Donor-Advised Charitable Giving Grows
Despite the economy, grants to charities through some of the largest donor-advised funds are up. At least two leading firms, Schwab Charitable and TD Ameritrade Institutional, are offering new programs for potential donors.

Schwab Charitable recently launched a microfinance loan guarantee program that allows donors to have a philanthropic impact without using assets in their Schwab Charitable Gift Accounts when those assets are down.

The funds guarantee microfinance loans to needy entrepreneurs and is being made in collaboration with Grameen Foundation, a microfinance network, and will evolve to include Developing World Markets, a lender to microfinance institutions. Additional information is available at

At the same time, TD Ameritrade Institutional is teaming up with American Endowment Foundation to enable advisors to offer clients donor-advised funds through the Affinity Services program. TD's new program will allow advisors to actively manage customized portfolios within donor-advised funds. Additional information is available at

Charitable giving through donor-advised funds is up for the third quarter of 2008 by 12% from 2007, says Schwab Charitable, which has 12,000 donors and nearly $2 billion in assets. The increase Schwab reports is based on results from Schwab Charitable, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program. 

Donor-advised funds are one of the fastest-growing charitable giving vehicles and enable continued giving during economic downturns from funds set aside earlier, which enables giving to continue when other revenue sources for charities decline.

Placemark Launches Fast-Track Solution
A new fast-track conversion solution designed for independent advisors who want to transfer accounts is being launched by Placemark Investment Inc., an independent provider of active overlay portfolio management services.

Advisor Business Conversion enables advisors to set their own custom unified managed account program integrated with any major RIA trade and custody service providers, while retaining control over the products and features used to service high-net-worth clients. Additional information is available at

Morningstar Adds ETF And Retirement Series
Morningstar Inc. is introducing Morningstar Principia Exchange-Traded Funds, a research module covering U.S. ETFs that includes portfolio holdings and analysts' commentary that allows advisors to rank ETFs based on approximately 200 fields. More information is available at

In addition, Morningstar Investment Services Inc. is launching Morningstar Managed Portfolios Retirement Income Services, which includes three actively managed portfolios aimed at investors in different stages of retirement. Additional information can be found at

Allianz Life Offers New Annuity
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America is offering a new fixed index annuity, Allianz MasterDex X Annuity, in 27 states. In addition to indexed interest crediting and tax deferrals, the Allianz MasterDex X offers a 10% premium bonus with a 10-year vesting schedule, 10% free withdrawals after the first year and a 10-year decreasing surrender charge.

It also includes an optional simple-income rider, a bonus on the simple-withdrawal value equal to 12% of the premium, credited each year that there are no withdrawals. Additional information is available at

Hepburn Introduces Children's 100 Index
Hepburn Investment Research LLC, a resource on indexes for institutional investors, is introducing the Children's 100 Indexes, an equally weighted benchmark of the top 100 publicly traded funds of companies that offer goods and services to children. The index is designed to allow fund managers to use the stocks as holdings in a child-oriented portfolio, or as a performance benchmark for investment portfolios oriented around children's themes. Additional information is available at

Hartford Improves Co-Fiduciary Program
Hartford's Fiduciary Assure service is now being offered to all new corporate and government retirement plan sponsors.  In April, Hartford added more investment options to the platform and eliminated the fee for plan sponsors. Since the changes, the percentage of plan sponsors opting for the service has risen to 80% from 5% last year.