#Be Like Miriam

Guest Correspondence


Last month we shared a story that resonated with a lot of people.

It started with some grants that Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded to help women in Charlotte County help themselves. One is helping homeless women, particularly victims of violence, find safe and stable housing. Another will provide access to health services for uninsured senior women who might otherwise go without care. The third enables the local United Way to proactively connect women who seek assistance for one problem with a range of programs to meet other needs they have.

But the hero in this story wasn’t Gulf Coast. We were just a supporting character. All three grants came from a fund here named for Miriam Raines. She was a longtime Charlotte County resident who died in 2013, when she was nearly 100 years old. Before she passed, Miriam planned a gift in her will that eventually created the Miriam P. Raines Charitable Fund, a permanent endowment within Gulf Coast Community Foundation. It’s what we call a “field of interest” fund, because it targets needs in a particular focus area specified by the donor. In Miriam’s case, that was helping Charlotte County women improve their lives by educating themselves and furthering their life skills. 

The story went on to share that these grants were the latest of more than 20 that have been awarded from her fund since it was formally established. In a little over four years, nearly half-a-million dollars has been granted from Miriam’s fund to support the good work of nonprofits that help educate and empower women in the community she called home. Many of the grants have built on one another too, helping those agencies develop systems of support rather than just providing a one-time gift in isolation. And that will continue, year after year, forever.

Soon after publishing this story, we heard from two different Gulf Coast donors who’d had “aha” moments. Both are philanthropists who already give generously and strategically, but they recognized a way to enhance that giving. The idea that they could embed their interests, values, and hope for others into a permanent source of good, and that they also could trust a partner to carefully and intentionally steward that legacy forever—well, that was powerful. One of them said simply: “I want to do that!”

The stories of Miriam Raines and the people she continues to inspire are especially timely now that we’ve entered the year-end giving season. The bulk of a calendar year’s charitable giving typically occurs in its last two months. The final three days of the year tend to be the very heaviest for donations. Here at Gulf Coast, we are excited for the flurry of activity that has already started as we assist so many of our donors with their year-end gifts.

But Miriam’s story highlights the benefits of planning your giving with a bigger picture in view. And our donors’ response proves that you can have your (philanthropic) cake and eat it too. By that I mean you can craft a charitable plan that lets you enjoy seeing the impact of your current giving today while also ensuring your legacy will live in perpetuity, addressing issues and opportunities we can’t even imagine today.

There are about as many different ways to structure a charitable gift as there are reasons to give. You might want to set up a tax-free transfer from an IRA to support a favorite charity. Or create a donor advised fund with a gift that earns a tax deduction now but lets you grant out the money to charities on your own timeline. Some donors like to gift appreciated stock or a complex asset like real estate because of tax benefits. Gulf Coast Community Foundation is here to help donors and their legal and financial advisors sort through the options to best meet their needs and goals for this year and beyond.

But the motivation to give that rests solely with the individual. To say “I want to do that!” and then to follow through. To be like Miriam. “To donate” begins with “to do,” after all.

Mark S. Pritchett is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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