Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I’ve read the newspaper and seen the news way too much this past week.  The words “hot mess” come to mind.  It’s depressing.  There’s just so much of the negative getting ink in the paper and filling our airwaves these days.  I had to take a time out and go see Despicable Me 2 just to get a break from reality…and several really good laughs!

Believe it or not, we actually think about the headlines we see quite a bit. Why?  Because we have the antidote here at the Community Foundation…that’s positive news.  You can’t work with extremely generous people and give grants and scholarships to awesomely deserving people without feeling good about it.  It’s simply not possible.

And each time grants and scholarships are distributed, there’s a good story.  Several students have gone to college to become the first college graduates in their families.  Once we fixed the air conditioning unit for the folks at the Senior Center…boy were they grateful for that!  We’ve bought shoes for kids and food for those in Grant County that need to visit our local food pantries.  We’ve even provided supplies for our furry friends in need.

See what I mean, there’s just one good heartfelt story after another.  But, we don’t have a bottomless pot ‘o gold…though that admittedly would be way cool.  We rely on donors to contribute donations both during their lifetimes and even after their death through their wills and estates. 

Even if you’re a Duck Dynasty kind of guy living in a Kim Kardashian world, you can still give loyally throughout your life and experience the impact of that generosity.  You could get to meet the first time college graduate or facilitate the work of a charity you’ve appreciated for years.  It’s incredibly cool to see the impact made because of the choice you made to give…no matter what the amount.

James Gandolfini
Yet you can’t underestimate giving through bequests…hopefully.  I was just reading a sad article about the shocking death of James Gandolfini.  Most of you know Gandolfini as mob boss Tony Soprano from the hit series The Sopranos.  He died from a heart attack last month at the young age of 51with $70 Million in his estate.  Yes, that was a 7 and a 0 together…70 million!  But, shockingly, approximately $30 Million of that will go to the government via the death tax.  While I’m sure the government will be happy to accept the check for $30 Million from the Gandolfini estate, it’s probably not what the actor had in mind. 

So, the question is…how can one avoid paying an outrageous death tax? Here are a few ideas:
1.      Give up to $13,000 annually to your heirs…gift tax only applies if it’s over $13,000.
2.      Pay for higher education or medical expenses for your heirs…again not-taxable.
3.      Invest in insurance…policies typically cover any estate tax so they won’t have to be paid later.  You can even name a charity as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy.
4.      Set up trust for your heirs now and bequeath the trust rather than money.
5.      Bequeath money to charity…my personal favorite.  Charitable contributions are tax-deductible expenses and can lower or even negate estate taxes.

So, definitely consult an expert and be the boss of your own estate.  It’s the only way to make sure that the people and charities you love get the bada-ching that you intend.  When it comes to the government taking up to 50% of your hard-earned money, Fuhgeddaboudit. 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oh, No She Didn't

Headline:  Research shows that 100% of the time when someone says, “Oh, no she didn’t!”, in fact, she did.  In this case, they did.  Charlotte Runzel and Jesse Chatz, were seniors at Evanston Township High School in Illinois when they came up with this unquestionably brilliant idea to raise funds for a non-profit organization, Boocoo Culturual Center and CafĂ©.
The Goal:  $1,000.  The method:  Torture.  Well, torture for most anyway.  Runzel and Chataz convinced their administrators to let them play Justin Bieber’s class song ‘Baby’ in between classes for an entire week or until $1,000 was raised.  Now if you’re not familiar with this tween icon’s hit, the 3 ½ minute song features the word ‘baby’ 54 times. 
Within three days, the school had come down with a huge case of Bieber Fever which in most circles is much worse than the swine flu.  And by Wednesday of that week they were utterly sick of hearing ‘Baby’, had collected the $1,000 needed to make the music stop, and silenced the school speakers from blaring Baby for the 21st time.
While I’ve heard that you can actually burn 150 calories per hour by banging your head against the wall, who knew you could raise money by making others do so?  Kids are ingenious!  Let’s play ‘Baby’ for three days they said; it’ll be fun they said.  Well, maybe not fun, but lucrative.  And philanthropic.
So, here we have teenagers, who never have money (trust me, I have two of them), donating what they do have for a good cause.  If only more adults were this charitably-minded. 
Flashback to last Saturday:  I got this text from my son'I made lunch. So don't bring any fancy McDonalds food home or anything.' I had to laugh that he actually thought McDonald’s was fancy.  Then I laughed even harder when he told me that he had made hot dogs.  But, he followed that up by saying that they would totally sell for $10.00 at Disney!  It’s true.  Our recent trip to Disney led us into a restaurant selling hot dogs for $10.
Something happens along the way where we actually do pay $10 for a hot dog.  Or $99.99 for the best package of fireworks that will literally go up in smoke.  We even buy $5.00 cups of coffee and easily part with a Benjamin or two at Wal-mart when we just went in for a couple of things. 
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy a cup of Gucci coffee or the occasional mani/pedi…I love both of those things.  But, I am offering up a challenge.  What do we buy (or sell) daily, weekly, annually that we could agree to match with a charitable donation?
It’s a different way to think about generosity for sure…intentionally.  And it may be key, because I don’t think adults are any less generous than kids.  I just think we get busy and forget to be generous.  Uberfacts tells me that “Busy Life Syndrome” is a real disorder causing forgetfulness.  And, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty darn busy. 
So, let me give you an example of how this intentionality thing works.  Local pint-sized Philanthropist Emma Toevs sells hair clips and other merchandise at her business Ladybow’s Boutique at the Open Air Market on Saturdays in Downtown Marion.  She commits half of her profits to charity…the CSA Shey Harris Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation to be specific. This past Sunday she gave us her first month’s donation of $138.00!  Folks, Emma is only 12 years old and she just donated $138 of her hard-earned money to a fund at the Community Foundation.  Get the gist?  She’s intentional…and generous.
How could you donate to one of the 300 funds we hold at the Foundation monthly?   You could be a Meijer Matcher, a Coffee Competitor, or a Fast Food philanthropist.   You could donate for every pound you gain or lose,  or $5.00 for each time you put on your running shoes.  How about a $1 for every pop you’ve drank, or for each gallon you put in your tank.
It’s easy to be generous when you’re intentional.  Just ask Emma.  And, if you can’t think of a great idea, you could always just match what Emma gives us each month.  Pick a fund, any fund.  

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