A woman recently left $100,000 to her local no-kill animal shelter.
She had been a lifelong advocate of animal rights and wanted her legacy to continue after her death. Because she lived, hundreds of needy animals will live.
It is not uncommon to see a footnote on an invitation that reads, “Please, no gifts. Instead, contribute to…,” or an obituary notice that reads, “In lieu of flowers, please contribute to…”
These acts of kindness and consideration are invaluable to organizations that depend on donations for survival. It goes without saying the causes these donors support would not exist without significant funding.
I decided to make a concentrated effort to ensure my desire to help animals will prevail in my lifetime and beyond. The big question for anyone considering this is, where to start? Establish a foundation? Pick a favorite charity to endow?
Here is a list of five options for your personal charitable initiative.
1. Create Your Own Pet Foundation
Foundations are typically associated with big names like Gates, Zuckerberg or Buffett, or they are attached to huge corporations.
There is a reason for the relationship. It takes money — lots and lots of money — to set up a foundation, and more money to maintain one.
If not properly structured and managed, a foundation can easily gobble up the investment in a very short time, and intended beneficiaries may never see one service provided from the fund.
There are financial planners who specialize in establishing charitable foundations. If your dream is to create the Smith Family Lucky Pet Foundation, they can help. Be aware, planners typically advise an allocated “gift” commitment of a big-dollar number that is followed by six zeros.
Also understand that once the money is committed, there is no turning back — so be sure the decision of funding your foundation is sound before you set the checkbook in motion.
2. Establish a Donor Advised Fund
A less costly but good source for allocating charitable funding is to establish a donor advised fund. Several financial companies offer gift fund management. Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program and Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving are three such firms.
For a minimum investment of $10,000–$25,000, a donor can establish an individual charity complete with a name. The fund company takes care of the administration and management for an annual fee (up to 1%). The donor may designate what charities receive donations, as well as when and how often payments are made.
Only IRS-approved organizations are eligible, so you cannot create a “Charity to Benefit My Cat Fluffy” as a recipient. Contributions are immediately tax deductible, and others can contribute to the foundation in your honor or in memorial.
3. Set Up Your Own Animal Charity
If you still have the passion to establish your own animal charity, plus tireless energy and connections for significant contributions, you can work for your cause. Basic steps toward building your own organization include:
- Develop an organization name and a clear mission statement. Think: “Angie’s Charity to Help Abused and Neglected Animals.”
- Network. Recruit friends, relatives and other community volunteers with common goals and commitments.
- Get resources. Distribute newsletters, solicit donations, get a great public relations campaign going, and talk talk talk to everyone.
- Plan. Learn where to go for assistance — such as state, local, community, religious groups and other charities.
- Establish a clear business plan. You’ll need an organizational chart, a budget and outreach.
- Funding. Apply for grants from public sources and foundations.
- Appoint a board of directors. Drinking buddies? Not so much. Choose people who can advise and help steer your program.
- Register. Complete all state and federal forms to establish a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs can provide a wealth of information and guidelines.
4. Make a Bequeath
Another way to exercise a philanthropic mission is to make a bequeath. This method typically involves leaving property to a designated organization in a will.
In this case, you have the ability to determine how the property will be used. For example, you can leave a building to a pet shelter with the request that it be used to “house and care for lost, abandoned and neglected animals.”
Bequeaths may be made for nearly anything from cars, furniture and art collections to entire estates. You can buy land and donate it to a community for a dog park or for use in building a shelter. You can even determine the name of the park or building you donate.
Universities are often beneficiaries of bequests. The donor may deem that the gift be used to fund a scholarship for a veterinarian student, or for fellowships, building programs for teaching clinics or animal health research initiatives.
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5. Donate Directly
One of the easiest and perhaps most productive ways to make sure your gift will help the intended beneficiary is to donate directly to your favorite charity. Most organizations have the infrastructure developed, and donations may be directed to a specific service.
In the event you have an interest in a designated cause, you may sponsor a specific event with your funding.
- The Renee Harvey Pet Adoption Fair, held the first Saturday in June each year
- The Patricia Griswold Pet Library
- The Laurie Pinnell Service Dog Scholarship
Many wonderful nonprofit pet charities provide services to assist and guide donors with recommendations and “wish lists.”
There are nonprofit organizations that publish evaluations of charitable organizations including animal groups. The goal of these agencies is to monitor financial, accountability, transparency and mission objectives. Check charitynavigator.org, animalcharitiesofamerica.org and animalfunds.org for detailed information including mission statements, contact information and other resources.
The amount of any donation is up to you. The critical element is to establish your charitable wishes so they may be honored.
You may be able to fund a $10,000,000 foundation or make a $10 donation in memory of a loved one. Regardless of your contribution, be assured it is a gift that keeps giving!