Charitable giving continues to climb this year, even if you don’t count the $2.1 billion gift Warren Buffett threw in the pot in July.

Donors and charities are feeling more confident as the economy and markets improve, according to those who track charitable giving, and the trend is expected to continue.

Financial advisors, who say there are a number of different tools to use for all levels of philanthropy, stress that an individual or family does not have to be a Buffett or a Rockefeller to have an impact.

The Omaha, Neb.-based billionaire Buffett made his biggest contribution yet, $2.1 billion, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in July. That topped his $2 billion donation to the foundation last year.

Others increased their giving, too. Last year, Americans gave $335.17 billion, a 4.4% increase over 2011. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth, according to the Giving USA 2014 report by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Adjusted for inflation, the amount almost reaches the peak seen before the Great Recession.

Individuals made up the bulk (72%) of the giving, accounting for $241.32 billion, according to the report, followed by foundations at $50.28 billion, bequests at $26.81 billion and corporations at $16.76 billion. The largest share (31%) of that money goes to religion, but education has seen the biggest increase, with an 8.9% jump over 2012, the report says.

Financial advisors feel they play a crucial role in this picture of growing philanthropy.

Tax laws are continually changing, giving rise to confusion among those who want to donate but also want to take advantage of any credits or deductions they can receive. For instance, a bill in Congress would allow taxpayers who are at least 70.5 years of age to donate up to $100,000 from their IRAs without having to treat the money as taxable income. But the bill, which has passed by an overwhelming margin in the House of Representatives, is still waiting for approval in the Senate, which is not expected to act until after the November elections. That leaves potential donors not knowing until the end of the year whether they will have to pay income tax on these donations.

“That expertise is what the financial advisor can bring to the table,” says Rob Blume, managing director of Washington Trust’s Wealth Management and Advisory Service, based in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. “An advisor can simply and fully explain to the client the implications as taxes become more complex. Usually there is not a lot of advantage to waiting until later in the year to make a donation because you do not know if the market will decline. This year, if you give early and then Congress acts, you get the income tax reduction; if they do not, you still get the deduction for making a charitable contribution.”

Blume notes that both givers and receivers are feeling more comfortable now. “We are seeing more interest in planned giving for the future, rather than one-time cash donations, because people are feeling more secure,” he says. “Charities are breathing a sigh of relief also. Many started capital campaigns in 2006 but then pulled back when the recession hit. Now they are renewing those campaigns.”

First « 1 2 » Next