A brief primer focuses on the laws governing charitable giving.
Hopkins (The Law of Tax Exempt Organizations, 2015, etc.) has devoted nearly half a century to advising nonprofit, tax-exempt corporations how to negotiate the legal landscape of philanthropy. But in recent years, the author has noticed more individual clients seeking his counsel, and it is that crowd to whom this guide is addressed. Hopkins begins at the elemental level, taking nothing for granted, including a basic definition of the philanthropist as “an individual who contributes large sums of money for charitable purposes.” For someone who wishes to engage in considerable giving, the legal options available are dauntingly complex: One can form a private foundation, create a public charity, start an account called a donor-advised fund, or confect some hybridized version of all three. The author methodically helps readers articulate what precisely they want to accomplish and carefully weigh the options most conducive to the achievement of those goals. For example, if philanthropists insist on creating organizations over which they can assert maximum control, private foundations are probably the wisest vehicles. But if maximizing charitable deductions is one’s principal objective, a public charity likely makes more sense. Hopkins also discusses the possibility of garnering public recognition for charitable giving without the legal burden of institutionalization by virtue of naming gifts. Furthermore, he assesses the various ways all these options can be structured, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each, and includes detailed analyses of illustrative case studies. His book is both remarkably concise and exhaustive—it’s difficult to imagine a more comprehensive introduction to the topic of comparable brevity. Especially considering the dense, intimidatingly technical nature of the subject matter, the author writes in mercifully lucid prose of the kind one would expect from a veteran teacher. In addition, he points out, with a wry charm, the ambiguities and omissions that bedevil the law: “What is the minimum amount that should be contributed in forming a private foundation? No one knows.”
A valuable and thorough resource for aspiring philanthropists.