December 01, 2015

Picture three robed, bearded, crown-clad Bedouins jumping into a Yellow Taxi – one leans out the window and yells, “Follow that star!” Obviously, that is a Christmas image more suitable for a ‘wise guy’ than a ‘wise man.’
The biblical story offers many reasons to confer the accolade of wisdom on the three kings. There may be no better confirmation of this noble trait, however, than their desire to express gratitude, honor, and joy through the act of giving. 
During this Christmas season your Missouri United Methodist Foundation fulfills a special mission helping people complete gifts that may be less familiar than an envelope in an offering plate. Here are three to highlight in 2015:

Gifts of Stock
Stocks that you have owned at least a year that have gone up in value can be a very cost-effective gift. Usually, you may claim a charitable deduction (if you itemize) for the full fair market value of the gift and the capital gains tax is avoided. The key is to transfer the stock directly to charity. 
Your Missouri UM Foundation processes stock gifts for the benefit of donors, churches, and ministries throughout the state. Just visit or call 800-332-8238 for easy instructions. 

IRA Gifts
If you are over 70 ½ years of age, then Uncle Sam requires you to start taking distributions out of your IRA (Individual Retirement Account). You might want to use these funds to make a gift. Of course, you can just write a check and claim a deduction (again, itemize!). You might also consider, however, asking your IRA administrator to make a distribution directly to your church. 
Why? For several years Congress has enacted laws allowing this type of direct IRA charitable gift. BUT, the law has often been re-authorized only at the very last minute – as in late December! If the law is re-authorized retroactively, then your direct distribution will qualify. It does not count as income to you, but it does count toward your RMD. If Congress does not act, then the gift is treated just the same as writing a personal check. (Contact the Foundation for all the details.)

Donor Advised Fund
Start a Donor Advised Fund at the Foundation and make it the hub for your church-related giving for years to come. After you have started your DAF, you can contribute to it at any time and in any amount, and then decide later where and when the charitable distributions should be made. 
These modern-day gifts hardly seem as poetic as the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the ancient kings. But the same star shines brightly for all wise and generous hearts. Let’s follow that star!