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Like Graduation, a Charitable Gift Is a “Commencement”

Posted July 2019

Many of us have recently attended graduations—of children or grandchildren or maybe at our alma mater. The students who are graduating (and the parents who may be footing the bills) likely view the occasion as an ending, a conclusion of a chapter in their lives. But as we know, graduation is a commencement of a new chapter in the book of life.

Similarly, a charitable gift is also a commencement. Each gift could initially be viewed as an ending, a finish line, both by those who make the gifts and by those who accept them on behalf of charitable organizations. But like graduations, the passage of a gift from donor to charity is a beginning. And it is also a time of transformation.

The giver transforms from an interested person—a “prospect”—to a donor, an insider.

The gift also transforms an asset (usually money, but donors also give stock, art, and other assets) into a charitable service—a meal, a vaccine, a degree.

So, for example, an alumna consults with her advisor and decides to donate a gift of appreciated stock to her alma mater to establish a scholarship in honor of her parents. The university accepts the stock, sells it, and turns the stock into cash (with no adverse tax consequences to the alumna) that is used to award two scholarships to deserving students.

To the recipients these gifts are the beginning of a college education. The gifts enable the students to transform into graduates. When the charity accepts the gift, this begins the process of recording and acknowledging the gift. The stewardship period—thanking the donor and sharing the impact of the gift—also begins.

So what at first glance seems like an ending—the gift—is actually, like a commencement, a beginning. And each gift enables donors—through charitable organizations—to transform society and make the world a better place.

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