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Assessing not-for-profit boards

Foundation helps US donors support Canadian charities

publication date: Jul 17, 2011
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author/source: Janet Gadeski
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For Canadians, giving isn't just a national pastime any more, says client service manager Tricia Cummings of Tides Canada. We're a wandering people. An estimated 2 million of us live in the US, many earning US income and interested in supporting charities "back home."

Add to that the numbers of Americans with Canadian connections through their families, work or vacation experiences, and you have a significant pool of prospects for Canadian charities.

Free trade, but not free giving

But US residents face the same constraint as Canadian residents who want to give beyond their borders. They can claim tax deductions only for gifts to a charity registered with their own government and headquartered in their own country.

That's where Tides Canada can make the difference, Cummings told delegates at Toronto's annual conference of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners in April. Working in partnership with Tides US, it makes grants in Canada on behalf of US donors who've made designated gifts intended for Canadian charities to Tides US.

The same arrangement works in reverse for Canadian residents wanting to give to US charities - and it's all legal because each donor's money stays in her own country.

Other options

But if those legalities give you a headache, let's look at the alternatives. They're even more challenging.

If you know your charity could tap significant US support, it might be worth setting up a "Friends of ABC" registered charity in the US. All you need, explains Cummings, is $20,000 for start-up costs, plus the capacity to keep up with US charity law and file annually with the US Internal Revenue Service.

Or you might help a high-potential donor explore a donor-advised fund with a US community or public foundation that has IRS approval to grant outside the US. He will likely have to give $100,000 annually and pay fees between 5% and 8%.

High potential for US gifts

According to Cummings, Tides has researched "hundreds" of private foundations set up by Canadians in the US, plus donor-advised funds within other foundations. And in 2008, the Foundation Center reported that US$2.1 billion was granted outside the US. Six percent of that - US$126 million - came to Canadian charities.

"Philanthropists in the US are very internationally focused," she notes. "That giving is happening even without Canadian charities actively going after US dollars."

How to ask in the US

You may already have the means to target US donors. Cummings advises a more direct approach in fundraising copy, plus careful attention to American spelling. Data mining helps too. Segment your donors who are retired and live at least part of the year in the US. Look for signs that they hold US investments or income-earning properties.

Such donors can give easily through Tides US/Tides Canada. As long as they intend to give at least $1,000, they can obtain a specified donation form from Tides US. Tides US will charge 2% for administrative costs, and alert Tides Canada to grant the remaining 98% to your charity. (Funds to pay that grant come from Canadian donors who are sending charitable gifts in the other direction.)

Since 2002 Tides Canada's international granting service has facilitated US$21 million in gifts to Canadian charities.

For more information, contact Rachel Rocco, 1-866-843-3722.

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