Commentary: A Story of Freedom and Gratitude

Peeling the apples, adding the walnuts and honey and, of course, the special wine.  Charoset. Yum.

It is one of the tastes on the ceremonial Passover Seder plate representing the mortar used by the slaves of the Pharaoh to build his city thousands of years ago. There are others, like salt water to represent tears and bitter herbs for burden.

Every year the story is retold, especially to the younger generations, to understand, to feel, and never to forget.  Every year, the pain is fresh.  Around the Seder table there is talk of what it means to be free.  And there is awareness and gratitude.  Freedom is a gift, both precious and fragile.

For the children and for those remembering when they were children, there are traditions that delight.

But the underlying story is one of a leader deciding to enslave a minority living in his midst. It is about hardship and abuse and inequality. A desperate flight.  A miraculous story of escape to a new life.

That was then and this is now, yet slavery and ethnic cleansing still happens. Human trafficking flourishes.  Basic human rights are denied with impunity.  Exploitation.  Persecution. Subjugation. They are pervasive. For so many, freedom is only an idea.

When fleeing begets freedom, it can be at an unimaginable price as people try to escape all that holds them captive, whether regimes, religious law, poverty, mental illness, abuse, or other oppression, even the barriers or even cages we impose on ourselves through fear.

In the absence of divine intervention, how can freedom be achieved and by whom?  How can political action, economic policy, technology, and especially charitable outreach, address freedom’s most basic tenet, human dignity?

And when we are privileged to know freedom, do we accept the responsibility that goes along with that privilege?   Do we feel gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, from the bounty of food we eat to the rights we so easily take for granted?  Do we welcome the stranger to our table?

Whether it is when we learn of another group of refugees arriving (or not) on a foreign shore or of a battered woman seeking shelter at a safe house, we have too many reminders and an abundance of opportunities to act. To give. To be an advocate. To volunteer.  To give money to an organization that can help.

One gift can impact one person and maybe, just maybe, that person will know, even fleetingly the meaning of freedom, even if just the freedom to hope.

There is a song sung merrily at the end of a Seder.  The refrain starts with the word Dayenu which means “enough” or literally, “it would have been enough.”

Dayenu is a reminder to be grateful for the things that would have been enough, like freedom.






Did You Know?: Volunteers Matter!

According to the Independent Sector, the average value of a volunteer’s time in 2015 in the US was $23.56. The amounts differed by state with the low (Arkansas) of $19.14 and the high (Washington DC) of $38.77.

More than 60 million Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours of service in 2014. When translated into monetary terms, that’s over 180 billion dollars.  In one year.

Giving time matters.

Here We Go!

Most of you got to this site because you saw my Fare (and Give) Well column in the Daily Camera, published April 2, 2016. (If you haven’t read it, in summary, “out with the old, in with the new.”)

And so it begins. A new chapter for MAKING MONEY MATTER…on-line only, on its own website and interactive! Let’s have some fun.

There’s lots we can do together. Please make suggestions in the comment section below. This enterprise is for you and about you as donors, non-profit leaders, and development professionals.

For starters, a quick thank you to all of you who commented on the Feminism and Philanthropy column from March. It is a theme that will be repeated and expanded in future columns.

It will take some time to build the site, but blogposts will be forthcoming, some short, others full length columns. In the meantime, here is a snippet for the young and mid-career adults (or hip boomers!) who are looking for quick tips: It’s Not Your Parent’s Philanthropy

Welcome to the world of giving.

We all do it. We give to family and friends. To causes and organizations. We give love and time and money. And we all do it differently.

We have different upbringing, influences, styles, motivations, experiences, expectations and even our own perception of satisfaction or joy in the way we give.

How we give, what we give, why we give and when we give is as unique as we are.

MAKING MONEY MATTER is about providing insight and commentary, tips and tools, opinions and references, all to stimulate better giving, better getting and better stewardship. MAKING MONEY MATTER takes a donor-centric point of view and celebrates the alignment of values that drives and sustains the ever-growing, increasingly important Third Sector.

Introduction to the site.

Enid’s Blog is a conversation about giving.  Posts will include new articles continuing her popular MAKING MONEY MATTER column (with nearly 200 previously published articles in the Daily Camera), and so much more.  Short blurbs on recent news-worthy philanthropic reports or events or resources.   Tools developed for donors or fundraisers. Best practices for non-profits and fundraisers.  Donor Stories.   “Did you Know?” and “Tax-wise Giving.”  Exploration of gift and estate planning philanthropic strategies.  Answers to questions posed by readers.  Controversial issues and opinions on philanthropy. I invite you to participate through comments and submissions to [email protected].

Articles and Resources is a place to go to find Enid’s (copyrighted) writings and resources.  There will also be curated reports or articles by others organized by themes or by date.

Links provides great sources of more information at select websites organized by categories with short narrative descriptions.

Explore the 1.0 version of this website knowing there’s much more to come!