Giving Pledge – How 40 Billionaires Are Giving Back

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have long been household names. While most are familiar with them due to their enormous fortunes – fortunes they built themselves through years of hard work – they are also well known for their charity and humanitarian projects, which is why their latest endeavor should come as no surprise. To put it simply, they have, according to Reuters, pledged to donate fully half or more of their fortunes to charity, and have convinced at least 38 other billionaires to do the same, including George Lucas and Michael Bloomberg. This should come as no surprise but, in an age of materialism, where the race to have more of everything consumes almost everyone, this generosity is more shocking than the countless stories peppering the news of shootings and corruption.
While plenty of middle- and lower-class citizens struggle to give something back to their communities, often it seems that, to the wealthy, charity is something to be used for good PR and tax deductions. This is backed up by an article in McClatchy, where they cite research by the U.S. Beareau of Labor Statistics stating that the poorest Americans give twice as much of their income to charity as the wealthiest. The amounts the richest Americans donate, while far more than what the average person could afford, seem small when the size of their fortunes are taken into account. This often unfair characterization has become so predominant that it has leaked into popular culture in characters such as Scrooge.

Unfortunately there are plenty of men and women whose actions feed into the perception of rampant entitlement among the rich. Bernie Madoff, a prime example whose crimes are detailed on his Wikipedia page, is still making news from jail. He is, according to New York Magazine, far from remorseful about the thousands of people he defrauded and is supposedly enjoying the admiration of other inmates due to his wealth and success in scamming the multitudes. Before being jailed, he worked on the boards of multiple charities and non-profits and was even trusted to handle their money. Many of those non-profits had no choice but to close their doors after his arrest froze their assets and ultimately sank them. The Madoff family donated millions of dollars throughout their lives but what they gave is dwarfed by the amount he stole, and any good he may have done is overshadowed by the lives that were ruined with his greed.

Another example of a less-than-impressive millionaire is Tony Hayward, formerly the CEO of BP. BP unleashed what was called by Carol Browner during Good Morning America the worst oil spill in U.S. history upon the United States while under his leadership. The Huffington Post has an article listing all his worst missteps. He initially downplayed the severity of the spill and, in a widely quoted news clip, he famously stated, while in the midst of trying to contain the damage, that he wanted his “life back.” Understandably, the people living along the Gulf Coast whose jobs and homes were and are still being threatened by the spill did not appreciate the statement. Hayward also found time during the crisis to attend a yacht race. In the meantime, volunteers were scrambling to rescue injured sea animals and stem the flow of oil.

Both of these stories made more of a splash in the media than the pledge made recently by a few dozen billionaires. As they gain momentum and recruit others to their cause, that may still change. Their quiet example could hopefully begin to stem the tide of narcissism that is threatening to sweep over our culture. Too many wealthy businessmen believe that success is measured only in dollar signs, and that they are failing their families, their companies and themselves if they don’t squeeze every penny possible from any given business. Buffett, Gates, and the other selfless donors are leading by example, and hoping more will follow their path.

Tips for Leveraging Your Charitable Returns

The pitchmen for all those charities must drink a lot of coffee: everything they ask for is expressed in terms of cups of the cherished brew: “the price of a cup of coffee a day.” “Just a cup a day for a month.” “Give up the latte for a few months and you can change this child’s life.” It’s doubtful that most of their revenue is displaced from Starbuck’s coffers, however: people donate dollars that would have gone to pay off debt, or into investments, or towards college or a new car. It’s natural, and rational, to expect your money to work for you, either by producing a capital appreciation, or by eliminating your current debt, or by purchasing a tangible asset like a shirt or a television or a cup of coffee.

It is an admirable and virtuous thing to want to give a portion of your income to charitable (that is, non-selfish) causes. You may have a religious or spiritual mandate to do so, or you may just do it because it feels good. Regardless, all charities are not created equal. Realize that it is very possible and perhaps fairly common for a donated dollar to do more harm than good. Consider the proverbial gift of a fish to a man: what if the gift prevents the man from catching his own fish? There are many who protect the practice of making high-interest loans to developing countries, dictating what the loans be spent for, collecting payments until the inevitable default, and then leaving the country with infrastructure it can’t support, a depleted economy, and a dinged-up credit score. Likewise, an often small percentage of your dollar reaches it’s intended recipient after the various overhead expenses — corporate salaries, advertising expenses, and even graft and corruption — are taken into account. An investment-worthy mutual fun might absorb a half-percent or so of your input; some of the more popular charities can take up to 85%!

So how do you research a potential avenue for charitable giving? The first step is to se whether your charity has 501(C)(3) status with the IRS. This is actually a fairly low bar, but a hurdle that you probably want to clear. (Not always, though: you may find that the best investment of your time and money is mentoring and/or sponsoring a young person getting started in your profession, for example.) If you do decide to look for an established charity, the next step is to examine annual reports. What percent of your contribution will make a difference, and is it the sort of difference you want to make? You may disagree with the charity about the efficacy of some of their programs. Do they do a lot of public education campaigns? Subsidize certain expenses for the needy? Concentrate on one particular asset, like immunizations or college scholarships? How can you maximize your gift? Try giving directly through the company’s web site or get a direct mailing address. Forgo the “thank you” incentive if you choose. If you like one of the indirect recipients that your charity sponsors, eliminate the middleman and write your check directly.

Finally, don’t underestimate the impact of a well-timed loan, especially a micro-credit business loan. Web sites like kiva.org let you search for entrepreneurs around the world who need a few hundred dollars to take their business to the next level. Your small donation could help a family change their situation forever, having a much greater impact than if it had stayed in your bank account. The best part is that your money comes back to you when the loan is repaid, leaving you situated to choose the next recipient of your largesse.

That’s certainly worth more than a few cups of coffee.

How to Donate Your Used Car to Charity to Save Money on Your Taxes

One of the easiest ways that you can save money on your taxes is to actually give something to charity that is of value that does not cost you much, such as your old used car. By donating your used car you’re able to easily write off the value of the vehicle on your taxes. Typically 100% of the cost of the car is a right off when you are doing your personal taxes. And while a lot of people think that it is difficult, or complicated to do, donating your used car to save money on taxes can literally take minutes if you know how to do it.
The easiest way to donate your used car as a tax break is to look in the phone book under used autos, or you can also try looking on Google for places to donate your car in your area. What will happen next is a charity will come out and pick up your car and they will simply give you a receipt for the fair market value of your car. Do not expect them to lie about the value of your car, because by law they have to give you a rough book value. However you will find that often times this book value is higher than the actual value of your car, so if you have late 80s car that is only worth $500 on Craig’s list you may very well get a $1500 receipt which is totally a right off.

If you’re wondering what happens to the car you donate to save tax money, it will typically be taken by the charitable organization and be fixed up and cleaned up and then sold. The money that they sell it for then becomes your actual donation, however by this point you already will have your receipt and you will not need to worry about the sale or any of the issues dealing with selling a used car. Of course any used car that you donate to save money on taxes will have to be totally free and clear of any liens or bank loans associated to it.

What happens next is you save your receipt and then when it comes time to do your taxes you will hand in that recede as a charitable donation. Depending on the state a year in anywhere from 50 to 100% of your charitable donation may be a right off. This is why it is a good idea to make sure that your charity he gives you fair market value on your receipt so that it is fair and does not draw any red flags by the IRS.

As you can see donating your used car or to a charitable organization to save money on your taxes can be a great deal for everybody involved. Not only do not have to deal with the stress and hassle of selling a used car, but you also get a very good receipt to write off in your taxes at the end of the year. And on top of everything and it stops another used car from being piled up as junk in a scrap yard.

The ABCs of Car Donation ‘” F is for Free

When you donate your car to charity, you will be free from a lot of things. You will be free from the hassle of having to dicker with the car dealer over the trade in amount of your car. According to most popular car buying guides, not having a trade in will free you up to negotiate a much better sale price on the purchase of a new car or quality used car.

You will be free of the cost of having to advertise your car for sale in the local paper or on the internet. You will be free in any of the costs involved in repairing your car to make it easier to sell it to a private party. Most charities will be glad to allow you to donate car that needs a lot of work, does not run, or has a lot of rust.

You will be free of the terrible inconvenience and risks associated with having to wait for strangers come to your home to look at your car. You will be free of the aggravation of having those prospective buyers offer you a low ball amount for your car. Since you will not have to wait for prospective buyers to call or come over, you will have a lot more free time to do other more important things.

If your car is in really in bad shape and does not run, you will be free from the cost of having a junk yard come to haul it away. You can donate your car to most charities even if the car is junk. The call to the charity is another thing that is free to you. Once you have everything coordinated with the charity you decide to donate car to, they will dispatch a tow truck to come to your home to pick up the car. The pickup of your car is another thing that is free for you.

Once your car is picked up, you will have a lot more free space in your garage or driveway. You will also be free of any more fees for car insurance, registration, inspection, licensing fees, etc. In fact, you may be due a rebate on some of the fees you have already paid.

When you donate car to charity, you will receive a free tax deduction on your itemized federal income taxes. In most cases, the amount of your tax deduction will be the amount the charity is able to sell your donated car for or $500, whichever is greater. The charity will indicate that amount in the tax paperwork they send you. That paperwork will, of course, be free.

When you donate car to charity, the charity has the freedom to use your donated car to their benefit. They can use it for their purposes, give it to someone who needs it, sell it at a greatly reduced price or sell it as it is.

Finally, the best free thing is the wonderful feeling you will get knowing that your car donation will be used to help support a very worthy cause.