Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Giving To Charities Anonymously

Unknown92 U.S. billionaires have pledged to give away at least half of their fortunes during life or at death.  While these billionaires have publicly pledged this, many wealthy people may prefer to keep their gift giving secret.  

In 1991, one of the few surveys conducted on anonymous giving revealed that the number one reason donors want to keep their identities secret is to avoid being badgered by fundraising requests.  Religious conviction was the second reason cited for keeping donations secret.  There are a couple of ways to make donations, and Forbes addresses the pros and cons of several of those methods. 

Setting up a private foundation: This option gives an individual control over investments and grants, but makes it hard to remain anonymous because private foundations have to report the names of their significant contributors on a Form 990.  Those names remain a matter of public record. 

Making direct gifts to public charities: This option offers more potential to remain anonymous, but isn't completely secure. Charities have to report the names of significant contributors on a Form 990, but for charities, the IRS is supposed to obscure the names listed on the significant contributors form before the public can access it.  However, foul-ups are possible in this obscuring process and you can't control talk within the organization you donated to. 

Using an advisor as an intermediary: Again, advisors cannot guarantee anonymity, they can protect an individual's identity to some extent.  

See Deborah L. Jacobs, How To Stay Anonymous When You Give To Charity, Forbes, Sept. 19, 2012. 


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