Four Simple Ways You Can Become A Philanthropist

Philanthropy: hard to say, fun to do

By Ken Castner

Ken Castner is a founder member of the Homer Foundation

Philanthropy is good for you.

Many think of philanthropists as aged, gray-haired people that have the means to do charitable work as a hobby.

The truth is that there is a philanthropist inside all of us. We coach, we make a meal for a neighbor in distress or celebration, we bake some sweets, or wash some cars, or pick up the check, or attend meetings, or … or … lots of things. American society would fall apart without our inherent human kindness.

Many people say: “I don’t have a jillion dollars. I have to scrape to just make ends meet.

Well, it’s not all about money. The adage for philanthropy is of giving your “time, talent, or treasure.” If you are “treasureless,” the opportunities for volunteerism are endless. But most of us have more treasures than we know, and that is the subject of this piece.

Four Ways You Can Give:

1. Pick, Click and Give allows you to send a piece of your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend to many of the local nonprofits. As little as $25 from the PFD. That’s easy.

2. Leave something in your will. Bequests are the most common way of transferring wealth. Benjamin Franklin set the standard for establishment of long-term self-sustaining funds that compounded itself into a rather princely sum. Each year, the earnings paid for a variety of educational and common good projects. Google the “Last Will of Benjamin Franklin” and read the codicil. It is fascinating in its eloquence and appreciation of the new American way. Bequests also allow you to express your will (the noun) on how you’d like to see the assets spent or managed. This would be a good reminder to write a will, if you don’t have one. Free forms are available to get you started.

3. Appreciated assets like those 10 shares of Apple grandma gave you 10 years ago. Worth less than $200 then (your basis), and now with a gain of $3,000, you can deduct the full appreciated amount from your taxable income (in a quiet voice: “Tax deductibility is subject to limitations established under the U.S. tax code”). Appreciated assets include securities, life insurance policies, Krugerrands, art and antiques.

4. One man’s trash … is another man’s treasure. Ebay, Craig’s list and yard sales have made it easy to find some value in stuff you don’t need or use. The Homer Foundation has converted donated cars, boats and kayaks into cash. If you don’t have any stuff, we’re back to time. Learn the ropes and help others with the selling effort. Round up some friends and make a list of stuff that you’ve moved three times or may be sinking into the tundra. Dispose, contribute, repeat. Recover some value before the next move is to the landfill. And help make your community a better place.

Community wide, a little bit each goes a long way. We live in one of the greatest places in the greatest time of all history. Appreciate what you have — but set something aside for those with less or those that follow. Philanthropy is good for you.