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Friday, November 24, 2017

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Curtis Meadows on Philanthropy
Jacqueline Beretta

September, 2009

Curtis Meadows knows the importance and implications of new developments in nonprofit legal and accounting issues that we should consider as we teach the future leaders of society and the research issues affecting this field.

Meadows also appreciates the necessity of professionals to keep up with the changes in the law and accounting that pertains to the administration of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Playing the role of advisor and consultant demands the highest degree of trustworthiness and knowledge.

“Philanthropy asks profound questions about what donors and their families believe in and what they don’t. Founders of philanthropic organizations have to make difficult decisions regarding the extent to which they trust or mistrust their families and how they might control their hard earned funds. Professional advisors including lawyers, accountants, and bankers are important advocates during these sensitive planning sessions. There can be painful decisions that present themselves and only when there is significant trust can good decisions take place with the candor and honesty an advisor,” said Meadows. He also acknowledges that advisors have the duty to help their clients prepare to win at their philanthropic endeavors.

Sometimes, the family can feel that these charitable plans can seem like disinheritance; since these are funds they will not inherit. Early discussion and involvement with family members can explain that the founders are leaving their family a chance to make a difference in the world on a scale that they possibly could not have achieved on their own. Founders can teach their values and principles to those who are in most cases their most beloved – their family.

Meadows proposed that a great idea for families going through the process is to include their family in their philanthropy enterprise and plan a strategic planning weekend retreat for the entire family to come to grips with what the founders are trying to do. Advisors can help the family come to grips with what the founders are trying to do with their foundation, and simultaneously give their relatives a different kind of inheritance – values and principles.

Through many years of estate planning and probate work in his career, Meadows has drafted hundreds of wills and trusts. Years ago, he often wondered why were more of their clients were not more actively involved and charitably inclined in their wills. Most clients had actively given during their lifetime. He found the following statistics in a charitable giving study:

  • ½ of all Americans die leaving will
  • Of those, only 5% include anything in their will for charity
  • Only 2½% of all Americans leave anything to charity when they die
  • Yet 70% of all American households are making some annual contribution to charity

What happens with this real philanthropic impulse and practice when we prepare to dispose of all we have worked so hard to accumulate while we are planning our will?

  • The Council of Michigan Foundations conducted a survey of 125 financial planners – and found that 80% did not discuss philanthropy with their clients when working on their estate plans unless their client raised the issue
  • In another study, a group of 50 millionaires were asked why they did not currently give more to charity and had no plan to leave funds in their estates for charitable purposes – the number one reason sited was that their advisors never raised the issue with them.

“The lesson learned here is that tax, accounting, financial & estate planning advisors should raise the issue of their clients interest in philanthropic giving as part of their estate planning,” said Meadows.

Why should professionals care if clients give?

  • It is in our own communities’ best interest to try to increase the pool of local charitable funds. For some time our society has been moving toward a national decision thorough the actions of our elected officials at all levels that states that government should reduce or contain it’s role in providing assistance to those with needs and transfer some of that responsibility back to the local community. Some in congress argue that we should do this without adding any tax incentives. It is important to understand that the groups most likely to benefit from the tax deductions are those who give the most.
    • A Boston college survey study households with the highest 1% of annual income gave 33% of all total charitable $ given each year.
    • Statistics further show, when philanthropic giving is done at death, 75% of all charitable bequests come from only 3% of the estate.
  • With or without a tax incentive, local cities and towns cannot hope to provide the fair and caring communities we want to see without vast new contributed resources.
  • Today in this new world with new local accountability, we cant expect folks who live other places to rush in and care for our problems and needs in our local communities. Most of our capacity to help each other at the local level has to come from those who live among us. It’s up to us to step forward and support our own community.

A thoughtful estate planning process should include consideration and opportunity for giving. We must look at historical and philosophical reasons for the charitable sector that would help communities understand the reasons there are challenges and identify public expectations.

Founders, their hardworking boards and staffs are all needed to accomplish the ultimate goal of helping people become good stewards. The Meadows Foundation wanted to help their grant recipients effectively conduct and sustain the programs and activities that were supported by their funding. They found that many agencies and their leaders were deeply committed to their mission and had community understanding, passion and enthusiasm for their cause – but were also short on skills needed to manage and ensure a profitable nonprofit enterprise.

Eventually, to help these nonprofits, they established a nonprofit management assistance program to advise and consult with small to mid size community organizations. Thus, the Center for Nonprofit Management evolved. The Center employed a small force to use volunteer lawyers, bankers, insurance specialists, and accountants to help nonprofits find information and services. Thousands have since been provided with assistance.

With the success of the initial center, the Meadows Foundation then encouraged the establishment of 15 more throughout the state. Today, almost any Texas nonprofit can find professional consultants for any of their needs – many of whom are volunteers.

In 2000, Curtis Meadows moved to Austin to the University of Texas to found and establish the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. The objective of the center was to establish nonprofit and philanthropic courses throughout the university in every unit and department of the graduate school.

This led to the establishment of a portfolio program in nonprofit and philanthropic studies with 60 courses of interdisciplinary approach that includes philanthropy, volunteerism, and nonprofit management studies that are involved in every aspect of societal interest. And now, from history to architecture – from law to public policy - from business to social work – courses are available to solve the issues we will face in the future. We can now create leaders who understand the multidimensional complexities of our societal issues and recognize the value that learning can contribute through a holistic approach to seek resolution of these problems.

Yes, we have a lot to learn about communities – but through forward thinking education such as that afforded to students at the RGK Center in Austin and with the help of professional advisors who keep up with their education and training – consider the effect of long term objectives of philanthropy in Texas.

The original Executive Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service is Curtis W. Meadows, Jr. Mr. Meadows’ long career in the independent sector includes 18 years of service as President, CEO, and Director of the Meadows Foundation of Texas. During that time, the foundation’s assets grew from $60 million to almost $735 million, while dispensing more than $270 million in gifts and grants to assist the work of charitable and community organizations in Texas. At the time of his retirement in 1996, the Meadows Foundation was the third largest private foundation in Texas and the 39th largest in the United States. Mr. Meadows now holds the title of Director Emeritus of the Meadows Foundation.

Mr. Meadows has also held leadership positions with more than 60 charitable and community organizations, including the Board of Trustees of Austin College, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, the Murrell Foundation, and the Dallas Bar Foundation. He also served as President and Director of the Center for Nonprofit Management, the Center for Housing Resources and as President and Board Chairman of the Conference of Southwest Foundations. Mr. Meadows holds B.B.A. and J.D. degrees from The University of Texas at Austin.

 



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