How Do You Choose What Causes to Support?

In last week’s email, I shared my views on the importance of philanthropy in estate planning. I described the estate planning process as a menu with a main course, appetizers, and a dessert. Not surprisingly, philanthropy is the “dessert” on the estate planning menu, after ordering a main course (for you and your spouse’s needs) and appetizers (to provide for your kids and other loved ones). There is a “two-fer” benefit to philanthropy, as it not only helps others, it also provides powerful “glue” in keeping a family unified as they come together to create a giving legacy.

I received feedback asking me to share tips on how to choose what causes to supportLady Bird Johnson famously said she selected causes that “make my heart sing.” For her, that included beautification and wildflowers, especially along America’s highways. For Omaha businessman Walter Scott, Jr., good friend of Warren Buffett, his focus was on youth. “I have nothing against old people. I am one! But I believe society will get the most bang-for-the-buck if I invest in things that help us produce educated and productive citizens.” Hence, Scott was a major donor to the University of Nebraska.

I was asked to reveal my own causes. I share similar philosophies with Lady Bird Johnson and Walter Scott, Jr. I look for causes where my charitable dollars and volunteer hours not only make my heart sing, but they also “move the needle” and have a meaningful impact. As the photo reveals, I also have a personal passion for the arts, driven by my lifelong love of painting, as well as a passion for children and education. These priorities attract me to causes like the Fort Worth Symphony (where I was treasurer for 42 years), the Multicultural Alliance and its Camp CommUNITY, Texas Cultural Trust, Trinity Valley School, and Jewish Family Services.

I encourage you to find what “makes your heart sing.” I guarantee that you and your family will get back more than you give.

Tax Tip: 2021 is an ideal year for people considering a large cash gift to a public charity. Normally, the tax deduction for such gifts is limited to 60% of your Adjusted Gross Income (“AGI”), but for 2021 you can deduct an amount equal to 100% of your AGI. Furthermore, there used to be a “cutback” on itemized deductions for high income taxpayers, but in 2021 there is no cutback. No matter how high your income, you can deduct the full amount of your itemized deductions. Therefore, through large cash gifts to public charities in 2021, it’s possible to completely eliminate your income tax liability this year.

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin Blum at the easel, fostering his passion for arts, education, and children.