The Year Gift Planning History Arrived

Events in the past year have left me humbled, and dedicated to nurturing a deeper awareness of our history as charitable gift planners.

In 2019 I presented to gift planning groups in Chicago, Denver, Louisville, Nashville, New York, and Washington DC. I produced a webinar entitled A Celebration of Princeton: A Given Place on how bequests, trusts, and gift annuities have shaped my alma mater. Articles I wrote were published in Taxwise Giving, Planned Giving Today, and the Planned Giving Design Center. I launched a new website at www.giftplanninghistory.org, and my historical posts on LinkedIn attracted as many as 3,700 views.

I am most grateful that the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York honored me last fall with a Cloughy Award for Distinguished Service.

Looking ahead to 2020, in April I will give a major presentation entitled The History of ACGA is the History of Gift Planning in America at the American Council on Gift Annuities conference in Atlanta.  In May I will present at the Planned Giving Group of Connecticut.

Please add me to your program schedule in 2020, I love speaking about our history and do not charge an honorarium.

Every morning (pretty much) I do research, write, and/or create presentations.  That will continue as long as I am able. In February I will relocate from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. This photo was taken from the Promenade just a few steps from my new home.

I look forward to seeing you in 2020!

Ron Brown
rbrown.pghistory@gmail.com
646-581-4867

When did American gift planning begin?

New England First Fruits
A fundraising pamphlet in 1643 celebrated the bequest that named Harvard College in 1638

Written records are the basic materials of historians.  Unfortunately, no records of charitable giving by Native American populations before European settlement have survived, and there is little information about the people who attempted to settle in Roanoke, North Carolina in the 1580s.

Presentation Topics

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:

Practical benefits from watching: https://wp.me/pb878a-gH

Praise for the presentation: https://wp.me/pb878a-fs

Support by the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners: https://wp.me/pb878a-gw

Ron Brown’s speaker bio and promotional piece for your website: https://wp.me/pb878a-gV

Selected sources: https://wp.me/pb878a-go

America is a Given Place

Where do charitable gift planners, fund raisers, trust officers, attorneys and financial advisors turn for knowledge of events that shape their work today?

In an entertaining presentation entitled America is a Given Place you will learn the original foundations of gift planning in the U.S. from the Pilgrims to today’s gifts.

Knowledge of history is the soundest foundation for planning for the future. Now you can see how gift planning through charitable bequests, trusts, annuities, and gifts of complex assets began with America’s first colonists, flourished in the newborn United States, and took shape through important Supreme Court decisions, federal legislation, and the founding of the American Council on Gift Annuities and the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.

The live presentation is based on my 40 years as a charitable gift planner, including 15 years as director of gift planning at Princeton University, my alma mater. I was trained as a professional historian 30 years ago and have devoted thousands of hours to scholarly research and writing. I published some of the results in A History of Charitable Gift Planning (Amazon 2017) and add content from time to time at http://www.giftplanninghistory.org.

America is a Given Place includes more than 50 colorful slides with a lively and well-documented narrative. Participants receive a valuable outline and bibliography (free!).  If you want to do so, your organization may record the session and post it on your website for future reference.

There is no charge for gift planning council meetings and conferences except for nominal travel expenses. There is a fee of $250 for other nonprofit organizations and $500 for for-profit firms plus travel expenses.

To schedule America is a Given Place please call Ronald Brown at 646-581-4867 or write to rbrown.pghistory@gmail.com.

More about America is a Given Place:

Praise for the presentation: https://wp.me/pb878a-fs

Support by the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners: https://wp.me/pb878a-gw

Ron Brown’s speaker bio and promotional piece for your website: https://wp.me/pb878a-gV

Summary of topics: https://wp.me/pb878a-gf

Selected sources: https://wp.me/pb878a-go

America is a Given Place schedule (as of 6/30/2022)

Coming Presentations

2022

[Add your organization’s name here!]

Past Presentations

2022

June 1
Planned Giving Roundtable of Southeastern Michigan (Detroit) — In person!

February 3
Charitable Gift Planners of Central Ohio (Columbus)

2021

December 16
Planned Giving Group of New England (Boston, MA)

July 15
Mid-America Council of Charitable Gift Planners (Kansas City, MO)

June 9
Charitable Gift Planners of Tampa Bay

June 8
Dallas Council of Charitable Gift Planners

May 18 
Planned Giving Council of San Antonio

March 30
Mid-Iowa Planned Giving Council

March 25 
North Carolina Council of Charitable Gift Planners

March 10
Planned Giving Council of Indian River (Vero Beach, FL)

March 5
Northern Ohio Charitable Gift Planners (Cleveland)

February 3
Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York

January 25
Princeton Club of New York: Celebrating Bequests for American Colleges (Columbia, Fordham, Georgetown, NYU, Princeton and Williams)

January 11
Washington Planned Giving Council (Seattle)

2020

November 18
Chesapeake Planned Giving Council (Baltimore)

November 12
Planned Giving Group of Connecticut

November 11
Pentera: Foundations of Charitable Gift Planning

October 6
Charitable Gift Planners of New Jersey, America is a Given Place

June 18
Greater Philadelphia Planned Giving Council: America is a Given Place

April 21
American Council on Gift Annuities: The History of Charitable Gift Annuities is the History of Gift Planning in America

January 11
Gift planning conference call with staff and volunteer leaders of United Way Worldwide (by invitation

2019

November 1
Louisville, KY, Charitable Gift Planners of Kentuckiana Mini-Conference: True Stories: Charitable Gift Planning from the Pilgrims to Tomorrow’s Gifts

October 24
New York, Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York Awards Luncheon: Ron Brown received the Cloughy Award for distinguished service

September 23-24
Chicago, Crescendo Practical Planned Giving Conference: Gift Annuities and Your Future

September 11
Princeton Webinar: A Celebration of Princeton: A Given Place

August 21-22
Denver, Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable Summer Symposium: True Stories: Charitable Gift Planning from the Pilgrims to Tomorrow’s Gifts

June 13
Saranac Lake, NY, CANARAS Gift Planning Council: Four Events in the History of Charitable Gift Planning, and Heroes of CANARAS and Charitable Gift Planning

May 23
Washington, DC, National Capital Gift Planning Council: True Stories of American Gift Planning: From the Pilgrims to Tomorrow’s Gifts

April 3
Nashville, Middle Tennessee Gift Planning Council: The Soul of American Gift Planning: From the Pilgrims to Tomorrow’s Gifts

 

Celebrating Three Centuries of Special Donors who Shaped Our Universities

Dear Friends,

My free webinar on January 25 may be of interest to alumni and friends of six universities and colleges affiliated with the Princeton Club of New York: Columbia University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, New York University, Princeton University, and Williams College.

Modeled on an award-winning session I produced for Princeton in 2019, this will be a beautifully-illustrated celebration of bequest donors and their gifts.

Members of the Princeton Club of NY should register through the website. Others may use this link: https://wp.me/pb878a-iv

The Princeton Club’s announcement for the webinar is below.  I hope we will have a large audience for this historic session. Thank you for spreading the word!

Ron

——————————————–

Celebrating Three Centuries of Special Donors who Shaped our Universities
with Ron Brown ’72

Monday, January 25
5:00PM Virtual Program
Free for Members
Hosted by Christine Loomis

From founding gifts in the 1700’s to today, colleges and universities affiliated with PCNY have depended on gifts from people’s estates to provide student financial aid, train medical scientists, endow named professorships, construct new buildings, and other important purposes.

Meet some of your alma mater’s historical donors in this beautifully-illustrated celebration of important bequests for American higher education, featuring gifts that shaped Columbia University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, New York University, Princeton University, and Williams College.

Ron Brown ’72 is America’s leading authority on the history of planned giving. He published A History of Charitable Gift Planning in 2017 and provides new research on his website at www.giftplanninghistory.org. He directed the Planned Giving Office at Princeton University for 15 years and served in similar positions with Columbia University, Fordham University, the Pratt Institute, United Way of America, and the National Wildlife Federation. He served on the boards of the American Council on Gift Annuities and the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.

The Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York selected Ron for its Distinguished Service Award in 2019.

Ron became a professional historian while serving with the US Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC. A retired Commander in the US Naval Reserve, he received two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for historical writing and research. He received an AB degree in English literature and philosophy from Princeton and an MA from the University of Chicago, where he studied the history of ideas and edited News & Notes, the newsletter of the Oriental Institute.

He is a member of Princeton University’s Planned Giving Advisory Committee, Treasurer of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, and member of the executive committee for the Princeton Class of 1972.

Ron has two children and two grandchildren, and lives in Brooklyn Heights.

Link to webinar on 1/25/21: Celebrating Bequests

Hi there,

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Jan 25, 2021 05:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Celebrating Three Centuries of Special Donors who Shaped our Universities

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84181470352?pwd=KzA0c0crY1psdFBHWmdGUmYyRzA4Zz09
Passcode: 224463
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16465588656,,84181470352#,,,,*224463#  or +13017158592,,84181470352#,,,,*224463#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 646 558 8656  or +1 301 715 8592  or +1 312 626 6799  or +1 669 900 9128  or +1 253 215 8782  or +1 346 248 7799
Webinar ID: 841 8147 0352
Passcode: 224463
International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kmwkhqAcq

Praise for America is a Given Place: A Digital Webinar

After watching my webinar for the Planned Giving Group of Connecticut on 11/12/20, Conrad Teitell wrote:  “Friends at PGGCT, if not for Ron Brown, this history would be lost forever. I hope you’ll archive his important talk and play it at least once a year.”  Conrad Teitell, Chairman, National Charitable Planning Group, Cummings & Lockwood; NACGP Hall of Fame

“This presentation brings a new perspective that can really help planners to understand their work and their field at a new level. It is a great opportunity for planners to learn so much so quickly!”   Russell N. James III, Professor & CH Foundation Chair in Personal Financial Planning and Director of Graduate Studies in Charitable Planning, Texas Tech University

“Ron Brown is the leading authority on where planned giving fits in with respect to philanthropy in America. What you’ll learn from his recounting of history is that legacy gifts have transformed institutions for longer than you’d imagine, and the profession has morphed many times over the centuries. Using no tax or math tricks, Ron will make you a better seeker of bequests when you understand the context of this kind of fundraising and hear stories about people who have come before us.”   Gary Pforzheimer, President, PG Calc

“I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to this new digital webinar.  As charitable gift planning continues to mature and evolve as a profession, I think it becomes ever more important that we gift planners have an understanding of the rich and complex history of this noble field and how we arrived at the present day. 

No one is better qualified to relate all this than Ron Brown.  Ron has spent many years researching the historic foundation of gift planning in America and brings his own extensive experience  as a leader in the field (dating from the 1980s), along with his background as a professional historian.  His webinar America is a Given Place offers a comprehensive and expertly structured history of gift planning.  In truth, I think anyone who is interested in gift planning — whether they are exploring entry into the field or have many decades of experience – will learn and benefit from viewing this excellent production.”    Chris Yates, former Chair of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners

“I watched the preview and am excited about the presentation! As a lifelong learner and as someone dedicated to the art and science of planned giving, this webinar is a tremendous gift to all fundraising professionals that truly want to understand and excel in their craft. Thank you for your dedication and hard work to compile and share this information so that today’s and tomorrow’s gift planners can benefit and carry the torch for this profession for years to come.”   Nathan Stelter, President, The Stelter Company 

“My friend and colleague Ron Brown’s webinar America is a Given Place is rich in the historic importance of gift planning and presents the foundation to understand gift planning’s role in American philanthropy today. I’d highly recommend it as a presentation for your gift planning council or for your office.”   Margaret Holman, President of Holman Consulting

“What a wonderful resource and a smart way to get the message out! Ron’s informative webinar will help gift planning councils stay relevant and make their members more effective gift planners.”   Scott Lumpkin, Former Vice Chancellor of Advancement – University of Denver and NACGP board

“I think this is a great program, and, having seen versions of this ‘in the flesh’ before, I know Ron does a fabulous job with the topic. I don’t know anyone who knows this subject better.”   Dr. Bruce Bigelow, Senior Partner at Charitable Development Consulting and past Chair, National Association of Charitable Gift Planners 

“With wit and wisdom, Ron Brown’s presentation illuminates our field of gift planning with historical context. Ron combines the skills of gift planner and historian masterfully to demonstrate the beauty and resilience of the gifts we craft today.”   Rozlyn Anderson Flood, Philanthropic Advisor, Princeton University and NACGP Board

“I really enjoyed this webinar! Over the years Ron has shared snippets in presentations–NACGP Master’s Forum and at conferences. Viewers will find this presentation interesting as he walks through history–both far and near–and ties the various pieces together into a coherent webinar. Ron is a Gift Planning and history master. A must-see for anyone with an interest in how Gift Planning evolved and its relevance today.”   Alexandra Pia Brovey, Author and Charitable Gift Planner


More about America is a Given Place:

Brief preview clip: https://wp.me/pb878a-fH

Practical benefits from watching: https://wp.me/pb878a-gH

Support by the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners: https://wp.me/pb878a-gw

Ron Brown’s speaker bio and promotional piece for your website: https://wp.me/pb878a-gV

Summary outline of webinar topics: https://wp.me/pb878a-gf

Selected sources: https://wp.me/pb878a-go

Sample Presentation Promo by NJ Council of Charitable Gift Planners

America is a Given Place
A Brief History of Charitable Gift Planning

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
10:00 AM — 11:30 AM
Virtual Format – Complimentary

Where can you turn for knowledge of events that shape gift planning today? In this convenient new presentation you will learn the deepest original foundations of gift planning in the U.S. by seeing major events, appreciating important innovations, and re-enacting landmark national debates and resulting legislation.
 
What benefits can you expect from investing an hour of your time in America is a Given Place? Knowing the history of charitable gift planning is quite useful, even indispensable, for people who encourage or advise donors. Here is a sampler of your benefits:

 1. You will understand the principles behind laws, regulations and practices, so you can explain why things work the way they do

 2. History informs your marketing. Stories of realized bequests and trusts are historical narratives!

3. Good stories provide you with insights into how donors, planners, & policymakers saw themselves and their mission, and inspire you to connect more deeply

4. Historical trends in mortality and investment returns play a fundamental role in your gift design and tax calculations

5. History enables you to know yourself and your important role in America’s highly evolved system of philanthropy

The bottom line is: you will be a better-informed, more effective gift planner. 

PRESENTED BY Ron Brown

America is a Given Place is based on my 40 years as a charitable gift planner, including 15 years as director of gift planning at Princeton University, my alma mater. I served on the boards of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners and the American Council on Gift Annuities. In 2019 the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York selected me for a distinguished service award.

I was trained as a professional historian 30 years ago and have devoted thousands of hours to scholarly research and writing. I published some of the results in A History of Charitable Gift Planning (Amazon 2017) and add content from time to time at http://www.giftplanninghistory.org

REGISTER TODAY

Our mailing address is:
New Jersey Council of Charitable Gift Plannners
P.O. Box 1783
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

 

Who Issued the Earliest Gift Annuity: Yale or the American Bible Society?

A recent article in the New York Times* claimed that the American Bible Society issued America’s first charitable gift annuity in 1843. When I pointed out to its author that in 1831, Yale issued an annuity to John Trumbull in exchange for his best paintings of the American Revolution, he asserted two things in an email to me: 1) his article is about the first gift annuity program at the Bible Society, not the first annuity contract; and 2) Trumbull’s gift was not really a gift annuity because it was funded with assets that were “completely illiquid” and was not “an actual gift that generated an annuity.” He asserted that “While a pile of paintings certainly has value, it’s far more difficult to ascertain than a gift of straight cash or securities.”

Do those claims hold up? Let’s look at the historical record.

Yale, Trumbull, and his attorney Peter Jay all believed that Trumbull was making a gift with investment value through a legal arrangement that would provide him with a life annuity and leave behind a donation that would continue to benefit Yale financially.

During the business negotiations leading to his annuity contract with Yale, Trumbull wrote to Harvard President Josiah Quincy describing the terms of his gift:

“I have Conveyed my original paintings of Subjects of the Revolution, with others, to the President and Fellows of Yale College—burthened with payment of an annuity to me during my Life:–and afterward the income which may be derived from the Exhibition of them to be applied forever to the Education of poor Scholars …” [Letter from Trumbull dated September 16, 1831]

In their annuity contract, Yale and Trumbull agreed that the college would first apply the income from exhibiting his paintings towards underwriting his annuity payments, then use exhibition income to provide financial aid to Yale students:

[Trumbull’s paintings] “shall be exhibited, and the profits of such exhibition shall be received by the parties of the second part [Yale], and applied in the first place toward the payment of the said annuity during the life of the said John Trumbull, and the whole of such profits after his death … shall be perpetually appropriated toward defraying the expense of educating poor scholars in Yale College …” [Contract dated December 19, 1831]   

What was the value of Trumbull’s paintings of important events of the American Revolution? The author correctly points out that the value of art is “difficult to ascertain,” but Yale and Trumbull did agree on a stated value of $20,000. That valuation was the basis for a 5% annuity payment to Trumbull, or $1,000 per year for his life, payable in quarterly installments.

Trumbull’s attorney was Peter Augustus Jay, son of Chief Justice John Jay. Peter Jay drafted the contracts that led both sides to agree to risky and legally-binding financial commitments. Note that John Jay was President of the American Bible Society from 1821 until his death in 1829, and that Peter Jay served as Chair of the Bible Society’s Legacy Committee.

Peter Jay’s experience with the Yale annuity must have given the Bible Society some comfort when it issued its first annuity contract in 1843. The actual Bible Society contract with Joseph Keith was lost or destroyed many years ago, but from 1843 until well into the 1920s, the Bible Society used the distinctive terminology Peter Jay invented for the Yale contract in 1831: annuity bonds.

It is not the case that the Bible Society foresaw the future success of a gift annuity program when it issued an annuity contract to Keith in 1843. In fact the Board of the Society soon had second thoughts about the financial and legal risks of annuities. When a new gift annuity was proposed three years later, the Board voted on June 4, 1846 “to decline the present proposal and all others of like character.”

The American Bible Society’s willingness to issue gift annuities was ended in 1846. It would be revived some years later. In the 1920s it would become by far the most successful and influential gift annuity program in the U.S.

Yale’s gift annuity with John Trumbull, the “chief visual recorder of the American Revolution,” was one of a kind, not a program. But the Bible Society’s gift annuity in 1843 also was not a program.

I have asked the author to correct the record in the New York Times. I hope readers will agree that Yale “underwrote the first such charitable annuity” in 1831. The story is well-documented in my book A History of Charitable Gift Planning: How Gift Annuities Shaped American Philanthropy (Amazon, 2017).


* Paul Sullivan, “Weighing Pandemic Risks When Donating to Colleges,” New York Times, September 4, 2020