Dead men read no 401(k)s

A note from last month:

Slate and Chronicle of Philanthropy Publish Annual Ranking of Top Donors of 2008; Most Gave Only After Their Death

So apparently the only people who aren’t panicky about their financial futures are people who don’t have financial futures.

“Some of the country’s richest philanthropists say the bleak economy is causing them to put off making new gifts, and fund raisers already are noticing a dip in eight- and nine-figure donations,” said Stacy Palmer , editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which has tracked and published this data since 2000, and also provides the data and reporting used to compile the Slate 60 list.  “What’s different about this recession as compared to the last few is that it is affecting charitable donations of all kinds, not just those by the poor and middle class.”


“In the 13 years we’ve published the Slate 60 list, this is the first time a majority of the top donors have come from estates,” said David Plotz , editor of Slate. “Regardless, we continue to be inspired by the charitable donations the list recognizes and hope our readers are, too.”

Perhaps the Nonprofiteer would be more inspired if the largest gift wasn’t Leona Helmsley’s charitable trust for her dog.  But of course that, too, explains the uptick in giving by dead people: they don’t have to listen to other people’s carping about what they should have done with their money.


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4 Responses to “Dead men read no 401(k)s”

  1. james simpson Says:

    Non-profits aren’t the only ones hurting…
    How about a macrofundraising model as a solution? Macrofundraising is a free standing application of in-place systems used to supplement fundraising and re-directs consumers to local businesses that also benefit, but has the potential of raising substantive funds in a whole new way.

    These systems are necessary:

    1. A branded card platform (, which offers Visa Debit cards sponsored by a local business association or non-profit, and the cards that may even be paid for by a generous local donor. (No credit application is necessary so EVERYbody can get one.)

    2. Merchants, service providers, etc., who agree to give back a small percentage of each sale with each card swipe. (Hundreds…even thousands of merchants do so already…Sears, Macy’s, grocers, etc.)

    3. Cardholding community members are now brandishing a Visa Debit Card that promotes their own mission or cause, and the cardholder sees dollars flowing into that mission or passion each and every time the card is used…at no cost to the cardholder…totaling hundreds of dollars yearly.

    4. A local business association (Chamber of Commerce, Hospital Donor Development office) that ties it all together with a local promotion and marketing campaign (

    The above four components are what makes up the macrofundraising platform, and the only necessary marketing element is a local flagwaver to make it happen. Plus, it can be filtered down to each local non-profit organization through their existing donor list, each of whom gets a card from the non-profit.

    To sweeten the pot and incent the cardholder, iCareCard will allow the cardholder to “share” the generated donation with their own tax-advantaged, IRS regulated HSA, 401K, IRA or College 529 plan.

    That’s the basic approach, and I’m the flagwaver in my community. No more grant or gift applications, just putting my feet on the street to connect the elements above. Oh, and by the way, the worse the economy gets, the more people use debit (already more than credit cards as of 2006), so we’re no longer dependent upon deep pockets since poor people can now help just as much as wealthy people since NONE of the donations come from the pocket of the cardholder.

    Local merchants love it because they’re getting killed by the explosion of ineffective and expensive advertising vehicles that work less and less. Now they are actually the “preferred and referred” vendors of the groups of people they benefit.

    Jim Simpson, iCareCause
    Cleveland, Ohio
    (216) 409-6004

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      Without evidence of the results, I can’t really evaluate this approach. In general, though, I’m skeptical of “giving” programs that purport to enable people to give without in any way changing their existing consumption patterns. As I sit at my own bill-paying desk and try to decide how I can continue to consume AND continue to give to charity–and which one I’ll choose if I can’t–I see no way to avoid altering current patterns. Getting a new credit card, with whatever logo on it, won’t change that; and we do people a disservice if we claim it will.

  2. Tony Adams Says:

    I often wonder what would happen if the time and effort spent on planned giving were directed towards actually building relationships with younger donors? (who can become larger donors in the future as their incomes grow.)

  3. Jeane Goforth Says:

    Yesterday I finally added up my cash donations to my non-profit last year: $50,575. Almost literally everything I’ve got.
    If I had more, I’d give more.
    I’m not panicky about my financial future. I’m 50. I’ve raised my children to independence.
    I’m worried about the financial future of the inner city children we serve.
    My mom says I’ll want nice things when I’m older. Wrong. What I want is to help as many children as I can to become productive members of our community.

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