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Frequently Asked Questions


1. What assets can I use to make a gift to The Nature Conservancy?
Generally speaking, during your lifetime you can make an outright gift of cash, securities or other property (e.g., real estate, personal property).

Through your will or with a distribution from a retirement plan or life insurance policy, your gift can be designated to The Nature Conservancy in accordance with your wishes.

2. What sort of gift plans also return income to me?

You have the option of making a gift that returns income to you, your spouse, or other individuals. These are a charitable gift annuity, or charitable remainder unitrust or annuity trust and the Pooled Income Fund.

3. What tax deduction will I receive for my gift?
Your tax benefits will depend on several factors: the type of gift, the time at which it is made, whether it is outright or deferred or has any income payments. In general, though, here are some guidelines:

  • Outright gifts to The Nature Conservancy generate a full income-tax charitable deduction. Outright gifts of appreciated securities are deductible at fair market value, with no recognition of capital gains — a great tax benefit!
  • Gifts of personal property, like art, books and collectibles, are fully deductible so long as they are relevant to our mission. We can advise you on this point. Please contact us for more information.
  • Bequests do not generate a lifetime income tax deduction. They are exempt from estate tax.
  • Similarly, life insurance distributions to The Nature Conservancy are not income-tax deductible, but are exempt from estate tax. If you have made us the irrevocable owner and beneficiary of a policy during your lifetime, you may deduct annual gifts that offset premium payments (for more details on this point, see Question 4 below).
  • The charitable deduction for a gift that returns income to you, such as a charitable gift annuity or a charitable remainder trust, is the fair market value of the gift asset minus the present value of the income interest you retain.

4. I want to set up a life insurance policy, name The Nature Conservancy as beneficiary, but retain ownership of the policy. Can I deduct the premium payments I make?
No. The IRS would not consider that a "completed gift." As the owner of the policy, you still have the right to change the beneficiary designation to a friend or family member. We must be made the irrevocable owner of the policy for gifts offsetting premium payments to be deductible.

5. I’ve heard that leaving all or part of my retirement plan assets to charity is advantageous. Why?
Qualified retirement plans such as IRAs, 401(k), 403(b), and Keoghs allow individuals to defer paying taxes on a portion of their income until the assets are withdrawn during retirement years. However, after a person's death, these accounts are often exposed to income and estate taxes, at a combined rate that could rise to 75% or even higher on large taxable estates. The tax will be paid at some point—by your estate and your heirs unless contributed to charity. In other words, by giving retirement assets to charity you receive double benefits. Your estate and heirs will not be taxed on the portion that goes to charity.

6. Can I transfer my IRA to The Nature Conservancy to set up a life-income gift, and avoid income tax on the transfer?
New legislation gives donors aged 70½ and older an opportunity to direct lifetime distributions from their IRAs to us without incurring income tax liability on the withdrawal. The provision will be in effect for just the 2006 and 2007 tax years. Distributions can total $100,000 per year, and must be made outright — they cannot fund a life-income gift.

Donors younger than 70½ can make a withdrawal from their IRA or other type of retirement plan, pay income tax on the withdrawal, and donate the proceeds to us. These gifts can be made outright or can fund a life-income gift and will generate a charitable deduction for the donor.

7. Can I deduct the fair market value of a painting if I donate it to you?
Usually no, because the IRS would consider the painting “unrelated” to our charitable mission and purposes, and so would limit your deduction to your cost basis in the painting. Before making any gift of personal property, we recommend that you discuss it with our office first.

8. I'm interested in establishing a charitable gift annuity. What financial provisions will you make for the income payments to me and my spouse?
Your charitable gift annuity will be treated as a general obligation of The Nature Conservancy, backed by all of our assets. We have an unbroken record in making timely payments to our annuitants, and that ongoing responsibility is a key element in our financial policies.

9. If I create a bequest or life-income gift, will you continue to ask me for annual contributions?
Your planned gift is a significant addition to our long-term financial strength and our ability to meet the challenges and opportunities the future will bring. However, today's efforts are supported through annual gifts and we greatly appreciate and encourage any annual support you may want to consider.


Information that may interest you ...

You can leave a legacy for nature. Learn about our Legacy Club.

Support nature through your estate plan. Find out how.

Have you left the Conservancy in your will? Let us know.

You can protect rivers and other natural places by making a planned gift with The Nature Conservancy.
Contact us today.

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