Nancy M. Brown, President/CEO of the Winona Community Foundation, shares her wisdom on fundraising topics through the Winona Post’s Professional Forum. Click on the subjects below to learn more about them.

Brown’s past experience includes Senior Director of Development at Saint Mary’s University; Vice President/Consultant at Thompson & Associates, an independent consultant, Executive Director of Development at Winona Health, and Director of Major Gifts and Advancement Services at Winona State University. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Master’s in Philanthropy and Development program at LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Science in Administration Degree from University of Notre Dame. She is also a Certified Fundraising Executive.

Community foundations work to encourage and grow charitable giving in a community. They do this with the goal of ensuring the community it serves is vibrant and thriving in many areas including health, safety, education, arts, environment and more.

Unlike most charities, a community foundation does not provide direct services or programming. Instead, they carry out this broad mission by building permanent endowment funds as well as non-endowed funds established by local individuals, families, businesses, or charitable institutions. The funds are invested back into the community’s nonprofits through grants.

They also serve as a resource to donors who may need advice or assistance on how to maximize their charitable giving. This includes answering questions on the best assets to make a gift, how to include charitable giving in estate plans, or how to evaluate a charity. Ultimately, a community foundation is a resource and tool for charitable giving whether directly to or through the foundation.

Many people understand the advantage of donating appreciated stock to charity: donate stock you’ve held for more than one year and you will get a tax deduction equal to the value of the stock on the day the charity receives it, you avoid paying capitol gains, and the charity receives the full value of the stock. Great! But what about stock that has lost value?

If you’ve been reluctant to sell a stock because it’s lost value, but you also don’t want to keep hanging on to it, you may be able to make lemonade out of lemons. Instead of making a direct transfer to charity, sell the stock, recognize the capitol loss, and then donate the proceeds to charity for the most beneficial tax result. Recognizing a capitol loss may offset other gains. Donating to charity provides you with an income tax deduction. Since everyone’s situation is unique, you should seek appropriate legal or tax advise from a professional.

When people hear the word “foundation,” they will often think of big foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or the Ford Foundation. These foundations are considered “private” foundations. They are private because there is a limited number of donors to them, and it is unlikely an unrelated person would make a contribution to them.

A community foundation, however, has a wide range of donors and funds. They serve a geographic area. The Winona Community Foundation serves the greater Winona area – about a 15-mile radius, and most of its donors come from that same area. Community foundations are governed by a volunteer board of directors with a variety of skills and representation. The basic purpose of a community foundation is to build a permanent source of charitable funds through endowments along with funds for immediate needs.

Donor advised funds are a simple, flexible way to manage your charitable giving. You make one gift. Receive one receipt for tax purposes. And get to make grants to multiple charities over a period of time. During that time, your gift is invested for tax-free growth. That’s a pretty nice benefit.

Your local community foundation is one number of types of organizations that sponsor donor advised funds. However, they stand out for a few different reasons. When you choose a community foundation, you will receive personalized service from someone you know. Community foundation staff have local knowledge and expertise in the challenges and opportunities in need of funding. And there is the added bonus that their service fees are re-invested into the community, increasing your charitable impact.

If you’re considering a donor advised fund. Consider your community foundation first.

You’re right to be thinking of this possibility. Although it doesn’t happen frequently, sometimes charitable organizations fold. Other times they may merge with another organization, or even change focus. If you want to ensure your intended legacy is met, a good way to do that is to work with your local community foundation. Together you can draft an agreement that clearly outlines your intentions and advises the community foundation how to fulfill them after you’re gone. You can include alternative charities or a more general field of interest.

Example: You want to benefit a specific animal rescue. Your fund agreement states gifts will benefit that animal rescue. In case the rescue no longer exists or later folds, you include language that either specifies a different charity or a broader field of interest such as animal well-being. Your legacy continues to address a cause important to you.

While I wouldn’t say the options are endless, but when you work with a community foundation, you have a lot of flexibility in designing your legacy.

It is human instinct to want to help when you see people suffering. In fact, a recent study conducted by Engine Group on behalf of Fidelity Charitable indicates 25% of Americans have already helped the people of Ukraine in some manner. Others want to give but are concerned their donations might not reach the intended recipients or for the intended purpose. These are not uncommon concerns.

If you are responding to an international crisis, you can lesson those concerns by finding organizations that are experts in disaster relief and recovery. A quick internet search will provide many examples. Visit their websites. Then check them out on a charity review site such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or

If you are responding to a domestic or local disaster, reach out to your community foundation. The staff there will known which local organizations are addressing what kind of needs. You can also give to an organization you already know or support that has a disaster or humanitarian aid fund. This may include your faith community or service clubs. And of course, if you know someone who is directly impacted, you can always support them directly.

The short answer is: not in 2022. When congress enacted the CARES Act in 2020, it provided for a $300 charitable deduction for tax filers who took the standard deduction. In 2021, Congress extended the deduction but revised it to allow joint filers to deduct $600, while single filers remained at $300. The deduction is limited to cash contributions – check, credit card, or debit card, and only to “qualified” charities. Unfortunately, this act was temporary and was not extended into 2022.

Even if you do not itemize, there are tax-advantaged ways to support the causes you care about. This includes donating appreciated assets such as stock or mutual fund shares directly to charity, bunding your donations through a donor advised fund at your local community foundation, or using your IRA to make a qualified charitable distribution.

Because every situation is unique, and my answer is for general informational purposes, it is important that you talk to an accountant or attorney before making any significant financial/tax decision.

Well, that depends upon how you define “smart.” Actually, if you have held stock for more than a year, donating it directly to charity is one of the most tax-smart ways to give. Why? Because when you donate stock (or mutual fund shares) directly to charity, you avoid paying capital gains taxes. In effect, you are giving up to 20 percent more than if you sold the stock first and then made a cash donation.

In addition to the tax advantage of giving stock to charity, today’s tax environment makes contributing to a donor advised fund (DAF) extremely attractive. With a higher standard deduction, fewer people are itemizing. By funding a DAF, you can bundle multiple years of charitable giving in one year and direct those gifts over time. If you use an appreciated asset, you benefit from both avoiding capital gains and the ability to take the charitable deduction.

Everyone’s situation is unique, and I am happy to answer questions and provide options on how to maximize your charitable giving, but since I am neither an accountant nor attorney, you should always contact your professional advisor for advice specific to your situation.

A donor advised fund (DAF) is a charitable account held and managed by a sponsoring organization, such as the Winona Community Foundation. A donor contributes money to the fund and receives an immediate tax benefit. The funds are invested and grow tax-free, and the donor recommends grants to the charities they love. Basically, you make one gift and get to keep on giving.

A DAF might be right for you if you like the convenience of making one gift and receiving one tax receipt. It might be because you had a taxable event or you are donating an appreciated asset such as stock or mutual fund shares. It also may be a way to “bundle” multiple years of giving into one year, allowing you to itemize. Family or corporate philanthropy may also be a motivator. DAFs work a lot like a private foundation without all the legal costs, tax filings, and IRS regulations.

If you are curious and want to learn more about DAFs, contact me.

First, everyone’s situation is different. It’s important you talk to your accountant or tax advisor about your specific situation. With that, if you are age 70 ½, have a traditional IRA, and make gifts to charity, using your IRA may be a smart way to make gifts to the charities you love.

When you’re ready to make a gift, contact your IRA administrator to request a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) be made directly to your charity. The benefit of a QCD is you do not report the distributed amount as income while your charity receives the full amount to use toward its mission. If you’re age 72 or older, you have the added benefit of counting the QCD toward your required minimum distribution (RMD).

You can make as many QCDs as you want in a year, as long as the cumulative amount doesn’t exceed $100,000. Because you do not recognize the distribution as income, you cannot use the gift as a tax deduction. Which, if you claim the standard deduction, you would not be able to do anyway.

If you would like to learn more or wonder if your charities qualify, I’m here to help.

Donor advised funds are a highly effective way to manage your charitable contributions while receiving maximum tax benefits. You are smart to be exploring your options. And there are many. However, choosing your community foundation has added benefits that a national organization or large investment firm simply cannot offer.

First, the greatest value of a community foundation is its knowledge of the community. The foundation staff and board members live, work, and volunteer in that very community. This gives them a deeper understanding of the issues, needs, and opportunities where your charitable contributions can have the greatest impact.

Beyond that, by choosing your local community foundation, you have the added benefit of contributing to your community’s economy. Regardless of where you set up a fund, there are administrative fees. When you use the local community foundation, those fees stay local. They support the general operations of the foundation and its community grantmaking.

So, the answer is simple, you already support your local community. The advantage of choosing your local community foundation for setting up your donor advised fund makes good community sense.

Fewer than 1% of American estates pay federal estate taxes. Unless your estate is worth more than $11.7 million for an individual, you will not need to worry about the federal estate tax. Minnesota has a tax on estates valued at $3 million or more.

Even if you are not subject to state or federal estate taxes, if you hold any assets that have “income in respect of decedent” (IRD) such as a traditional IRA, you should be thinking about taxes. Current regulations and how your heirs handle this asset may incur significant income tax liabilities.

But what does this have to do with charitable giving?

Including charitable giving in your estate plan is an effective way to reduce taxes and may help you transfer more assets to your heirs. When it comes to IRD assets, gifting them to charity or establishing a charitable remainder trust, can significantly reduce the taxes paid by your heirs. There are easy and more complex ways to use charitable giving to successfully transfer assets and each estate is unique. The Winona Community Foundation does not offer legal or accounting advice, however, we can help answer your questions and prepare you for a visit with your attorney or other advisor.

The first thing you should ask yourself before making a donation is “do I want to help” this cause. You should not feel obligated, coerced, or forced into making a donation. Giving should make you feel good.

If you are concerned a cause is not legitimate, there are different ways to confirm it. You can always ask the charity for a copy of its IRS letter of determination. That may not be the most convenient. An easier option is to check online resource such as’s tax-exempt organization search function,, or nonprofit review sites such as and

These sites tend to focus on larger charities. If you are looking at a local cause, contact your community foundation. Staff there are familiar with the various nonprofits in your community and can tell you if the effort is a public charity eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. They may even be able to connect you to someone at that organization.

If you are not concerned about a tax deduction, whether a cause is a public charity or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you care about the cause and have confidence in the people working on it. As I said in the beginning, giving should make you feel good.

An endowment is a fund where contributed dollars are never spent. Instead, the dollars are invested to provide a never-ending stream of income to support charitable work. You will usually find endowments at larger institutions such as universities, hospitals, and foundations, but any nonprofit can have an endowment. Among the many benefits of an endowment is it provides a permanent, predictable stream of income. Because the income is permanent, the charity can depend upon those dollars year in and year out, allowing them to focus on mission instead of fund raising.

If you have been donating to one or more charities during your lifetime, making a gift through your will or estate is a wonderful way to ensure that support continues. Or, if you would like to set up a scholarship to honor a friend or loved one, you can work with your community foundation to create an endowment fund that ensures your generosity continues for generations to come.

Nearly one third of annual giving happens in December, and 12 percent of all giving happens in the last three days of the year, according to statistics shared by Neon One. That means the charities you love are busy. That may also mean something could fall through the cracks or take longer to complete.

If you don’t plan to make a gift with stock or mutual fund shares, don’t wait until the last week of the year. Start it no later than early December. At the end of the year, the process can take up to three weeks, especially for mutual fund shares. When making a gift using a credit card, be sure it gets processed by 11:59 PM on December 31, otherwise the gift goes into the new year. Due to changes at the USPS, your check may take longer to get to its final destination as well.

Time to think about making those gifts today!

When you make a gift to a public charity you can take a tax deduction for the gift, provided you itemize. With changes in tax law, you may be better off taking the standard deduction, thus losing the charitable deduction (not including the above-the-line deduction of $300 per filer). If you are someone who contributes more than $300, bundling multiple years of giving into one year, may prove advantageous when you combine that gift with other itemized deductions like mortgage interest and state and local taxes.

The advantage of using a donor advised fund for bundling gifts is you receive an immediate tax deduction in the year you make that gift. One gift, one receipt. You don’t have to determine where your gift goes immediately. You control when and how much you grant to your favorite nonprofits in subsequent years. They benefit from your continued support.

There are other ways for tax advantaged giving. To learn more, contact me directly.

It is possible a charity might sell or share its donors’ name and contact information, but they should not disclose privileged or confidential information including donation amounts. Even though they can, most charities, especially local organizations, do not sell or share their lists. In fact, most have policies in place prohibiting the sale or sharing of donor names.

If you think your name has been sold, contact the organization and ask. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards, donors and clients must be given the opportunity to have their names removed from lists that are sold to, rented to, or exchanged with another organization.

In addition, if you receive unsolicited mail or contacts from an organization, you can tell them to remove you from future mailing or solicitations. Unfortunately, a few bad organizations will ignore your request. But keep in mind, the overwhelming majority of charities are doing good and important work and will honor your request.


Nancy M. Brown, CFRE