1. Early American charitable bequests. There are no surviving records of charitable bequests by Native Americans before 1600. We begin with the earliest bequest documents by European immigrants. That is the best available way to understand what comes later.
- Bequests by Mary Chilton Winslow and other Mayflower Pilgrims (1620-1679) and Jamestown colonist Rev. Thomas Bargrave (1621).
- Grateful trustees renamed America’s first college in honor of John Harvard’s bequest in 1638. Harvard College received three times as much money from bequests as from outright gifts in its first 76 years. Bequests were funded with cash, real estate, payments from financial contracts, and tangible property (1638-1712).
- America’s Founding Fathers provided personal examples of charitable bequests. Hear about testamentary trusts by Benjamin Franklin (1790) and gifts through the wills of George Washington (1799) and James Madison (1836).
2. Charitable trusts in the British American colonies and in the new United States of America.
- How an English Statute of Charitable Uses (1601) enabled American colonists to arrange trusts for charitable purposes, and became the heart of section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code.
- See charitable trusts by Philadelphians like James Logan, Ben Franklin, James Willis Jr., Stephen Girard, and other donors in colonial America’s largest city and first Capital.
- Our Constitution and Bill of Rights provide the legal foundations for charitable gift planning. Surprisingly, soon after Independence a perceived conflict over religious freedom led many states to disallow charitable trusts.
- The US Supreme Court rendered two early decisions on the law of charitable trusts: Trustees of Philadelphia Baptist Association v. Hart’s Executors (1819), and Vidal v. Girard’s Executors (1844) on Stephen Girard’s testamentary trust.
3. Charitable gift annuities and the evolution of charitable gift planning.
- John Trumbull, Benjamin Silliman, and Peter Jay created — and fully documented! – the planning process resulting in America’s first known gift annuity, funded by the best paintings of the American Revolution (1831).
- The American Bible Society (ABS) received a life income trust gift in 1841, issued a gift annuity contract in 1843, and provided essential national leadership in charitable gift planning for more than 150 years.
- Attorney Peter Jay chaired the ABS gift acceptance committee. His partnership with New York Life Insurance & Trust Company in the 1830s is an early example of professional collaboration in charitable gift planning.
- Attorney and legislator Luther Bradish’s report for the ABS board On the Matter of Accepting Trusts (1848) provided a legal defense for gift annuities and charitable trusts, with practical wisdom on marketing, finance, and administration.
- A wildly successful ABS gift annuity campaign resulted in 4,615 gift annuity contracts, with help from Ivy Lee, “father of public relations” (1919-1930).
4. Professionalization of charitable gift planning. Alfred Williams Anthony created our modern system of professional collaboration among for-profit and nonprofit organizations in the 1920s. Actuary George Augustus Huggins introduced data-based decision-making into American philanthropy in 1927
- Anthony’s vision of professional collaboration: the Committee on Financial and Fiduciary Matters and Wise Public Giving Series (1925-1959). The American Council on Gift Annuities operated under Anthony’s committee until 1953, and ACGA reports were published in this series from 1927-1992.
- National planned giving advertising campaign by the Bank of New York & Trust Company encouraged charitable trusts and bequests (1926).
- At a national conference on gift annuities in April 1927, actuary George Augustus Huggins introduced a data-based risk management system into American fundraising: measurement of annuitants’ lives, investment assumptions grounded in experience, and a targeted charitable residuum.
- Founding of the American Council on Gift Annuities. George Huggins served as ACGA actuary and chair of the Rates Committee for its first ten national conferences (1927-1959).
5. Charitable gift planning from 1930-1968.
- College gift planning programs flourished in the 1930s:
- Neal Dow Becker founded America’s leading gift planning program for Cornell University (1924-1934).
- Association of American College’s Joint Conference of Colleges, Trust Institutions, Life Insurance and the Bar and its recognition for 38 college planned giving programs (1934).
- Stanford University’s R-Plan for planned gifts donors and advisors (1937).
- Pomona College life-income gift plans, national publicity and IRS Revenue Ruling 60-370 (1944-1960). The Pomona experience is analyzed in The Costs and Benefits of Deferred Giving by Norman S. Fink and Howard C. Metzler (1982), financed by a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
- A Conference on Wills, Annuities, and Special Gifts sponsored by the National Council of Churches attracted 387 gift planners, including a presentation by Sydney Prerau, mentor of Conrad Teitell (1952).
- In the 1960s, many pioneering legal professionals launched their careers in charitable gift planning, and several of today’s national gift planning marketing and consulting firms began. There was a ready audience for books and periodicals on gift planning (1960-1968).
6. Tax reforms acts in 1969 and 1986 altered the legal, economic, and ethical landscape of charitable gift planning.
- Charitable trust and private foundation abuses drew scrutiny by national media, US Congressman Wright Patman (R-TX) and the US Treasury (1962-1969).
- The Tax Reform Act of 1969 was America’s first set of comprehensive policies on charitable gift planning. See highlights of the law and its impact.
- Gift planning councils were first established. The number of councils grew from 14 councils with 1,100 members in 1987 to 47 councils with 4,100 members in 1991.
- Tax Reform Act of 1986 re-opened trust abuses: crises over tax shelters and finder’s fees.
7. Founding and early years of the National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG, now the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners).
- Charles Johnson, Michael Boland, and Dick Wilson became leading advocates for a national association of charitable gift planners (1985-1987). Johnson led the Lilly Endowment to make grants of more than $400,000 to create and support the new association.
- National Committee on Planned Giving founded. See highlights of its early achievements in advanced training, networking, research, and advocacy (1988-1995).
- Ethical guidelines for planned gifts: the CANARAS Convention and Code and NCPG’s Model Standards of Practice for the Charitable Gift Planner (1984-1991).
8. National crisis resolved by the Philanthropy Protection Act (1995) and Charitable Donation Antitrust Immunity Act (1997).
- Lawsuits in Texas were certified as a class action seeking triple damages from more than 1,900 nonprofit organizations that used the gift annuity payment rates recommended by ACGA.
- The legislation exempts from securities laws certain funds managed by third party investment firms, and exempts nonprofit staff from registering as securities dealers or investment advisors.
- The legislation requires nonprofits to provide disclosures to gift annuity donors & annuitants, prohibits payment of any “commission or other special compensation based on the number or the value of donations collected.”
9. Historical Takeaways
- Bequests and trusts to benefit charitable purposes began with European immigrants to North America in the 1600s. Their gifts often were funded with non-cash assets.
- American donors began using gift annuities at least as early as 1831. Gift annuities became extremely popular in the Roaring 1920s.
- ACGA began in 1927 as a reform movement that introduced data-based decision-making into American philanthropy.
- Charitable gift planning flourished at American colleges, churches, and other nonprofits between 1930-1960, encouraged by national associations.
- Tax reform acts in 1969 and 1986, and the Philanthropy Protection Act in 1995, improved the legal and economic landscape for planned giving.
- NCPG/NACGP was founded in 1988 to provide an ambitious agenda including advanced professional education and national ethical standards.
More about America is a Given Place:
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