CHARITABLE GIVING INCLUDES THE N-SSA

By Wayne Jordan, Chiswell’s Exiles, N-SSA Charitable Giving Officer


Did you know that the North-South Skirmish Association is a 501 c 3 organization? In plain English that means that the IRS has deemed our organization to be a tax exempt, non-profit, charitable organization. And that means that anyone can make tax deductible contributions to the N-SSA, the same as you might for your church, college, or any other charity. So, why not add the N-SSA to your list of charities, especially as you may be making your end of year donations to various organizations.

I am starting this new forum to start a conversation about ways to help our membership evaluate options for supporting the N-SSA with charitable donations from small to large. In today’s world it can be a confusing and involved process to give away money. And if you are going to do so, you might as well get the most benefit that you can. By benefits I mean everything from tax benefits to various intangible benefits from your gifts.

I have taken on this project due to the nature of our organization. We are tailor made for member donations, but most of us don’t think in those terms. Our members often spend many years in the N-SSA, spend a lot of time skirmishing, bring in friends and family as members, and generally consider the N-SSA to be a valuable and significant part of their lives with many good memories of the time spent skirmishing. We all want to see the organization grow and thrive over time. We want to preserve the history of the Civil War, and we want to preserve the sport of skirmishing. There are many different ways to support the N-SSA and provide for its future, and financial support is one of those ways.

So, will you make a tax deductible donation to the N-SSA before the end of this year? Every little bit helps. Can you imagine the impact this would have on our budget if everyone just sent in a $20.00 donation each year, for instance? It can be done by check, credit card or Paypal. Checks can written to the N-SSA and be mailed to the N-SSA, c/o Jim Baird, National Paymaster, 31 Dogwood Ln., Christiansburg, Va 24073. Include a note saying what the money is for (a general donation, land fund, etc.) To use a credit card or Paypal, go to our website at www.n-ssa.org, scroll down the right side of the home page and you’ll see a button to click on that will take you to a page where you can make a donation.

Donors will also be publicized for making donations, much as most other non-profits do. You may request to have your donation kept anonymous if you’d like. More about this in my next article.

START A PERSONAL CHARITABLE GIFT FUND

I will be writing a series of articles about different ways to administer your personal charitable giving. I am going to start by discussing one of the best things that our government has ever placed in the tax code. It is called a Donor Advised Charitable Gift Fund. This is the next best thing to having your own private foundation for making charitable donations. These funds started popping up in the 1990s, usually at stock brokerage firms. They all operate in a similar fashion, although some have fewer restrictions and are easier to use than others.

These funds are massive, but they are accessible to the average middle class American. They pool the money of many thousands of people like us and create and operate a charitable foundation. Anyone can participate. An account is opened with a tax deductible contribution of cash, securities or other assets. The donor (you) gets an immediate tax deduction for the full value of the donation. The money is invested in your choice of a variety of investment options while it waits for you to decide which charities you want the money to go to. You may designate some portion of the money as a grant to go to your favorite charities either immediately, or sometime in the future. You may have these grants made to IRS designated 501 c 3 organizations, which basically means just about any nonprofit charity in America. The Funds keep a database of thousands of eligible charities and usually also make research about those charities available to you to evaluate. If your favorite charity is not listed, it is usually a simple matter to get them added to the list.

There are many advantages to using these Gift Funds. You can donate to them whenever you want a deduction, regardless of whether you are ready to actually select a recipient charity at that time or not. You can watch your donated funds grow in their investment accounts, thus providing you with even more money to grant to your charities. You can easily donate appreciated securities directly to the fund and generally avoid all capital gains taxes while getting a tax deduction for their full current value. This is really handy if you bought Microsoft, Apple or Nike stock years ago and it is now worth 10, 20, or even 100 times what you paid for it. Also, you only have to be concerned about keeping track of one receipt from the fund each year, rather than numerous receipts from various charities that you give to. You can also make your grants to charities through the fund anonymously if you choose, or designate your grant to be dedicated to a specific purpose, or to the credit or memory of another person.

There are many of these funds available to use. I use the Fidelity Charitable Giving Account which is administered by Fidelity Investments. They are one of the largest mutual fund companies and also a discount broker. They require a minimum donation of $5000 to get started and they allow you to dole the money out to your charities in increments as small as $50 at a time. A quick internet search of other commonly used brokers and mutual fund companies like Vanguard, Schwab, and T Rowe Price reveals that they all have their own charitable gift funds. Some require higher minimums and larger grants so you must find the fund that suits you. Having it with the same company where you do your investing makes it all very easy. The minimum to get started can sound intimidating, but many of us do give that much money away every year or two. For example, if you are a member of a church how much money do you give them each year? You can fund a charitable fund and make the church a regular recipient of your grants over time. And then you have the rest of the charitable fund account available for other donations to all the other charities you may want to support (like the N-SSA). This is a very streamlined, easy and efficient way to administer your charitable giving.

This is only a brief overview of how these funds work and how you might benefit from using one. Once you get set up, they are very convenient and easy to use.

Disclaimer: Yep, there are always disclaimers when it comes to financial advice. I am not a licensed professional and am only passing on information about things that I have experience with. Always use your own good sense and/or consult with professionals whenever you are making financial decisions. That said, if anyone would like to discuss any of these issues with me further, or if you have suggestions for my future articles about giving, I can be reached at wvjordan@aol.com.