Thursday, June 25, 2020
The Washington Post published an article on donor advised funds yesterday entitled Zombie philanthropy: The rich have stashed billions in donor-advised charities — but it’s not reaching those in need
It's honestly an interesting article though on some matters I had to scratch my head. For instance: "Known in the industry as DAFs (rhymes with calves) — and criticized by some insiders as “zombie philanthropy”.
To my experience, and I consider myself something of an insider to the industry from a regulatory and an observer point of view, I have never heard it pronounced to rhyme with calves -- calf maybe -- but not calves. Additionally, I have never heard it referred to as zombie philanthropy, and I am not sure that this is really apt.
It raises the fact that fairly large resources that they estimate at $120 billion rest within DAF solution while charities themselves are hemorrhaging money and support, resulting in some significant animosity in the charitable world.
The author a little strangely, but interestingly, discusses the thoughts of Norman Sugarman, who passed away long ago but was quite the exempt organization's attorney in his time.
"To Norman Sugarman, a former IRS attorney in Cleveland, this created both concern and opportunity. Sugarman represented community foundations fearful the new law would scare off donors.
“For him, it was important that, no questions asked, these [community foundations] were public charities,” said Lila Corwin Berman, a history professor at Temple University who has written about Sugarman’s role in the popularization of DAFs. “He believed most social problems could be better solved by charity than government, and that individuals should have more control over what their wealth could do for society.”
After successfully convincing the IRS that community foundations deserved public charity status, Sugarman also won an important concession: “philanthropic funds,” an innovative way his clients raised money, would also have all the tax benefits of giving directly to a working charity."
For the particular moment we find ourselves in with a pandemic and a worldwide economic collapse resulting from that Pandemic, I thought the concluding paragraphs were the most interesting:
"When asked about the #HalfMyDaf challenge, Fidelity Charitable President Norley said she and her colleagues had been encouraging their clients to give more since the beginning of the crisis.
“I don’t think you need to set a percentage on this. If somebody wants to donate their entire DAF, that’s great,” she said.
A reporter then presented Norley with a hypothetical: If she learned tomorrow that all of Fidelity’s fund-holders had decided to spend at least half of their DAFs this year, causing her charity’s assets to plummet from more than $21 billion to about $10 billion, would she be happy or dismayed?
“I have no comment on that,” she said."