Growing Non-Profit Attention to Real Estate Gifts

November 23, 2009

I attended a recent meeting of the Planned Giving Group of New England in Boston. It was “Real Estate Theme Day” at PGGNE, with presentations on real estate gifts by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, and by Harry Estroff, Real Estate Gift Manager at The Nature Conservancy. Coincidentally, on the same day, my colleague Chase Magnuson was presenting on real estate gifts at the National Capital Gift Planning Council in Washington, DC. Chase joined the development staff at George Washington University to develop a comprehensive real estate gifts program for the University, drawing on his background as founder and principal of Real Estate For Charities.

In February, I’ll be presenting at PGGNE on Real Estate Gift Basics.  I’ve also been asked to make presentations on real estate gifts in the coming months at the Chicago Planned Giving Council, the Minnesota Planned Giving Council, and the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council.

Why all the attention to real estate gifts?

Here’s my short list of reasons that development offices across the country are turning more of their attention to real estate gifts:

  1. There is growing awareness of the dramatic success of some real estate gift programs. For example, The Nature Conservancy has generated $300 million in real estate gifts (this doesn’t include gifts of conservation land) since 1982.
  2. Some charitably –minded donors want to proceed with plans to make gifts, but are cash-strapped and don’t have much in the way of appreciated securities, so are turning to the real estate portion of their balance sheets to make gifts.
  3. More and more property owners, particularly aging property owners, are finding the continued ownership, management and carrying costs of property – especially second, third or fourth homes – are more burdensome than enjoyable. They are thus quite interested in ways of disposing of their property with as little hassle as possible.
  4. Some property owners are wary of the process of marketing their properties in volatile times. They are therefore more inclined to gift the property, letting the charity undertake the marketing process.
  5. More financial advisors, as well as gift planners, have become knowledgeable of the range of real estate gift structures and how they can be helpful in addressing the retirement planning, estate planning, and charitable objectives of the families they work with.