A season for giving

Steve Merrell |

Giving has a way of making us happier. At least that’s the conclusion several published studies have reached after exploring the relationship between charitable giving and satisfaction. A study published by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University summed it up concisely: “The more a household gives as a percentage of income, the higher the household’s life satisfaction.”

We are fortunate to live in a community with many excellent opportunities to give. Some people mistakenly believe they must make large gifts to make a big difference. That simply isn’t so. While nonprofit organizations obviously appreciate large gifts, most giving is done by people like you and me—regular folks who give what they can to make a difference. The success of the Monterey County Gives program illustrates how regular folks can come together to have a big impact.

Monterey County Gives was started nearly 20 years ago as the brainchild of the Monterey County Weekly. Since then it has grown to be a multifaceted community-wide effort to increase philanthropic activity in Monterey County. With the help of the Community Foundation for Monterey County and several other sponsors and partners, Monterey County Gives has raised over $22.5 million since its inception, granting those funds to more than 450 local nonprofits. Last year, Monterey County Gives raised $5.4 million from nearly 5,000 donors during its six-week campaign. This year is off to a good start, also. Since early November, more than $3 million has been raised from nearly 2,500 donors, including $1.5 million in individual donations, $513,000 in matching grants and $1.2 million in organizational challenge grants. You can see a real-time tally of the donations received at the Monterey County Gives website, montereycountygives.com.

Monterey County Gives allows you to direct your giving to any of the 163 local nonprofit organizations included in this year’s campaign. From the website, click on “Meet Our Nonprofits” and you will find a list of this year’s beneficiaries divided into six areas of interest: Animals, Arts & Culture, Community & Social Service, Education & Youth, Environment & Sustainability, and Health, Wellness & Food.

If you click on the link for any of the nonprofits, you will be taken to a page summarizing that organization’s mission, the amount that has been raised so far during this year’s campaign and other pertinent information. You will also find links to their website and their 2017 tax return (Form 990). If you like what you see, you can click on the bright red “Donate” button and make a gift. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Monterey County Gives also supports more sophisticated giving strategies. For example, if you want to donate appreciated securities like stock or mutual funds, you can contact the Community Foundation’s philanthropic services team. They will help you make your gift and ensure that your donation gets credited to the proper charity. They will also make sure that your targeted charity receives any matching funds available through Monterey County Gives.

If you are over 70 ½ and have not yet taken the required minimum distributions from your IRA, you might also consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) to Monterey County Gives. QCDs allow you to donate up to $100,000 each year to a nonprofit directly from your IRA. The QCD satisfies your required minimum distribution but is not reported as income on your tax return. Again, the philanthropic services team at the Community Foundation can answer any questions you have about QCDs.

This holiday season I encourage you to find the joy of giving. Give of your time; give of your talent; give of your treasure. As you experience the increased life satisfaction that comes from actively supporting those things that speak most directly to our soul, you may find that your giving is the best gift you receive this holiday season.



Steven C. Merrell  MBA, CFP®, AIF® is a Partner at Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., an independent wealth management firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions you may have concerning investments, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA  93940 or email them to smerrell@montereypw.com.