The season of giving back

The season of giving back

By John Porter,
Executive director, 
ACT for Alexandria
(Stock image)

To the editor:

More than any other time of year, this is the season when we reflect on what we have and what matters most to us: our loved ones, our neighbors and our community. It also is a time that inspires us to give to those in need and support worthy charitable causes.

Alexandria has been recognized as one of the most charitable communities online the past few years. This important distinction says much about the caring and concern that we show for others

This year, in particular, is an especially important time to give. The need is great and growing. The charitable-giving climate is changing, and the threat is urgent.

Charitable-giving incentives are in jeopardy. Lawmakers in Washington are considering harmful limits to the charitable tax deduction.

Any limits to this deduction will unleash serious consequences in our communities. When you take away incentives to give, donations decline and people who rely on the programs and services provided by nonprofits suffer the most.

Charities also are struggling more than ever. The belt-tightening that started with the recession was exacerbated by the sequester and federal government shutdown.

Nonprofits are finding it harder and harder to provide services because the need is growing while funding is shrinking. The Nonprofit Finance Fund reports that most nonprofits have seen a higher demand for services since 2008. The trend has grown in recent years and is expected to continue through this year.

Alexandria faces tough challenges. With the free- and reduced-lunch rate in our public schools approaching 60 percent, it’s clear that many youth and their families are in need of support from others in the community — they simply can’t do it alone.

So, what to do? With the right planning, donors can make the most of this year’s giving season:

• Giving represents a win-win for the donor and the beneficiary. The stock markets are way up this year: S&P 500 is up more than 25 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average is up more than 22 percent and Nasdaq is up more than 30 percent based on recent figures. So the time is now for gifting appreciated stock shares (rather than cash) to charities. The reason? Gifts of appreciated securities cost donors less and benefit their charity more than if the donor first sold the stock, paid the capital gains taxes on the sale and then donated the remaining proceeds to the charity. The donor receives a greater tax deduction by giving the stock directly to the charity and avoids paying capital gains taxes.

• What if you want to give but aren’t sure to what cause? Open a donor advised fund by depositing securities or cash, receive an immediate tax deduction, and decide where you want to give as you come across nonprofits you support.

These approaches certainly encourage giving and help maximize your gift, but it’s not really about the donor. To be clear, the generosity of donors is vital to the success and survival of charitable organizations in our community.

It’s really more about what the donors’ dollars do to help families and communities in need: educating our young people, creating job opportunities, improving our health and enriching our lives through cultural activities.

For centuries, giving back has been woven into the fabric of our society. We give because it’s the right thing to do. We do it out of compassion for the most vulnerable and a commitment to building a stronger community. Regardless of our station in life, we are fortunate to have a variety of ways to donate our time and money for the causes we care about.

That’s the true value of giving.