Donor-advised funds: A resource and a comfort

Last week I was invited to participate in a live broadcast for Women Doing Well. It was clearly a moment that required selecting something from the “dry cleaning” closet. Well, at least from the waist up!

As I began to prepare for my day, I noticed the Women Doing Well invitation clearly stated that no one would be viewable, so we could come as we were. I chuckled. It actually felt good to be wearing a dress shirt again … and it felt even better paired with a comfortable pair of sweatpants.

I’m not sure about you, but isolation has been really long, and I have grown very attached to my most comfortable clothes. In times of stress and anxiety, we tend to revert to the comfortable, don’t we? To the familiar. 

For some, it might be comfort food – a decadent grilled cheese sandwich. For the college student, or young professional, it may be settling back into a childhood bedroom in the family home for a while. For others, it’s a donor-advised fund.

A donor-advised fund?

Ok … I’m the first to admit I have been isolated for far too long! I’m even starting to call into question a lifetime of testing as an introvert. But I’m serious about a donor-advised fund (NCF Giving Fund, or DAF) as a source of comfort, and I was inspired to this by Janice Worth – a woman I know to be generous who spoke on that Women Doing Well call.

Janice is a highly successful entrepreneur and a passionate advocate for generosity. She shared how the pandemic had impacted her … and her investments. 

Janice was frightened when she saw a large drop in her net worth. And, she says, the crisis brought back some old fears. “It exposed how my heart was still tied to my zeroes … which, by the way, were diminishing rapidly.” Her initial response was to pause her giving.

But Philippians 4:9 came to mind, she says:  “My God will supply every need … according to his riches.

“When I went to my DAF, I saw that I had more than enough to fulfill my commitments to the ministries I support, because the resources were already there,” Janice says. She contacted a ministry she gives to monthly and asked about their needs, then she sent them a full year’s worth of contributions. She had planned another gift to a New York ministry for late in 2020. She was able to release it immediately.

Janice’s Giving Fund had allowed her to donate appreciated stocks in 2019, when the market was hitting new highs every day. So when she signed in to look at it during the crisis, what she hoped and planned to give was already there.

“Our God was being praised and thanked because of funds that were set aside,” Janice says. But she had planned her gifts.

“Planning can sound so rigid and structured,” she says; and Janice isn’t rigid and structured. But in this case, that planning helped her to continue the generosity that brings her joy and to bless ministries in need too.

Despite a moment of concern, Janice had returned to what has become familiar for her, and allowed the passionate giver in her to take the lead.

You can see the recording of that Women Doing Well broadcast here.

Caring for our teams

Graham and April Smith were faced with the impacts of COVID-19 when their restaurant in Times Square – PS Kitchen – was forced to close. PS Kitchen employs people who struggle to find work, and 100 percent of their profits go to charity. But with the lights of Broadway gone dark and the streets of Manhattan empty, no one would be dining out. 

April and Graham were able to utilize their DAF, and our relationship with Impact Foundation, to both personally fund the restaurant, and to provide a vehicle to accept support from friends and colleagues. April and Graham’s passion for generosity is deeply personal, but also widely inspiring to others. And they are continuing their giving, even while the restaurant is closed, by providing food to medical professionals all over the city.

Other NCF givers who run businesses also wanted to find a way to take care of their employees in need quickly. Some of them discovered that, with the help of a trusted and experienced ally of NCF, they could provide help to their employees and their communities very quickly.

While NCF is not a provider of Corporate Assistance Programs (CAPs), Helping Hands Charitable, through ProvisionBridge, is. And they’re experienced in serving business owners who are seeking charitable solutions or benevolence for their employees. Their help allowed NCF givers to use money they had set aside in their own Giving Funds to show their care for valued employees.

In March alone, 17 specific COVID-19 relief funds were established to provide $950,000 in relief to 750 employees. Another 30 funds were established in March through Helping Hands, raising about $7 million. And $6.6 of that has already been granted out.

Caring for the poor and marginalized

When a group of givers and board members affiliated with our Tampa office felt called to raise funds for persecuted believers in closed countries, they turned to something familiar, a model for giving that is being used across the country to facilitate collaboration.

These persecuted Christians are more like slaves than day laborers, because they never have an opportunity to leave the places where they work, not even to eat or sleep. As COVID-19 forced many of their projects to stop, and those who kept these workers in poverty fled, many of these brothers and sisters in Christ were left in danger of starvation. 

The givers in Tampa were already using Giving Funds at NCF, and they were confident we could support this new effort with something flexible and creative – a legally compliant vehicle to mobilize funds. 

And so it happened. The Alliance for Persecuted Christians came together in time to bring food to persecuted believers (who were working as slaves and day laborers before Easter). More than $625,000 has been raised in the first four weeks for local churches to provide 210,000 starving people enough food to last at least a couple of weeks. And now that the system is in place, their efforts to provide for the needs of persecuted brothers and sisters will continue.

Another clever solution to helping those in need appeared first in our Alabama office and is now spreading to other locations. Givers were buying gift cards to thrift stores that support rescue missions and other ministries. The cards were then distributed to churches who used them to help their own people in need. A triple win!

The Alabama team has purchased $100,000 of gift cards so far, and the Georgia team raised $20,000 in the first week to begin to purchase these cards too.

And these are just some of the stories we have heard!

What’s the common denominator here? All of these givers were already giving with NCF Giving Funds. They were familiar with how donor-advised funds work and with some of the other creative solutions NCF is able to provide. They knew who they could turn to in a time when they wanted to give quickly. The structures were already in place to help them fulfill their desire to give, at just the right time.

With a passion to act and the structure in place, (and of course all being forced to shelter in place at home) all our givers needed was a cell phone or computer, a pair of sweats, and their favorite comfort food!  We live for these moments at NCF.

Up Next

Giving is not like investing; and not all nonprofits should run like it is

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