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Philanthropy: Comparing Charitable Giving Strategies

Charitable giving strategies are an important part of financial planning for many individuals and families. These strategies can provide significant tax benefits, help manage wealth, and create a lasting philanthropic legacy. This article will compare four popular charitable giving strategies: Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs), Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), and Private Foundations.

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs)

A Charitable Remainder Trust is a type of irrevocable split-interest trust designed to provide donors with annual income from donated assets for life or a specified term, while ultimately benefiting a charity. The term "Split-interest" refers to the fact that a part of the interest goes to charity and a part does not.


  • Tax Advantages: CRTs offer tax benefits in the form of a charitable deduction, alongside the satisfaction of contributing to a cause close to your heart.

  • Income Stream: You can use the CRT as a stream of income if you (the grantor) or a beneficiary choose to contribute assets.

  • Philanthropic Impact: CRTs are a compelling way for the grantor to make meaningful contributions while ensuring their financial future.


  • Irrevocability: Once established, CRTs are irrevocable—they cannot be dissolved3.

  • Complexity and Costs: Setting up a CRT is only the first step. The trust will also require professional accounting and tax services on an ongoing basis.

Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs)

A Charitable Lead Trust is a type of irrevocable split-interest trust designed to reduce a beneficiary’s potential transfer taxes upon inheritance.


  • Tax Benefits: CLTs present beneficiaries with possible tax benefits, such as an income tax deduction for charitable donations and savings on estate and gift taxes.

  • Philanthropic Impact: CLTs allow you to convert substantial assets into lifelong income, providing a win-win situation for both you and the charitable beneficiary of your choice.


  • Irrevocability: The transfer of assets into the trust cannot be reversed.

  • Establishing and Maintaining Costs: Establishing and maintaining the trust can be costly.

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs)

A Donor Advised Fund is a vehicle that allows investors to donate directly to a charitable fund while retaining some control over the assets.


  • Tax Advantages: Donors can receive immediate tax deductions for their contributions, and the foundation’s income is typically tax-exempt.

  • Flexibility: DAFs provide flexibility in grant-making.

  • Simplicity: DAFs provide a more organized, strategic, and targeted way of giving.


  • Limited Control: Donations are ultimately chosen by the DAF sponsor; you have the right to advise the sponsor about the decision, but you give up control of it.

  • Assets Can Remain Indefinitely: Assets can remain in fund indefinitely.

Private Foundations

A Private Foundation is a nonprofit organization established and funded by a family or an individual.



  • Transfer of Assets is Irrevocable: Once you establish a foundation, you have the authority to determine its mission, structure and how funds are allocated.

  • Establishing and Maintaining Costs: Foundations require a substantial amount of time, work, and money to establish and maintain.

In conclusion, each of these charitable giving strategies has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to carefully consider your financial situation, philanthropic goals, and the level of control you wish to maintain over your charitable contributions when choosing the strategy that’s right for you.


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