Doing Good: Our Guide to Giving Back


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Leaving It to a Good Cause

Many of attorney Judy Lee’s clients fold philanthropy into their wills and trusts. “In addition to providing for family members, many people want to make gifts to benefit organizations whose missions they believe in,” says Lee, who specializes in trusts and estates at law firm Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. Here’s her advice for including charitable giving as part of estate planning.

1. Consider your philanthropic motivations. Are you doing it for the tax benefits? Because you believe in the nonprofit’s mission? Both?

2. It’s your money; choose an organization you truly want to benefit.

3. Think about the organization’s future. “I have been involved in cases where the charitable organization had closed before the donor’s death and we had to go to court to determine whether another charitable organization with a similar mission should receive the gift,” says Lee. If the nonprofit is newly formed, consider an alternate organization in the will or trust.

4. Make sure you have the nonprofit’s name right; many organizations have similar-sounding names, sometimes with completely different missions.

Lee says charitable remainder trusts are popular. When a donor with a charitable remainder trust passes away, his or her beneficiaries will receive money (either for their lifetime or a fixed number of years), as well as the charity the donor named. “It’s a win-win vehicle because both the goal of providing for family and the goal of providing for a charity can be met,” says Lee.

The Paper Trail: Some Strings Attached?

You just made a donation. It may have been the first time or the 15th, but you feel good. We all like to think that the donation to the nonprofit for keiki or beach cleanups will directly help Oahu’s children or beaches. And sometimes it does. Other times, your donation goes to a staff member’s stipend or helps pay for postage for the fundraising mailers that just went out.

HCF’s Taketa says that’s OK. “Every donor has a right to believe that the organization they’re contributing to can prove to them they’re making a difference and they’re good stewards with the funds,” he says. “That’s different than an organization being able to prove to [donors] exactly what happened with their money.”

Often, adds Taketa, it’s hard for nonprofits to specifically account for what each $50 or $75 donation covered. (Granted, this won’t be the case for those who are making large, long-term financial commitments.) However, someone from the nonprofit should acknowledge your contribution. The organization should also communicate with its donors—large and small—about achieving its goals and fulfilling its mission. If not, you may want to consider supporting one that is more responsive and transparent.

Stay Local

Many local donors make donations that stay in Hawaii, to help Hawaii’s people, environment, animals and more.

  • 69 percent of residents’ donations were nearly all local
  • 16 percent of residents’ donations were nearly all out of state
  • 15 percent of residents’ donations were half local and half out of state

Related links:
30 Volunteer Ideas in Hawaii
Service Learning at Heeia Fishpond

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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