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Be Smarter With Your Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

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Eileen Heisman, charitable giving

With Eileen R. Heisman, President and CEO of National Philanthropic Trust

Despite the bad rap Americans get internationally, we’re actually a very charitable people. But how do we improve the efficiency of our philanthropic efforts so they deliver more bang for each buck we contribute and are more fulfilling to us?

Eileen Heisman is CEO of NPT, the largest donor advised fund – a charitable savings account that donors put assets into (essentially as a donation to the charity, where you give up ownership and no longer really have “control”), which the charity liquidates and manages on behalf of the donor – with the donor directing the use of funds without worrying about the administrative overhead. In addition, funds put into this account are tax deductible.

Eileen walks us through the process we should all think through before embarking on our philanthropic journey. She encourages us to pick causes we are passionate about, that have directly impacted our lives. She also advocates picking fewer charities that you believe are doing a good job with causes you wish to support, then give heartily and support them thrive. We’ve got to think strategically about the causes we support and make our giving more meaningful by sticking with those charities for a longer term. You can also use a host of online sites to screen and vet a charity before you decide to make a donation.

Smart giving also saves taxes. For example, Americans could use Donor Advised Funds to get tax advantages by donating assets such as appreciated stocks that allow us to legally forgo capital gains taxes on stocks donated. And with technology, there are multiple online “giving” portals to make and track charitable giving online, and help carry our money further.