Thoughts about Giving: Planned Gifts

By Neal Zoren
MSAA Director of Development

Most gifts to MSAA are random. They come as people think of adding to the quality of life for someone affected by MS, or are prompted by a letter or telephone call.

Random gifts are appreciated. MSAA thanks all donors for their thoughtfulness and generosity. We could not offer many of our vital programs and services without them.

Planned gifts are of a different breed… A special breed! By definition, a planned gift is one that is purposeful and considered. It promises extra advantage for the donor and the charity. It provides both with a sense of structure.

The donor has the ability to frame his or her gift. Decisions rest on whether one intends to make an outright gift, continue to support MSAA after one’s passing (through a bequest or ongoing trust), or derive some income while supporting a favored charity.

The donor can plan his or her gift around an overall financial strategy, perhaps discussed with an attorney, a financial advisor, or someone from MSAA. Mutual benefit is the aim. Donors settle on a planned gift that suits their intentions and needs while deriving the satisfaction that they have significantly helped the charity continue its mission. The donor’s personal goals and the charity’s objective to sustain its valuable programs and services have both been met.

The charity’s benefit is immeasurable. With random gifts, the charity can project that it will generate enough income to do its basic work and continue its benefit to the people who need its help. With planned gifts, a charity can project a lot further. Planned gifts are predictable. A charity has a more definite idea of revenue to come. Knowing we can depend on a specific amount of income from donors who have stated firm intentions to give a certain gift in a particular period of time, MSAA can expand services, explore initiatives, and react quickly to situations we learn about during Helpline conversations or in assessment surveys.

The donor’s planned gift leads to MSAA’s planned strategy. It translates to more mobility, security, convenience, and access to vital information for people who cope daily with the chronic and unpredictable challenges of MS.

MS may be unpredictable. Planned gifts are the opposite. Their predictability allows MSAA the wished-for opportunity to better measure the scope of what it can do for the people it serves.

Timely Giving

Before going into some of the ways donors can structure planned gifts, it’s important to mention something that they can do before December 31, 2012. All gifts to MSAA are tax deductible, so any gift made before the end of the year can yield the donor a tax advantage. Donors who are age 70½ or older may also save on taxes by transferring funds from their IRA and other retirement plans to a charity, like MSAA, by New Year’s Eve.

While the donor cannot claim the gift as a charitable deduction, he or she will not pay income tax on the amount transferred to a public charity. This provides a solution for people who, by law, must withdraw money from tax-deferred accounts but either have no need for the mandatory funds or want to avoid the tax implications of the withdrawal. Because the gift generates neither taxable income nor a tax deduction, even those who do not itemize on their tax returns can receive the benefit.

Outright Gifts

Significant gifts to MSAA can be made in several ways. The simplest is to give online, using MSAA’s secure online donation form at Some people prefer to write a check, and that’s an easy way to give as well. If this gift were a planned gift, MSAA would know about it in advance, and recurrence might be arranged on a regular basis.

Some donors prefer to make a major contribution to MSAA’s mission by spreading a handsome gift over time. For instance, the donor will pledge $10,000 a year for five years, allowing MSAA to plan on applying the full sum of $50,000 in a specific, useful way.

Another popular way to make a major gift in small doses is the sustainer gift, a monthly gift that is usually deducted directly from the donor’s bank via electronic fund transfer or applied to a credit card. This turns $25 per month into a $300 annual gift. Sustainer gifts are a good option for donors who desire to make a significant gift but find it more feasible to send smaller gifts.


Providing a legacy through a bequest or an ongoing trust is worth considering for donors who have made gifts to MSAA for many years and would like to continue to support the Association’s mission in a meaningful way.

Language for including MSAA in one’s will can be found on our website at You may want to talk to an attorney or financial advisor if you are interested in benefiting MSAA with continuing gifts as a legacy.

Legacies can also be used to support or sustain a program in the manner that people endow chairs to universities. MSAA is always open to a discussion about this option.

Annuities and Trusts

Charitable Gift Annuities and Charitable Remainder Trusts allow a donor to benefit a favored charity while deriving income from his or her gift.

A gift annuity provides a contractual amount of return paid by MSAA to the donor in return for his or her contribution. The creation of a gift annuity is a way to establish a contracted quarterly income for you that is not affected by financial markets. The rate the donor receives is based on his or her age at the time the annuity is created and provides income for the donor’s lifetime.

A gift of $20,000 could, depending on the donor’s age and interest rate at the time, earn the donor more than $1,000 per year for life.

Charitable trusts are more complex and can yield a fixed or variable rate of return depending on the donor’s choice. They can also be arranged to be of mutual benefit to MSAA and to the donor in the form of annual income.

Planned gifts give both the donor and the charity a sense of assurance and continuity. If you are interested in discussing a planned gift, please call MSAA at (800) 532-7667 and ask to speak to Kim Goodrich (MSAA’s senior director of development, at extension 101), or Neal Zoren (MSAA’s director of development, at extension 128). Either of these staff members would be happy to speak with you and help you to determine if a planned gift is the right option for you.