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Pandemic presents a heightened need for philanthropic support

Philanthropy plays a major role in helping a community recover and thrive in the wake of a crisis. For donors, however, it can sometimes seem daunting to find an opportunity to help in uncertain times when the need is profound and seemingly everywhere.

Whether your philanthropic journey is just beginning or at a crossroads, deciding how and where to give is very much a process of reflection and self-discovery. Novant Health Foundation is here to help.

We recently hosted a panel discussion on the subject of charitable giving in times of change as a part of our webinar series, “Connecting with Remarkable Care.” In this program, we highlighted many of the personal, financial and community aspects accompanying philanthropy in difficult times.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has had substantial economic impact on the Carolinas. With unemployment rates approaching double-digits, many individuals face tremendous housing uncertainty and a lack of health insurance as COBRA and marketplace options prove too expensive. Schools have struggled to adapt to virtual instruction, and many organizations have worked to provide food and shelter to students and other individuals in need.

Evan Anderson

The staggering repercussions have filtered into the nonprofit space, as well. Evan Anderson, regional wealth planning manager at Wells Fargo Private Bank, assists entrepreneurs and families with tax and estate planning. He said about half of all charities have reported fundraising declines in 2020. Specifically, organizations that receive the bulk of their fundraising through events such as galas and 5K runs have experienced a sharp downtrend.  

“It’s almost the perfect storm in the charitable landscape,” Anderson said. “Not only is there increased demand on services, but there’s diminished financial resources.”

Tax incentives are also an essential component. Jessica Hardin, an attorney at Robinson Bradshaw, emphasized the importance of consulting with a tax planner or financial adviser before making substantial donations.

“Donors want to make sure, when they are making charitable gifts that further so many personal and societal goals, they are doing it in a tax-efficient way and making the most of the tax incentives available to us,” Hardin said.

Jessica Mering Hardin

2020 legislation has presented new opportunities for charitable tax deduction. Hardin mentioned the CARES Act, which has enabled filers who claim a standard deduction on their federal income tax returns to also claim a $300 above-the-line charitable deduction for cash contributions to public charities, subject to regulations. She cited Novant Health Foundation as a qualified charity for this type of contribution.

“The CARES Act deduction is a great benefit for individuals who may not otherwise itemize,” Hardin said.

Hardin said 2020 changes have also provided tax benefits for donors that intend to itemize. Previously, donors could deduct cash gifts to public charities up to 60% of adjusted gross income, subject to qualification. In 2020, this limitation has been eliminated.

“Now, were a donor so inclined, she could give 100 percent of her taxable income to a public charity that is not a supporting organization or a donor-advised fund and deduct the entire contribution,” Hardin said. “This provides a lot of flexibility to those who want to give and is a significant tax benefit in 2020.”

Hardin said there has been a growing trend of community-based fundraising in which gifts are more aggregated and less restricted. While donors love the specificity and shared experience that come with restricted gifts, Hardin said unrestricted gifts merit consideration in times of crisis. In many cases, donors can contact charities and opt to release restricted gifts for unrestricted use.

“When something like COVID-19 comes up and organizations are asked to pivot, gifts that are too restricted just can’t be deployed in the pivot,” Hardin said. “For that reason, we’re encouraging people to think really hard, particularly right now, about whether their current gifts are going to a place that the charity can use them best.”

Anderson pointed out that, when engaging in philanthropy, it’s important to find our passion and build from there. He recalled his nephew James as an example. Recently, James read about homelessness in the Charlotte area. Moved by what he learned, James told his parents he wanted to donate his birthday money to make an impact on homelessness. His family visited a homeless camp and spoke with area charities to learn about the latest needs.

“James went and bought a tent and donated it to the Urban Ministry Center,” Anderson said. “While that helps in the short term, they made a connection to hear in the long term how the community will respond and how they can be impactful.”

Anderson encouraged donors to spend some time and reflect on what their passion could be and research charities aligned with those passions.

For many people, healthcare is a natural field where gifts can fulfill a higher purpose. Alex Funderburg, chair of the board for Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation, discussed how a family illness opened his eyes to the value of philanthropy in healthcare.

“I didn’t choose to invest in healthcare; it chose me,” Funderburg said. “The more I got involved, the more I realized how health events affect all of us and how they can devastate a family. They can drive joblessness, homelessness, food insecurity. I’ve seen many families be derailed by a traumatic health event. This was an opportunity for us to make a real difference.”

You have the opportunity to make an impact in healthcare for your community.

With a donation to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund), you can provide team members with the resources they need to further the mission of remarkable care. Give today.

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If you would like to learn more about strategic philanthropy and planned giving at Novant Health Foundation, please contact Sharon Harrington at [email protected] or 704-618-4398.