The Journey Ahead

In mid-December, I had the opportunity to travel throughout China with my family. One memory I return to often is our visit to Mount Hua where we climbed thousands of steps carved into the side of the mountain, stayed the night in an unheated hostel at the tip of one peak, and visited Daoist temples perched on sheer cliffs. For centuries, pilgrims have climbed those same steps to pray, seek advice, and dream. The air was thin, the steep steps too numerous to count, and I often held on for dear life. We watched the stars come out, lanterns flicker on to guide the pilgrims, and the sun rise spectacularly. It was cold and hard and scary at times—and also inspiring.

Mount Hua, Shaanxi Province, December 2019. Photo credit Katie Allan Zobel.

After months of planning, the Community Foundation formally launches its organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion work this week, and I am reminded of that climb and of the Daoist philosopher, Lao Tzu’s quote: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I imagine this journey ahead for the Foundation will be long and difficult at times, yet surely it will also be infused with insight, inspiration, and hope.

We began this journey last year by reviewing our strategy as a funder and regional leader. We surveyed donors, our nonprofit grantees, community and business leaders, and the broader public. We identified needs, catalogued our strengths, and mapped a new strategic vision: to increase equity and opportunity for all who live in our region.

Dismantling systemic racism requires putting equity at the center, making a commitment to tear down barriers to equal opportunities and build better outcomes for all.

Working toward increasing equity requires listening and learning.  We are starting with ourselves. Among our goals this year are to:

  • Develop shared organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) vision and framework
  • Take an honest look at our internal culture, including our policies, structure, practices, and personnel
  • Create a plan for addressing gaps and inequities, including a plan to continue DEI-education and capacity building among staff and volunteers

This work will be guided throughout the year by our consultant partners, Inclusive Performance Strategies from Grand Rapids, MI.

We will continue to blog about this journey over the year, to share the process and reflect on the challenges and the progress.

We know this work will be hard, but we are committed to affecting real and lasting change in our community. It won’t be a walk in the park; it’s a journey of a thousand miles.


Not a Single Day Without Health Care

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response FundIt was early March when a huge challenge confronted the leaders of the Community Health Center of Franklin County (CHCFC). How could they continue to care for their 8,000 patients when the coronavirus forced them to close their physical space? Face-to-face care was no longer an option.

Remarkably, the Health Center achieved the improbable: In the last three months, they haven’t stopped health care services for a single day.

A grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley helped make it possible. The funds enabled the Health Center to speedily adopt a telehealth model, where they could conduct most medical appointment by phone and video conference, buy computers for staff, and provide IT assistance to set up home offices.

CHCFC’s Rachel Katz said, “We would not have been able to move as quickly as we did without the grant.” Katz, a family nurse practitioner and lead clinician for addiction treatment programs, had been at the center for about a month when the crisis hit.

The Community Health Heath Center of Franklin County opened an outdoor COVID-19 testing site at their Orange location.

The Community Health Heath Center of Franklin County opened an outdoor COVID-19 testing site at their Orange location.

“Our priorities were to keep our staff safe and to keep providing life-spanning primary care,” she said. That includes sexual and reproductive health, behavioral health, chronic disease management, diagnostic screenings, laboratory services, and specialized care for opioid addiction. “We were able to move 99% of our staff off-site—including providers—without sacrificing care.”

After a slight dip in appointments during the first telehealth week, “Our appointments have stayed steady,” said Katz. Patients have adapted to telehealth, and “We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of calls. Nurses have been slammed addressing patients’ concerns and worries, as well as ruling out COVID-19.” If people are COVID symptomatic, the health center sees them in person.

The Health Center has done COVID testing throughout the crisis in its Greenfield and Orange offices and with drive-through tests. “In three weeks, we did 300 tests,” said Katz.

As expected, patients’ mental health concerns increased. Staff working from home have been proactively calling all patients who have ever screened for depression, to see how they’re doing and what they need. “People really appreciate that we’re thinking of them.”

The Health Center serves a diverse community, including working class people, professionals, people who are homeless or use drugs, farmworkers, and many children. With its deep commitment to community health, the center was determined to keep up with its patients’ diverse needs, particularly those in recovery.

Because federal and state regulations have relaxed during the pandemic, said Katz, “We can subscribe suboxone without in-person visits, give people packets to take home, and pharmacies can provide refills. It’s kind of ground-breaking, and I hope we can bring some of these practices forward into the future.”

Innovation right now is a necessity, but it may also improve the health care of the future. That counts as a silver lining.

Meeting Urgent Need for Food

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response FundPre-pandemic, the Amherst Survival Center was bustling as a vibrant community meeting place, open to everyone. The Center met basic needs, serving meals, providing groceries, running a clinic, acting as a resource center, and hosting community activities.

“We serve a really broad swath of people—your neighbors,” says executive director Lev Ben-Ezra. “Many folks are working, some are unemployed or underemployed; we serve seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities; farmers, immigrants and refugees. Really everyone.”

The Center is open to all, and primarily serves residents of Hampshire and Franklin Counties. The Food Pantry is available to residents of 13 towns including, Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland, Ware and Whately, as well as anyone who is currently homeless.

A family of Amherst Survival Center volunteers helps distribute fresh produce.

A family of Amherst Survival Center volunteers helps distribute fresh produce. Photo courtesy of the Amherst Survival Center.

When COVID-19 hit, Ben-Ezra said her staff quickly realized that they’d have to make big changes, both for everyone’s safety and to meet their community’s most urgent need: food. Before COVID-19, the Center hosted a daily breakfast bar and hot lunch, and a weekly dinner. Community members could also make a full grocery shop monthly the Center’s Food Pantry, and monthly pick up fresh produce and bread daily during the Center’s open hours.

Suddenly the requests for daily lunches doubled; registration for the Center’s food pantry quadrupled. “We were seeing people we had never seen before,” says Ben-Ezra. But the Amherst Survival Center was no longer able to serve sit-down meals or operate its food pantry as it normally would.

“The people we serve are resourceful and resilient; they’ve been through a lot. But this pandemic has really rocked all of us,” says Ben-Ezra. “Not only are people impacted by unemployment and underemployment, and worried about health, but social isolation means that many support networks people rely on for rides, for example, have been disrupted. A person whose normal grocery routine relies on coupons and shopping at five or six grocery stores can no longer do that. It’s not safe.”

Volunteers prepare to-go meals at the Amherst Survival Center.

Volunteers prepare to-go meals at the Amherst Survival Center. Photo courtesy of the Amherst Survival Center.

Now, pre-packaged to-go meals are distributed daily, along with bread and produce, at a station right outside the building. The pantry has changed its model from drop-in shopping, now assembling boxes full of canned goods, grains, fresh milk, eggs, cheese, meat, produce, toiletries, hygiene products and pet food that can be picked up in its dining room— with safe social distancing. The Center is also offering no-contact curbside pickup and grocery delivery to anyone who is ill, disabled, or has transportation issues.

The Amherst Survival Center gratefully accepted a grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley, hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. With the grant, Ben-Ezra said, “We purchased food. We bought to-go containers. We acquired equipment for our outdoor distribution— tents, coolers, and shelving. We are now able to accept more perishable food donations because we’ve been able to purchase additional refrigeration.”

“We’re so unbelievably grateful for the Foundation’s swift response in this crisis, and the flexibility of that support. This crisis has required such significant levels of creativity and innovation. Those contributions have enabled us to continue responding with flexibility.”

More than 1,000 Holyoke Families Get Needed Safety and Hygiene Supplies

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response FundBetty Medina Lichtenstein and her team from Enlace de Familias were only five minutes late to distribute bags of cleaning and hygiene products to families at the Holyoke Community Charter School. Yet, a line of 50 cars was already waiting when they arrived.

“We had to set up shop real fast,” she said. They did, pulling bags of disinfectant, protective masks, and toilet paper from their rented van, and handing the bags through car windows or at curbside tables to grateful families.

The coronavirus pandemic had taken hold in Holyoke and people were desperate.

Enlace works with residents of Holyoke neighborhoods made up of predominately Latino/a and low-income families, 99% of whom receive public assistance, Mass Health, food stamps, and/or fuel assistance. Some resettled in Holyoke from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Medina Lichtenstein, the executive director, founded Enlace 27 years ago. She is often a voice for the community as she organizes the network of service providers to problem-solve the pressing needs of city residents. (A Holyoke street even bears her name in honor of her longtime advocacy and dedication.)

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, she searched and agitated for three weeks to unclog the pipeline of food distributors that caused shelves to empty in Holyoke grocery stores, bodegas, and food banks. She knew local residents were hungry since her staff called every individual and family served by Enlace in the past three years. They needed food, and people without means or cars couldn’t skip from store to store to locate rice, beans, or meats.

Then, she turned to another pressing need: cleaning and safety supplies. With a grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley, Enlace staff and volunteers rented vans, bundled bags of supplies and toilet paper (each worth about $25), then distributed the supplies to 1,000 families—meeting them at different schools across Holyoke when they picked up their children’s breakfast and lunch meals provided by Holyoke Public Schools.

“We want to thank the Community Foundation on behalf of all the families that were able to benefit from the grant award you provided us,” Medina Lichtenstein said.

“The grant met such a huge need,” she said. “Now, there’s paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper coming into stores, but at the time we did this distribution at the end of April, nothing was available.”


Listen to Betty Medina Lichtenstein describe Enlace’s efforts
to distribute supplies during the pandemic:


Enlace de Familias staff distribute safety and hygiene supplies in Holyoke.
Enlace de Familias staff distribute safety and hygiene supplies in Holyoke.
Enlace de Familias staff distribute safety and hygiene supplies in Holyoke.
Enlace de Familias staff distribute safety and hygiene supplies in Holyoke.

Enlace de Familias staff distribute safety and hygiene supplies in Holyoke.

Delivering Nutrition and Social Connection in Turner Falls

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response FundEven before the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity was an urgent issue in the Pioneer Valley, says Rachel Telushkin, interim executive director of  Brick House Community Resource Center. Getting reliable, nutritious meals got even harder when schools closed, unemployment hit, and grocery prices skyrocketed.

A grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley helped Brick House, located in Turner Falls, to be quick and creative in ensuring that staying fed would not go from difficult to impossible for this rural community.

Brick House, whose core offerings are parent and family support services and youth programs, was already a distribution site for school breakfasts and lunches. Seeing the need to help their folks navigate the newly complicated terrain of the pandemic, they quickly hired a food resources coordinator. Knowledgeable about local families and local food programs, “She connects volunteers, local businesses, families, youth, and existing resources all together,” says Telushkin.

Brick House Community Resource Center staff members distribute food in front of its building in Turner Falls, Mass.

Brick House Community Resource Center staff members distribute food in front of its building in Turner Falls, Mass.

Food isn’t just nutrition and calories— it’s family time, social connection, and a source of pleasure amidst pain. Brick House has teamed up with local restaurants to create Family Friday, when family-sized meals are created and delivered to households before dinnertime. “This is nice food that people can enjoy together as a family,” says Telushkin. “We hope that people can use these meals to relax with each other for an hour.”

Brick House’s afternoon teen center has shut its physical doors for now, but staff are meeting with youth online with a daily drop-in hour on Zoom, online games and music lessons, and one-on-one support. It turns out that what young people miss about their weekly music class is as much the pizza as the music, so Brick House started “Pizza Wednesday.” Youth can pick up individual-sized pizzas to eat at home.

The agency is also offering cash assistance in the form of grocery store gift cards. “It’s a very concrete way to help people who have lost jobs and have hard decisions to make about how they spend their money,” says Telushkin. “We don’t have a complicated intake, and it helps people free up dollars to pay rent and utilities.”

Brick House is still distributing daily free lunches from the school district and offering youth snacks for pickup in front of its brick building (otherwise closed for business) on Third Street in Turner Falls.

“The grant has been hugely helpful to us, allowing us to be really nimble. For example, we bought a freezer so we could take advantage of food donations like 22 cases of soup from Just Roots, a community farm in Greenfield. Because we had the money on hand for a freezer, we won’t have to turn food donations away.”

Summer will demand even more of families and the community. The COVID-19 Response Fund grant has allowed Brick House to think creatively and flexibly about how to meet those needs as the pandemic continues, and its usual summer programs will be up and running in pandemic-friendly formats; and food distribution will continue. No matter what the future brings, Brick House will find a way to be there.

Grant Provides Crucial Support for Pioneer Valley Immigrants

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response FundWhen Center for New Americans received an emergency relief grant through the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley, “We immediately decided we needed to give it to undocumented workers,” said Director Laurie Millman.

The education and resource center had been welcoming and serving immigrants to the Pioneer Valley for more than 28 years, and Millman saw that many people with undocumented status were in crisis.

“The very essential workers who were the first to get laid off—the dishwashers, the house and hotel cleaners, people who do jobs that our economy depends on…there was no safety net for them at all. No stimulus check, no unemployment assistance. Nothing.”

Millman sent an email to the Center’s e-list announcing the grant and inviting others to lend a hand. A concerned friend of the Center then donated $25,000.

“We live in a generous community and we have good values here. We wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else. And fortunately, our community rallied. We had $10,000 to give away and then we had $35,000. And that makes a big difference.”

With programs in Northampton, Amherst and Greenfield, Center for New Americans teaches English, civics, technology, and U.S. culture to Pioneer Valley immigrants from all over the world. The Center also provides legal assistance, help with citizenship applications, and more. The Center’s free English classes are its most popular offerings.

Center for New Americans classroom. Photo taken before the pandemic. No person pictured has undocumented status.)

Center for New Americans classroom. Photo taken before the pandemic. No person pictured has undocumented status.

Many immigrants come to the Pioneer Valley to fill farming or service sector jobs; others are resettled refugees from countries torn apart by war.

When the coronavirus crisis hit, Millman’s staff sprang into action. They moved nearly all classes online, but many people they serve couldn’t afford an internet connection. So, staff members drove around Western Massachusetts connecting people—lending computer tablets and identifying hotspots (which were being turned on thanks to local activism).

Still, said Millman, “These are challenging times and people without too much of a safety net to begin with had been pushed to the absolute brink.”

That’s why the Response Fund grant and the anonymous donor gift were lifelines for the Center’s undocumented clients. The Center paid their utilities and rent and bought them gift cards to grocery stores.

More than $4.3 million Response Fund dollars have flooded in since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, with remarkably generous businesses, philanthropic partners, and individuals contributing to the fund. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts is covering all staff and administrative costs, so 100% of dollars donated can be granted out to nonprofits serving residents affected by the pandemic in Hampden, Franklin, and Hamden counties.

Millman points with pride to the history of the Pioneer Valley as welcoming waves of immigrants, including those drawn to jobs in Holyoke’s thriving paper mills in the late 19th century. She cites research showing that the region’s economy has benefitted enormously from the influx of immigrants—and international cuisines, music, and dance have fueled tourism and interest in our cities.

Concludes Millman, “People have sent many emails with gratitude. It’s amazing to be able to support people like this.”

Safer at Home: LifePath Helps Elders During COVID-19

Your Generosity at Work - COVID-19 Response Fund“I have never worked this hard in my life, and the work has never been so gratifying.”

This is how Barbara Bodzin, executive director of LifePath, describes the past nine weeks of helping elders and people with disabilities stay safe, healthy, and independent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LifePath, which primarily serves Franklin County, was one of the first recipients of a grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley, hosted by the Community Foundation. The agency moved quickly to adapt its programs, such as in-home assistance, meal delivery, and social support, to meet the changing needs of its consumers in the safest way possible.

Keeping elderly people and those with disabilities in their homes and out of assisted living, nursing homes, and hospitals, is critical because they are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Community Foundation’s grant “was a godsend” says Bodzin, because it enabled LifePath to quickly purchase and distribute personal protective equipment to home health aides and personal attendants who spend hours inside the homes of their clients— as well as to the 1,700 clients themselves.

LifePath staff and volunteers load truck with PPE for delivery to home health workers. (photo courtesy of LifePath)

LifePath staff and volunteers load truck with PPE for delivery to home health workers. (photo courtesy of LifePath)

While hospital-based doctors and nurses are rightly called heroes, says Bodzin, the health workers who provide care in homes, out of the public eye, are equally heroes. “They do it purely out of dedication, and they often don’t have a large institution like a hospital to provide the protection they need. So the grant was literally a lifesaver.”

Food insecurity is also a challenge in Franklin County, with scarce transportation and the price of food rising and rising. There’s been a surge in demand for Meals on Wheels. LifePath has used its meal delivery service as a way to check in on consumers and provide them some social time.

“Now we have moved to a smile-and-wave method,” says Bodzin. Drivers place the meal on an outside table or pack the meal in a plastic bag and hang it on the doorknob, knock or ring the doorbell, and immediately step back 10 to 15 feet. When the resident answers the door, the driver says “hello” and indicates where the meal is, making sure the recipient can retrieve the meal before leaving to deliver the next meal.

“The loss of real face-to-face time has been the hardest part for our consumers,” says Bodzin, “and for people with dementia, the social distancing part is really hard to understand.”

The Response Fund grant also enabled LifePath to invest in the technology that helped its operations to go virtual. “In a rural area like ours, you often don’t have easy access to the Internet,” says Bodzin. “In the first weeks of work-at-home, we had staff people working out of their cars, driving around to find wifi.  Our technology investments have made that easier.”

The community response to COVID-19 has greatly heartened Bodzin. More than 200 new volunteers have stepped forward during the pandemic, and what’s good in our society is making itself truly visible.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough to the Community Foundation. They had the sensitivity and the insight to give us what our community needs when we needed it.”

ValleyCreates: Kicking off 2020 with new funding and trainings

We can’t believe it’s been two years since the launch of Creative Commonwealth and ValleyCreates!

Kicking off 2020, two new happenings with ValleyCreates:

Community Engaged Artist Training

Yara Liceaga-Rojas, workshop leader

On January 23rd and 24th, twenty-one artists from throughout the Valley convened at the Northampton Center for the Arts  for a highly interactive workshop that explored ways to more deeply engage their communities through their artistic practice. Led by Yara Liceaga-Rojas and Shey Rivera, working multi-genre artists, the workshop was an opportunity to learn new approaches and to enhance the vibrancy of the arts community by establishing new or strengthening relationships. The participating artists represented a broad range of disciplines such as spoken word, painting, sewing, graffiti art, and theater, and came from a diverse range of communities in the region. Assets for Artists, a program of MASS MoCA, partnered with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to create this exciting opportunity.

Collaborative Arts Grants Awarded
In early January, $150,000 of grants were awarded to five collaborations comprised of arts organizations and artists. These projects, along with four others, received planning grants in early 2019 to explore and test ideas to create meaningful change in the Valley through the arts. Some of these ideas were seeded during an event we hosted in January 2019 where organizations and artists were invited to spend a day dreaming up new and big ways to impact change through the arts.

Throughout this grant process, we piloted new ways of grantmaking, beginning with applicants submitting video applications, rather than traditional text-based applications. Each collaborative project submitted a planning and implementation video where all partners discussed their roles in the project, and what they hoped to achieve. We also piloted an online platform featuring the projects to engage with and seek co-investment from selected donor advised fund holders.

The projects and their lead agencies are:

The Collaborative Community Art Response Team (CCART), Art Garden
Charles Neville Legacy Project, Blues to Green
The Dignity Project, Center for Design Engagement
Our Grandmothers Project, Holyoke Community Media
ENSEMBLE: Seeding the Future, Ko Theater Works
Valley Arts Mentors, Piti Theatre Company

Please join us in congratulating these grantees, and stay tuned for more news about how these collaborations progress!


Food and Shelter Grantees Serve Up Dignity, Respect

How to Feed the Hungry? Grantees Serve up Dignity, Respect

Lee Anderson from MANNA Soup Kitchen.

Insecurity nagged Lee Anderson, the new volunteer cook at MANNA Soup Kitchen in Northampton.

Five days per week, Anderson and other volunteers provided free, hot meals at St. John’s Episcopal Church to people (guests) without enough to eat.

He wondered…were his meals as good as those of his predecessor, Joan?

Anderson asked the guests what they missed most about Joan. Her raviolis? Her salads?

Their answer: “Joan always sat and talked with us.”

“That was a real wake-up call for me,” said Anderson. “It wasn’t even the food! Isolation is a core problem when someone has lost their job, becomes homeless or has a catastrophic expense that pushes them to the edge of society. When you’re alone, your world and options get smaller and you start living in a bubble. And you stop dreaming.”

MANNA tries to break down that isolation while providing nutritious meals. During daily “community meals,” guests, volunteers and donors eat together. The buzz of conversation is music to Anderson’s ears.

A $7,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) made MANNA’s welcoming space even better. By outfitting a renovated kitchen at St. John’s with new countertops, stainless steel tables, two sinks and a convection oven, visitors to the soup kitchen will soon eat in a sunlit, sparkling clean space where food cooks 30% faster thanks to the new oven (“It makes a big difference when we’re trying to serve 100 people at once,” Anderson said).

The grantees gathered together on October 18, 2019.

In 2019, MANNA was among 14 grantee organizations awarded a total of $90,000 to fund items including flooring, stoves, freezers, shelving, and refrigerators—thanks to an anonymous organization that contributed the dollars through the CFWM to benefit Western Massachusetts nonprofits.

After receiving the extraordinary gift, CFWM set out to re-grant the dollars to organizations providing food and shelter to area residents.

According to Senior Program Officer Sheila Toto, CFWM sought to meet some of the most immediate needs of local “unsung heroes” that provide vital human services. And, in a new twist to their grantmaking, CFWM asked area residents to nominate a deserving nonprofit. It was a way to hear directly from the community and engage people less familiar with the work of their local community foundation, said Toto.

A call for nominations in mid-2019 yielded an astounding 1,100 online submissions.

Lee Anderson, who also serves as MANNA’s treasurer, stated, “The nomination process was really rewarding since it opened up the opportunity for people to help us who usually didn’t have the means to give money—our guests and volunteers. They felt respected to be asked to go to the website and nominate us. The whole process brought us together.”

Another grantee, Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, received $7,300.

Serving Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire counties, the organization marshals a small army of volunteers to regularly pick up food from 60 food donors and deliver it to 45 area agencies. Wherever food is still good but might go to waste—at supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries caterers, farmer’s markets and farms—it is picked up and delivered to agencies who nourish people who are food insecure.

Jodi Falk, Ph.D., director of Rachel’s Table.

According to Jodi Falk, Ph.D., director of Rachel’s Table, food insecurity refers to a lack of consistent access to food–people who are unsure of where they will get their next meal. About 10% of residents in our three-county Western Massachusetts region are food insecure, she said.

Thanks to food deliveries by Rachel’s Table, agencies provide food to older people on fixed incomes, people recovering from addiction, victims of domestic violence, families without stable homes, and many others.

Through Jewish Family Services, Rachel’s Table even provides kosher food for people who practice the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut (kosher). Falk noted that kosher food tends to be more expensive, an added burden for people facing hunger.

She explained, “Being kosher becomes a matter of identity—it’s one of the ways that you can live your religion. And if you can’t do that because of your finances, it’s kind of a double pain. You really can’t be who you are.”

Grant funds from CFWM covered the cost of freezer blankets, food thermometers, scales, and a convertible hand truck—allowing volunteers to drive further distances to pick up larger quantities of food and guarantee its safety.

CFWM brought the grantees together in October to share ideas and information. Reflecting on the group, Sheila Toto said, “Just as important as the services they provide is how they provide them. And treating their clients with dignity and respect is central to what they do.”

The grantees are:


Photos courtesy of Erin Long Photography.

3 Ways to Give This Year

3 Tax-Smart Ways to Give Back this Year

By: Jenny Papageorge, Director of Development


1). Bundle Your Gifts to Reach the Itemization Threshold

Have you talked to your advisor about bunching, or “bundling,” gifts to nonprofits? The ripple effects of tax reform have meant that just 10% of taxpayers now itemize deductions, down from 30%. A smart strategy to help you maximize deductions under the new tax laws is to make two or more years’ worth of charitable contributions in a single year. A Donor Advised Fund is an effective tool to achieve this goal. It allows you to set aside enough to bring you over the itemizing threshold. You receive an immediate tax deduction and can distribute gifts to nonprofits over time.

2). Donate your IRA Required Minimum Distribution to Reduce Income Tax

If you are over 70 ½, the IRA charitable rollover allows you to use your IRA to make tax-free charitable gifts directly from the account to eligible charities. Currently, the provision allows you to make qualified charitable IRA distributions at $100,000 per person per year. The provision excludes the funding of gift annuities and similar life income plans, as well as Donor Advised Funds.


3.) Give Appreciated Securities to Avoid Capital Gains

If you have long-term appreciated assets, such as stocks and mutual fund shares, you have an opportunity to maximize your deduction. When you donate these types of assets directly to a nonprofit, you may not have to pay capital gains and you may take an income tax deduction in the amount of the full fair-market value. You can give directly to organizations, or you can set up a Donor Advised Fund, allowing your donation to grow and providing you with the flexibility as to the timing of your gifts.

As we launch into the season of giving, we hope these tips help you get in the spirit of giving and giving more!

The Community Foundation does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors.