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The ABCs Of Donor-Advised Funds

The ABCs Of Donor-Advised Funds

An interview with FJC’s CEO Leonard Glickman.

Leonard Glickman is the chief executive officer of FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, which manages more than $255 million in assets. It administers more than 1,000 donor-advised funds and has distributed more than $370 million to charities in 25 countries.

Glickman previously had 20 years experience working on Capitol Hill, serving as the top career official at the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and as president and CEO of HIAS, an international immigrant and refugee agency. He spoke to The Jewish Week recently about the ins and outs of donor-advised funds. This is an edited transcript.

Q: What is the difference between your donor-advised fund and a family foundation?

A.: There are several significant differences. First and foremost, when you look at a donor-advised fund that is contained within a public charity, donors receive advisory privileges with respect to the distribution of and investments for the fund. A private foundation comes with a lot of administrative headaches of administering the private foundation.

Another difference is in the way the tax code treats them. In general, donor-advised funds provide the donor better tax advantages and it is a much better vehicle for giving under many circumstances. … In a statutory manner of speaking, our fund is the same as the charitable funds set up by brokerage firms or local community-based NGOs.

For whom is your fund geared?

It is good for just about any individual or family that is philanthropically oriented. There is a small minimum to open an account, $5,000. When you add up synagogue dues and the money you give to other charities, it is easy to hit $5,000. The fund works for them, as well as for those who open an account with $1 million. The advantages remain the same — we handle the administrative and bookkeeping and you invest and watch the money grow for future giving.

Are you able to steer your donations to one particular category, such as those that support the Jewish community?

Yes. At FJC in particular we will accept donors’ preferences and we will respect a donor’s legacy statement in terms of his or her preferences of charities. A donor could also leave successors on the account so that the fund passes to other generations. Those who have no successors may name a charity for the final distribution of funds.

What is the advantage of opening an account with FJC as opposed to the Jewish Communal Fund?

It is really a personal preference. We are both 501(c)(3)s. FJC has deep roots in the Jewish community. We describe ourselves as a national organization that has no specific ties — and I would add more flexibility, creativity and innovation.

Your fund provides help to clients wishing to make contributions to organizations. What kind of guidance do you offer?

Anything the donor requests. We try not to get too specific with donors, but if they call us and ask for suggestions about making a contribution in a specific area, we would help. So whether it is the current refugee crisis or the research and development on aging and other medical advances, we would help guide the donor on where to find the information that is important to them.

FJC offers two unique features. The first allows clients to make donations to organizations that do not yet have tax-exempt status. How is that possible?

People are coming up with new charitable ideas all the time but often have no experience in running a charity. They have the ability to raise money, so we offer fiscal sponsorship. People who apply to us describe their project, their mission and budget and we evaluate their mission and capacity to achieve their goals. We often research and in many cases do a background check on them. If we agree that this is a charitable project consistent with our mission, they will come under our umbrella and try to make their concept a reality.

The other unique feature is an investment option called the FJC Agency Loan Fund. What is it?

Part of FJC’s assets goes to loans to nonprofits. They have to go through a vigorous vetting process to receive the loan for things like a capital project or a bridging loan. And they now pay prime plus 3 percent in interest. The loan is completely managed by us and we have a foundation that has hypothecated millions of dollars in bonds that will back the loan if there are problems paying it back. But we have never had a need for that. FJC’s donor-advised funds may invest in it, and it is considered a fairly safe investment.

FJC offers another feature many other community foundations or donor advised funds don’t — the ability to make donations to pre-approved overseas charities.

We do make them to approved charities oversees — and it helps if the government the charity is operating in has a nonprofit division like Israel does. We have a reporting system where we can monitor and audit and ensure that the funds are used in the manner in which they were promised.