You can’t take it with you. That’s why as Sam Simon, co-creator of TV's The Simpsons, faces a terminal cancer diagnosis, he reportedly is giving away his tens of millions to charity. Like Simon, many St. Louisans are planning to leave a legacy through their charitable impact long after they’re gone. But how can you ensure your name will live on through the things you really care about?
Local financial advisers say the answer lies in philanthropic planning, whether you aim to begin sharing your wealth now or after your death. St. Louis has a rich history of philanthropy, from some of the nation’s largest United Way and American Red Cross annual campaigns to generous support of education and the arts, such as the Saint Louis Zoo and Forest Park Forever, explains Maurice Quiroga, executive VP and managing director at PNC Wealth Management. And many St. Louisans are ready to continue that tradition of charitable giving. But before donating to any nonprofit, Quiroga first recommends becoming educated about the organization. Then, you can decide how much you would like to contribute, how often you will make a donation and whether you will give now or after your death. Most important, he says, donors should find ways to evaluate the impact of their gift, and ensure future generations will be carrying on their legacy of giving.
A vital component to establishing a charitable legacy is fostering a tradition of giving within your family. “It’s important for families to articulate their philanthropic goals to their children,” Quiroga notes. Whether your passion is education, the arts or animals, there are multiple ways to give back. “You can do it through outright gifts, use a trust, or name a charity a beneficiary of your will,” he says. To make a long-lasting impact, advisers say private foundations, community foundations and donor-advised funds can be vehicles to carry on your legacy.
One of those vehicles, the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation, has been helping St. Louisans make their dollars count at local nonprofits since 1915, says president and CEO Amelia Bond. Today, the foundation has 450 charitable funds that total $250 million in assets. Those funds generate more than 2,000 grants per year, gifting about $30 million to area nonprofits.
The foundation’s staff can help individuals start their own fund to benefit a chosen charity or multiple charities throughout St. Louis. “Donors can be as specific or as open as they want,” Bond notes. And if donors are interested in making their mark last, they can opt for legacy giving.
Siblings Edward and Rosemary Young did just that with a fund they created in the '90s. Every year since Edward Young’s passing in 2003, multiple community organizations, such as the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Mercantile Library, have received funds. The dollars have grown from about $400 in annual gifts per year to $30,000—and in another 10 years, that gift will double to $60,000, Bond says. "Those organizations will receive money from the Young fund forever."
When establishing a charitable foundation or donor-advised fund, David Ott, partner at Acropolis Investment Management, notes the importance of working in concert with a financial adviser, an estate planning attorney and a trust company. For charitable foundations, families typically begin with an average of a half-million dollars for setup, Quiroga says. Maintenance costs also will be required, he adds.
Beyond the personal satisfaction charitable giving can bring, local advisers also note the financial benefits. Nonprofit donations can lead to significant tax deductions, such as the case of the Walton family—the owners of Walmart—who have reportedly avoided billions in estate taxes by donating to charitable trusts, Ott says.
Charitable giving is more than just writing a check, Quiroga emphasizes. “It’s about being involved in the community and teaching kids the importance of giving back.” When it comes to a legacy in your name, gifts that enrich society will live on long after you’re gone, he continues. “Charity starts at home. Once you make sure your family is taken care of, it’s important to give back.” And there has never been a better time than now, he adds. “Give appreciative stock and income to avoid taxes and let charities receive those proceeds to begin to weave a legacy for your family, your kids and a nonprofit.”