by Clint Travis

The CARES Act may spur questions from donors. As always, your colleagues within the Office of Gift & Estate Planning are here to help you. This is the information that we are sending to a select group of donors. The federal government has made efforts to encourage charitable giving and to protect assets for the 2020 tax year. Other changes may be on the way and we’ll keep you updated as we understand how they will impact us all. Here are a few of the changes that have come from the recent CARES Act.

Deductions for cash contributions to public charities can now qualify for up to 100% of adjusted gross income (normally limited to 60%).

For donors who choose to itemize, the increase in the adjusted gross income (AGI) threshold from 60% to 100% could make large gifts more appealing in 2020. Normally if someone donates an amount equal to their yearly income, they could deduct 60% of their income for that contribution. In 2020, this same gift creates a deduction that could “cancel out” someone’s tax bill! As in past years, unused deductions can be applied to future tax bills for up to five additional years, and those additional years will be subject to the traditional 60% AGI limitation. It would be wise to check with a CPA to see if this makes the most tax sense as spreading a gift between multiple years might still be more advantageous.

The 100% limit is reduced dollar-for-dollar by other itemized charitable deductions. This means that in 2020, a donor who deducts 30% of her AGI in long term appreciated property gifts and elects the 100% of AGI limit for qualified cash contributions will be able to also deduct up to 70% of her AGI for qualified cash gifts, a total deduction of up to 100% of AGI. Gifts to Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) or Supporting Organizations (SOs) are not eligible for this special election but a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) funded with cash would be. This could make 2020 an ideal year to set up a CGA that pays donors for life.

Required minimum distributions from individual retirement accounts are waived .

By waiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) for 2020, donors are not required to take their minimum distribution but they are still able to request qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), also known as IRA Charitable Rollovers. In a standard year, donors can direct their IRA plan administrator to make charitable contributions from their retirement account, thereby reducing their income tax and fulfilling their RMD. The tax law left the ability to make these QCDs starting at age 70 ½ even though the age for required minimum distributions has been moved to age 72. And since heirs must pay taxes when they receive money from inherited IRAs, even though there is no requirement to take money this year, it is still an excellent source of charitable giving for the philanthropically inclined. In fact, combined with the 100% deduction available in 2020, even younger donors may want to consider a large gift from an IRA or other retirement account. At age 59½, donors can withdraw from their retirement accounts without penalty. These withdrawals count as income, and that income can be offset through gifts to charity. The increased deduction of 100% could make this a one-time opportunity that makes sense for donors who would make a significant gift from an IRA or other retirement account like a 401(k) because it’s simply a cash gift as opposed to QCDs.

Tax filers who do not itemize their deductions are eligible to claim an “above the line” or “universal” charitable deduction of up to $300 this year (and possibly in future years).

In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the standard deduction significantly ($24,800 for a couple in 2020), resulting in a much smaller pool of people who now itemize their taxes. A reduction in taxable income is available in 2020 for the 90% of donors who do not itemize their deductions. It is an “above-the-line” adjustment to income that will reduce a donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI) and thereby reduce taxable income. This adjustment is available for cash gifts to public charities (like UGAF) only and is limited to $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple). It is not available for gifts to Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) or Supporting Organizations (SOs), nor for cash deductions carried forward from prior years.

Deductions for corporate giving can now qualify for up to 25% of taxable income (normally limited to 10%).

The taxable income limit that applies to cash contributions made by corporations to public charities is increased from 10% to 25% for 2020. The usual 10% limit still applies to other charitable contributions by corporations, and those contributions reduce the 25% limit dollar-for-dollar. Qualified cash contributions in excess of the 25% limit can be carried forward for up to 5 years under the usual limits.


As always, we encourage donors to reach out to their advisors, CPAs, and attorneys since each person’s situation will be different. But should a donor reach out to you, please know that the Gift and Estate Planning team are here to talk you both through options, whether that be gift types or areas of need. Feel free to contact Clint Travis, Senior Director of Gift and Estate Planning, and we’ll connect you with the right person for a particular question. Please assure your donor that there’s no cost, no obligation, and these conversations can be about all charitable interests, not just UGA.

by Melissa Lee

The Donor Experience and Legacy Giving Survey was initiated in 2019 as a seemingly unlikely collaboration across offices within Development and Alumni RelationsGift and Estate Planning suggested that UGA utilize a survey as a fundraising tactic. This is already common in the field of planned giving, but many organizations invest a significant amount of cash to hire a consultant company to implement it. Luckily for UGA, a perk of working with a large research university is the wealth of resources at our fingertips. Gift and Estate Planning didn’t have to implement it alone; they had access to human resources that other types of organizations do not! Turning to Donor Relations—a team that has become increasingly savvy with survey tools—turned out to be a match made in DAR heaven!   

The strategy of this survey involved asking current donors about their experience with the university. The targeted questions were specific to the UGA giving experience and ideally reminded donors that they are valued by our UGA family. At the close of the survey, donors were asked to choose their interest in continued giving and making planned gifts. 

The psychology behind this aligns with the assumption that people do not enjoy thinking about what happens after their death, but they do enjoy sharing their opinions. Surveys like this benefit organizations by untapping planned gift prospects and gaining a better understanding of what donors expect 

With this plan in tow, Clint Travis, Alison Godley, and Megan Powelof Gift and Estate Planning, Melissa Lee of Donor Relations and Stewardship, and LeeAnn Haskins of the Department of Psychology set forth to develop a survey that could find new fundraising leads and assess the value of our stewardship. 

As you can see from the full report below, participant identities are confidential, and the responses were recorded based on lifetime giving and giving society membership to date, age, and alumni affinity. The reports created from this data illustrate overviews of responses based on giving habits: loyal giving, leadership annual giving, and major giving. 

Donor constituencies included were FY19 Third Pillar donors, FY18-FY19 Presidents Club donors, Heritage Society donors, and all donors over 40 years old who have given $1+ in their lifetime. Constituent records have been updated based on responses, including communication preferences and contact updates. Gift and Estate Planning has added codes reflecting constituents’ individual interests in making future and planned gifts. Donor Relations and Stewardship has presented overall trends with Team Stewardship and plans to find ways to reflect specific types of answers through interactions on constituent pages.  

Thanks to a willingness to step outside of job descriptions, collaborate, and benefit from the knowledge of our incredible graduate students, this project is something DAR can be proud of!   

View the Donor Experience and Legacy Giving Survey Report 

by Melissa Lee

The field of donor relations and stewardship is relatively new. The practice has been occurring alongside fundraising in its entirety, but organizations didn’t see its success until they entered their secondor even third—round of campaignsOften, new campaigns brought new leadership. New leadership brought new fundraising philosophies, and it was difficult to link new gifts to past moments of cultivationHowever, if fundraisers did not set appropriate plans to continue relationships with annual and major donors from previous campaignsthey found themselves playing catch up when preparing to ask those same donors for increased giving the next time around. Historically, the stewardship work of note writing, one-off recognition, and event preparation was placed in the hands of assistants. These professionals were in reactive positions that responded to the immediate needs of fundraisers and administrationPublic-facing positions collected gifts, and stewardship was considered a final step. Signed by administration but accomplished by assistants, this work closed gifts while quietly setting up donors for the future.  

As we close Commit to Georgia and look to our future, reflecting on reactive decisions made in the past can give us great insight. By preparing for a growth of donors and inflation, acting on evolving trends in society and communication, and thinking about the long-term goal for our donors rather than the immediate gift athand, things can look very different when our next goal is set. Thankfully, as we begin to develop our Team Stewardship culture and consider donor relations professional path with its own expertsthat future seems much clearer.  

To continue stewarding our donors in thoughtful, sustainable ways, Donor Relations and Stewardship sees our annual matrix as a cultivation strategyOur work is more than reactive responses to gifts, fun events, and warm letters. With transparent plans for cultivation, we become accountable to ourselves, our colleagues, and our donors. By putting that plan on paper annually and following through (to the best of our ability), it becomes easier for our schools, colleges, and units to work together toward our greater goal of advancing UGA’s mission. The ability to say, with confidence, what donors can count on annually—no matter what units their gifts benefit—allows your colleagues to trust you and allows donors to trust UGA. 

Team Stewardship has been instrumental in moving the needle for stewardship at UGA, but we can do better. To make sure that our units are not under supported and that our donors can give with confidence, we encourage all units to be a part of our university-wide stewardship matrix project. By annually planning and sharing your plan with others, we can move closer to the collaborative, innovative culture that we hope for.  

If you are able, submit your annual stewardship matrix to Donor Relations and Stewardship before August 15th each year! 

Donor Relations and Stewardship Matrix 2020 

Stewardship Matrix Template 

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