Charitable giving is big business.
Just ask Richard Peck, vice president of development and philanthropy services for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Last year, the nonprofit awarded $38 million in grants and $6 million in scholarships throughout the Granite State.
Three years ago, the foundation launched a 10-year, $100 million initiative to increase opportunities for young people.
I met Peck at a meeting of the USA 500 Club, a networking group for professionals that has chapters throughout New England. The Manchester chapter meets once a month at McLane Middleton, where member attorney Dennis Haley is based.
The club draws its members from attorneys, accountants, wealth management advisers, executive coaches, business evaluation experts, executive recruiters and other business disciplines.
That includes experts who work with private companies planning a sale or a succession of a business.
It’s the perfect mix for Peck, who leads a team of 14. A big part of Peck’s job is meeting with businesses and their advisers to get them more familiar with the foundation’s work and how they can incorporate philanthropy into their company’s DNA.
What community needs do they care about the most? How can they best align their company’s values with its philanthropic work? How can their charitable efforts help them retain and attract employees?
Peck joined the foundation a couple of years ago after working at Dartmouth College, where he led leadership initiatives and gift planning at the Geisel School of Medicine and Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system through separate 501©(3) nonprofit corporations. He recently presented a 15-minute primer to the club about programs tailored to business. We explored them in greater detail during an interview last week at the foundation’s office, which is housed in a restored church building on Pleasant Street in Concord.
We talked about corporate giving and donor-advised funds, business transition planning and philanthropy, and personal giving and engagement by business leaders after their sell their businesses. It’s a much more holistic approach than simply writing a check.
Corporate donor-advised funds
About 20 years ago, the foundation established corporate donor-advised funds as a tool for businesses to use for their philanthropy.
Since then, businesses have created a dozen of these funds, with aggregate dollars donated totaling $7.2 million. About $5.4 million are invested in the funds currently.
Businesses have used the donor-advised funds to distribute nearly $5.4 million to community programs, Peck said.
“A corporate donor-advised fund is a way for businesses to engage current employees and attract potential employees by making them part of the grant-making process, making them part of something that is benefiting the local community, making an impact and having the feedback from maybe a wide swath of different types of employees at the corporation to provide input,” he said.
The funds start with a $25,000 investment.
“Usually the corporation itself will put the money in, and they can ask us to come in and talk to them about a variety of subjects,” Peck said. “We can talk about scholarships, we can talk about the environment, helping kids, or just really turn it back to them. What do you think you want to accomplish?”
Mainstay Technologies, an IT and cybersecurity firm based in Manchester and Belmont, for example, has used some of the proceeds from its donor-advised fund to help refugee children attend summer camp and contributed to a scholarship for a student at NHTI.
The funds can include donations from employees that might be tax deductible. The donations also could be matched by the company as an incentive for employees to give.
Planning for a transition
Here’s the scenario: Some business owners plan to sell their company in five years. What’s the marketplace? What do they want their legacy to be? What do they plan to do after they sell the company? What are the tax implications for scheduling their charitable giving before the sale?
“These are all conversations we would like to have with people prior, and one of the things we did last fall was the business succession planning and philanthropy get-together,” Peck said. “It was a panel discussion, and the point of it was to say, who is your team and what should you be thinking about?”
Waiting until negotiations are underway to sell a company is generally too late for those conversations.
“If you’re not asking those questions, it might be because you think you can make a gift a week prior to the sale, and you can’t,” Peck said.
One of the panelists at the forum was a principal of the parent company for Globe Manufacturing, which manufactures firefighter protection gear. The owners of the Pittsfield company set up a $1 million donor-advised fund to support local charitable programs before they sold the company for $215 million in 2017.
“That kicks off about $40,000 per year,” said Peck, noting that some of the biggest gifts the foundation has ever received resulted from the sale of a business.
After the sale
So you sold your business. Now what?
There’s more to life than endless rounds of golf or lying on a blanket at the beach.
“Do you want to volunteer? Do you want to be a board member? Are you being philanthropic? What do you want to do next?” Peck said. “It’s not going to be simple as the day you sell, you’re going to know what’s next for you.”
Owners looking to sell their business might consider two parallel conversations, one about the sale and one about their personal plans afterward, Peck said.
“Once you sell and come into wealth, what’s next for you?” he said. “Are you going to set up something to help other businesses with seed money? It’s a conversation that can become more mature as time goes on.”
And it’s a conversation that needs to begin years before an owner closes the deal.
“Conversations need to happen and engagement needs to happen prior (to the sale) because it’s unrealistic to think someone is going to make a major decision and do some really thoughtful work when they really haven’t had time to talk about it or think about it.”