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I love getting to collaborate with wonderful professional advisors (like financial advisors and insurance agents, among many others) to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa. Together we get to help their clients best incorporate strategic charitable giving in to their financial and estate planning goals and plans.

People come to philanthropy from many different places and for many different reasons. Beyond the obvious tax benefits of donating to a charitable organization, there’s always that admirable intention of wanting to make a difference, of aspiring to help the organizations and causes they care about progress.

As a starting point for discussing smart charitable giving solutions, I’ve created this handy one-pager. It gives an overview of strategies like the popular donor advised fund and different types of charitable trusts, and reminds of other options like an IRA charitable rollover and retained life estate. The pdf also hits on aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that prospective donors and professional advisors should be aware of.

Smart charitable giving guide

Click here to view the free guide to smart charitable giving solutions and then let’s continue the conversation. Additionally, you can learn more about how Gordon Fischer Law Firm works with the professional advisors here. Together I’m certain we can craft the best, legal giving solutions that align with your clients’ giving goals.

woman reading on phone with red nails

The July edition of GoFisch is live! This month’s edition features:

Spotify playlist cover art

 

  • A rundown on the website’s new features and fresh look
  • A curated Spotify playlist for when you’re working hard, but want to feel like you’re on summer vacation
  • Iowa-based nonprofit & philanthropy news
  • Must-read blog post highlights
  • Facebook Live video featuring me and the subject of estate planning

Like what you read? Don’t forget to subscribe to GoFisch and tell your friends. Here at GFLF we like to think of it as the least boring law firm newsletter you could hope to read.

What do you think of when you think of July? I think about family picnics, vacations, fireworks, the MLB All Star Game, the beach, hometown festivals, and a cold bottle of beer on a hot day.

But mostly I think of Independence Day!

The Fourth of July means a great deal to me as the son of immigrants, with both a mother and father who risked all by leaving home forever, crossing an ocean, and coming to a country they didn’t even begin to yet know.

My parents were from in East Germany. Neither knew English. Neither had been outside of Germany. Indeed, neither had travelled at all very far from their homes—my dad’s small farming town and my mom’s city life in nearby Dresden.

In 1960, the wall divided East and West Germany, but was still just a bit porous. It wasn’t yet the Iron Curtain of the forthcoming years, where leaving was all but impossible.

My parents saw what was coming, or sensed it at least, and decided escaping was worth the enormous gamble. The dream was to make it to America, and become Americans.

With a day-long work visa, my dad went to West Germany. From there, you could pretty much do what you want – West Germany was a democracy with complete freedom of travel.

A Cabinet Maker’s Journey

My dad had the following possessions for a trip halfway around the world: a small suitcase of clothes and personal items; a rolled-up master’s degree in cabinet making; and $500 (in the form of five $100-dollar bills) squirreled away. That was all.

My dad arrived at Ellis Island with the good word from family acquaintances (from Czechoslovakia), who had emigrated to Chicago, that there was plenty of available work in the Windy City.

So, he took a Greyhound Bus from New York to Chicago. When he arrived at Chicago, no doubt feeling somewhat disoriented and overwhelmed, he almost had his suitcase (his one possession!) stolen by the bus driver.

(The bus driver had given him a claim check ticket, but now claimed the claim check ticket didn’t match, and that my dad couldn’t have his suitcase until this could all be figured out by the home office. My dad didn’t know about any home office, but he did know he couldn’t possibly even let the suitcase out his sight. The driver tried some more flim flam…my dad insisted on his suitcase…there was a standoff, and eventually the driver realized he’s needed to find a more gullible tourist, and relented.)

He lived in downtown Chicago with his family friends, worked two jobs, and wrote my mom often. It was understood by all that the mail was being opened and read, both by the East Germans and the Americans.

Eventually, my dad decided he was settled enough to have my mom come over. My mom followed the same path—day-long work pass to West Germany, boat trip to New York, bus to Chicago.

American Dream

american flag and hat

They worked four jobs between them, trying to save money. The dream, of course, was to save enough money to live in their very own apartment, buy a house, and ultimately raise a family.

They learned English by watching TV and trying to read the newspaper during the small windows of time when they weren’t working. But the folks they were in daily contact with, both at work and at home, were Czech.

Consequently, they ended up learning some pretty good Czech first! When they realized Czech as a second language was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as learning English was, they began speaking only in English. They would force themselves in all social situations to use English. They even opted for more TV, and forced themselves to go out into the city, to put themselves in situations where they would have to use English.

Of course, with this background, July 4th always held special meaning for my family. It was a holiday we always celebrated with a huge picnic, along with my parent’s other immigrant friends. And eventually the talk always circled back to giving thanks for being American, living in America, breathing free air. Every Independence Day I give a silent thanks to my parents for giving me the chance to be where I am today. All the work I do, to maximize charitable giving in Iowa, is a celebration of the opportunities we have to make our own lives and the lives of others better.

pie with sparklers

So, this Fourth of July take a moment to think about what being an American means to you. How does philanthropy and giving charitably fit into your vision for a better-together nation? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as your family’s immigration story. Share in the comments below or reach out to me at any time!

Did you miss the most recent edition of my monthly newsletter, GoFisch? It “swam” (punny, get it?) into inboxes on Valentine’s Day and fittingly featured how estate planning is a way of saying “I love you.” While Valentine’s Day has come and gone, every day is a great day to show your friends and family you care, so give the highlighted posts about different aspects of estate planning (like final disposition of remains and testamentary trusts) a read.

This GoFisch edition also included:

  • An exciting policy special for nonprofit organizations running through March 15. Read more about the 10 For 990 deal here.
  • A love-inspired curated Spotify playlist to play while you work through your estate plan.
  • Iowa-based nonprofit & philanthropy news.
  • Must-read GoFisch blog post highlights.

Like what you read? Don’t forget to subscribe to GoFisch and tell your friends! You can also scan through previous editions of the newsletter here.

GoFisch January Newsletter

The January edition of GoFisch is live! This month’s edition features:

Estate Planning Spotify GoFisch

  • A curated Spotify playlist to get you inspired to finally fill out my estate plan questionnaire.
  • The rundown on resolutions you can (and will) actually keep this year!
  • Nonprofit & philanthropy news.
  • Must-read blog post highlights.
  • A short video explaining how helping causes and organizations important to you can also help with your tax bill.

Like what you read? Don’t forget to subscribe to GoFisch and tell your friends!

red ornaments Endow Iowa Tax Credit

Merry Christmas Eve and thank you for reading the 25 Days of Giving series! In the spirit of the holiday season I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving…perfect to get you thinking about your end-of-year giving.

There are many, many reasons Iowa is great place to live and work. One reason is the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program—a smart way to stretch your charitable dollars. Iowa community foundations provide exclusive access to the Endow Iowa Tax Credit program. Giving through the Endow Iowa program allows Iowa taxpayers to receive a 25% Iowa tax credit, in addition to the federal charitable income tax deduction, for qualifying charitable gifts.

gift with glitter ribbon

The Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program provides unique opportunities to meet philanthropic goals while receiving maximum tax benefits. Highlights of this program include:

  • A variety of gifts qualify for Endow Iowa Tax Credits including cash, real estate, grain, appreciated securities, and outright gifts of retirement assets. In fact, appreciated assets, like stocks or real estate, can provide even better value because the donor may avoid capital gains taxes.
  • To be eligible, gifts must benefit an Iowa charity.
  • Tax credits of 25% of the gifted amount are limited to $300,000 in tax credits per individual for a gift of $1.2 million, or $600,000 in tax credits per couple for a gift of $2.4 million, assuming both are Iowa taxpayers.
  • Eligible gifts will qualify for credits on a first-come/first-serve basis until the yearly appropriated limit is reached. If the current available Endow Iowa Tax Credits have been awarded, qualified donors will be eligible for the next year’s Endow Iowa Tax Credits. Donors should be encouraged to to act as early in the year as possible to ensure receipt of credits as soon as possible.
  • All qualified donors can carry forward the tax credit for up to five years after the year the donation was made.

There is one “catch.” Funds can only be granted at a spend rate of 5% per year. It should also be noted that the Endow Iowa Tax Credits are capped. The Iowa Legislature sets aside a pool of money for Endow Iowa, and it’s available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Submitting an application at the beginning of the tax year is advised, as tax credits often run out toward year’s end. In fact, this year approximately $6 million in tax credits were awarded and there are no more available credits to be granted. However, you can submit your application to be placed on the wait list for 2018 tax credits.

In exchange for 25% Iowa tax credit and the opportunity to have an even greater impact on their philanthropic interests in the state of Iowa, now and into the future, the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program should be seriously considered by all. Any questions or thoughts on how the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program could mean big benefits for your finances and your state? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

November philanthropy

With its feast of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving is the obvious holiday to look forward to in November. But, the overall focus of Thanksgiving—the concepts of giving, sharing, practicing gratitude—is something you can cultivate for the entire month of November, especially on the lesser known “holidays” of National Philanthropy Day and Giving Tuesday.

National Philanthropy Day

National Philanthropy Day

On November 15 plan to celebrate National Philanthropy Day (NPD) with a donation of time or funding to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart. No matter how much you’re able to give, the point of this day to recognize that charitable donors and volunteers make a significant difference and impact. As the Association of Fundraising Professionals puts it:

“NPD is a celebration of philanthropy—giving, volunteering and charitable engagement—that highlights the accomplishments, large and small, that philanthropy—and all those involved in the philanthropic process—makes to our society and our world.”

A man by the name of Douglas Freeman conceptualized and organized the initial (unofficial) National Philanthropy Day in the early 1980s. Then in 1986 President Ronald Reagan designated NPD as an official day. Yet, NPD is also a key event a part of a grassroots movement that intends to raise awareness and interest for the importance of effective philanthropy.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

Popular on and spurred forward through social media, Giving Tuesday is often found with a accompanying hashtag (#GivingTuesday). Billed as a “global giving movement” Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and after the shopping sprees of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Held on November 28 this year, it’s seen as the sort of kickoff to end-of-year giving and it’s encouraged you donate your time, monetary donation, or even just your voice and ideas to a charity/cause that you care for.


With giving top of mind in November, maybe you have an idea for how you would like to support the important charities you care about, but are unsure of how to go about making certain donations. For instance, did you know you can give to charity through your estate plan? How about the immense benefits of the retained life estate? How does giving fit in with your retirement benefit plan? I’m happy to help. Email me at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or drop me a line at 515-371-6077.

Headphones

Podcasts undoubtedly are a component of the upper echelons of the Interwebs—one of the aspects of digital content that actually help us be more knowledgeable, interesting people. Unlike cute animal videos on Reddit, the time suck that is Twitter scrolling, or the easily enabled spending sprees on Amazon Prime, podcasts open our eyes to stories that capture our minds. They give us tidbits to discuss with our dinner companions, can help us forget we’re cleaning the house, and make driving through the long swaths of nothing-but-cornfields in the Midwest that much more manageable. Podcasts give us a chance to enrich and enhance our personal and professional lives in an accessible way.

A major sector of my practice is dedicated to working with nonprofits and the donors who support them. Be it writing and filing organizing documents, offering valuable training for nonprofit boards and staff members, handling compliance issues, or coordinating complex charitable gifts, I love working with Iowa nonprofits. In order to do my best work in the intersection between nonprofit operations and law, I try to stay on top of news and best practices in the industry. One way to do that? Podcasts—they’re like free professional development. If you work for a nonprofit, serve on a board, or are simply an interested donor, here are four top-notch podcasts related to nonprofits.

Business of Giving

Business of Giving

Hosted by Denver Frederick, who can boast 40 years of valuable experience “in the world of philanthropy and social good,” the Business of Giving explores topics and solutions to complicated social issues. In the past, the program has explored topics such as affordable housing, education, access to clean water, and global poverty. Based out of New York City, a new episode is released on Sundays, 6-7 p.m. The best place to listen is on Soundcloud. Recent episodes of the show (of the over 300 tracks available to listen to) include interviews with Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of The Independent Sector, Megan O’Neil, Staff Writer for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Adarsh Alphons, Founder and Executive Director of ProjectArt.

Nonprofit Leadership Podcast: Making Your World Better

Nonprofit Leadership Podcast

This is a great listen for nonprofit leaders (like the name of the show says) as each episode covers opportunities, trends, and problems applicable to leadership in the sector. First hand advice from other leaders can be invaluable in helping others apply the same practices in their own respective organizations. Dr. Rob Harter hosts the show and brings with him more than two decades of work in “leading and building non-profit organizations, leveraging resources, communication and personal development.” The episodes (available in iTunes) give advice and tell stories to help you ultimately be more efficient and effective in your leadership. I liked one of the recent episodes from June that featured the “Fundraising Coach,” AKA Marc A. Pitman, on how to lead with less stress.

Tiny Spark

Tiny Spark Podcast

Not only does Tiny Spark have a cool owl logo, it also has pretty fantastic episodes that dig in deep on “philanthropy, nonprofits and international aid.” Founder and managing editor, Amy Costello, is a rock star reporter who has an impressive reporting resume including PBS, BBC, and NPR; she was nominated for an Emmy Award on her reporting on Dafur, Sudan. Subscribe on iTunes for episodes such as the recent ones on “The Rise of Philanthropy’s ‘Shadow Giving System’,” and “Why Big Philanthropy Needs Scrutiny Not Gratitude.”

Nonprofit Ally

NonProfit Ally

The Nonprofit Ally podcast wraps essential topics like “social media strategies, capacity building, board of director development, fundraising and budgeting,” into conversations with nonprofit leaders. Episodes are under an hour and after tangible advice you can with you into your nonprofit role, such as how to have better board meetings with Roberts Rules, how to fundraise over email, and tips of the trade from a professional grant writer. The podcast is hosted by Steve Vick of the podcast’s associated website, nonprofitally.com. You can listen on the website or subscribe on Android and Apple platforms.


What nonprofit-related podcasts would you add to my listening library? Share below in the comments. (On a related note, I also wrote about how the podcast S-Town made a strong case for the need and power of estate planning.)

If you want to discuss the issues your nonprofit is facing, don’t hesitate to reach out via email or phone, at 515-371-6077. I’m more than happy to offer a free consultation.

Quid pro quo featured

You’ve probably heard it before on your favorite law show or movie court case, but do you know what “quid pro quo” actually means?

Quid pro quo (“something for something” in Latin) means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other.

Quid pro quo can have different meanings in different areas of the law.

For example, the term has a very particular meaning in employment law where “Quid pro quo” is a type or kind of sexual harassment. “Quid pro quo” harassment occurs in the workplace when a manager or other authority figure offers that he or she will give the employee something (a raise or a promotion) in return for that employee’s satisfaction of a sexual demand. Obviously quid pro quo in this context creates a big illegal.

The singular mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm, P.C. is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa. So, in the arena of philanthropy and nonprofits, what does quid pro quo mean?

A charitable donation is deductible—to the extent the donation exceeds the value of any goods or services received in exchange. So what happens when you donate to your favorite charity and receive something tangible in return? This is the issue of “quid pro quo” in charitable gift law.

Quid Pro Quo Example

quid-pro-quo-meme

If a donor gives a charity $100 and receives an opera ticket valued at $40, the donor has made a quid pro quo contribution. In this example, the charitable contribution part of the payment is $60. The donor is entitled to a charitable deduction for $60, but not the entire $100.

Both the donor and donee have a responsibility here. The donor, of course, can only deduct the cost of the donation less the value of the goods/services received. The charity must provide their donors clear, written documentation of the value of donations.

In fact, in these quid pro quo situations, under IRS rules, the nonprofit must provide a written disclosure statement. This required written disclosure statement must both:

• Inform the donor that the amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of any money (and the value of any property other than money) contributed by the donor over the value of goods or services provided by the charity.

• Provide the donor with a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services that the donor received.

Free Consultation

If your favorite charity wants to talk with me, no quid pro quo is required! I offer a free one-hour consultation, with absolutely no obligation. I can always be reached by email at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, and by phone at 515-371-6077.