How can one make a large charitable donation in such a way that it brings about the most good?
For several years I worked for a national non-profit in a position that allowed me to see how local chapters used large windfall donations. While some were good stewards of their unexpected funds and used them wisely to serve a greater number of families in need, others did not. I began to wonder how a donor could structure their gift to assure it did the most good.
An accident of timing helped me discover one way to do that. Shortly after attending a Faith and Money Network weekend retreat that stretched my thinking about giving, a good friend asked if I knew of anyone who would loan his group $500,000, interest-free, for 5 years. His group, the local chapter of a national non-profit, had started a small entrepreneurial venture to support their chapter, and it was doing well, but they desperately needed a much larger facility.
“I don’t know of anyone who would,” I told him, but truthfully I couldn’t even imagine a financially astute person agreeing to those terms. But his question stayed with me long after our conversation ended. I couldn’t’ get it out of my mind, and I found myself toying with the idea, wondering how the group’s goal could be achieved. That led to an “aha” moment for me.
My wife and I had just sold a piece of land that we had been counting on to provide current income and fund our retirement a few years down the road. We didn’t think we could afford to give the money away, but we felt we could make a compromise.
Here’s what we proposed to the local non-profit. “We will buy the building for half a million dollars and rent it to you at below market price. We will also give you an option to purchase the building within five years at the same price that we paid for it. “Yes, yes, yes,” said the overjoyed affiliate.
Not only did they make all their rent payments on time, they also bought the building from us at the end of that five-year period.
So was that sacrificial giving? Yes, it was if you look at it from a purely financial standpoint that includes the below-market rent and no price appreciation over five years. Most financial advisors would have been pretty unhappy with our choice. But the answer is no when it is balanced by the joy of watching the non-profit succeed in its mission of serving low-income families, while establishing a solid funding source for the future.
Is it possible, then, to give sacrificially without making a sacrifice? Yes, indeed, my friend. Yes, indeed.
Alfred Grove is the pen name of a retired aviator and thoughtful, innovative, occasionally hesitant and usually anonymous philanthropist.