Accelerate Your Giving
August 28, 2023 |Scott Kubie
William Simon led an interesting life. He made a significant fortune in financial services. President Nixon tapped him to serve simultaneously as Deputy Treasury Secretary and the “Energy Czar” during an oil embargo in the early 1970s. He was promoted to Secretary of the Treasury and served until the end of the Ford administration. He returned to financial services after his government service and added to his fortune by leading leveraged buyouts of companies. He even attempted to buy the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1967, Simon and his wife Carol established a foundation that recently made news by sunsetting, meaning it gave away all its assets and terminated. The common practice is giving at a rate so the foundation can sustain itself forever. Dr. Russell James notes that the idea of permanence is attractive when working on an estate plan that forces people to contemplate their mortality.
Below are some reasons Christian donors should evaluate when deciding whether they are being called to accelerate estate gifts or to distribute them as a perpetual foundation or endowment.
1. Accelerated giving provides more assets to the people you trust. In a Wall Street Journal Article, Simon’s son recalled: “Dad trusted his own seven children to know where he would have put his money…But as much as he loved his grandchildren, he did not know them.” The same article chronicles how Henry Ford II resigned from the Ford Foundation in the mid-1970s because the foundation was established by his father and veered from his father’s values.
2. Accelerated giving allows for gifts to be more specific. Things change, and targeted grants may not match with a new world. An endowed gift to provide gas cards to benevolence recipients makes sense now. There may come a day when very few people drive gasoline-powered vehicles. There are likely more than a few churches with endowments to support the choir, and they haven’t had a choir in ten years. The more targeted the need you feel called to help, the more accelerating the gift makes sense.
A perpetual endowment to support international workers sharing the gospel to the hardest-to-reach places is a noble mission. The endowment could sustain 50% more people in the field if the giving were accelerated.
3. Accelerated giving can generate a more significant benefit sooner. A perpetual endowment to support international workers sharing the gospel to the hardest-to-reach places is a noble mission. The endowment could sustain 50% more people in the field if the giving were accelerated. Their investment creates a kingdom return, and more people are reached sooner. Those reached are more likely to plant churches, and a powerful witness for Christ comes sooner than it would have. Looking at it from the other side, former executive pastor Jim Ratte wryly noted, “There will still be a pile of money in these endowments when Jesus returns, and he isn’t likely to need it.”
4. Accelerated giving lessens the risk of organizations getting comfortable. Imagine a church where a few families gather each Sunday to praise God, read from their King James Bible, and sing hymns of the faith like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (perhaps in the original German). Some of you may be saying I’d love to attend. But their attendance isn’t strong. They have no youth program. They aren’t reaching out to neighbors, and the visitors don’t stay. How do they survive? Because past givers paid off the mortgage and left the church with an endowment that pays the pastor. Being financially set can allow an organization to delay asking challenging questions when engaging with donors to survive.
There are some compelling reasons to consider accelerating your giving. Sometimes, the opposite will be true. The impactful thing donors can do is to ask the question and see where the Spirit leads.
Scott Kubie, CFA