A Philanthropic Leader's Parting Advice to Congress

Rob Collier has long been one of the most respected voices in philanthropy.

 Rob Collier

Rob Collier

The president of the Council of Michigan Foundations has been an especially prominent advocate for community foundations, which collectively grant hundreds of millions of dollars to Michigan charities each year.

At the end of the year, Collier will retire — but not before sending a strong message about the importance of donor-advised funds.

In recent interview with Crain’s Detroit Business, Collier says the rapid growth of donor-advised funds is helping to get more money into communities — and cautions against creating new rules that would curtail giving.

“Payouts by donor-advised funds are much higher than foundations. They average payout of 12-18 percent, versus a 5 percent payout requirement for private foundations,” Collier said in the interview. “What we're saying is we've got to collect data and make sure that the Treasury and Congress understand that donor-advised funds are in fact paying out well in excess of what they should and are making a difference.”

But while more data is needed, Collier notes that lawmakers need to be careful not to put too much of a burden on community foundations.

“For community foundations to have to start tracking payout on every single donor-advised fund, we don't have software systems to do that,” Collier said. “At a time of great need for charities, to require foundations to spend more money on administrative reporting, in the long run, it reduces impact on charitable needs. The phrase I've been told is donor-advised funds are essentially warehousing wealth. We have to show them they're a great way to respond to community needs like flooding, hurricanes and fires.”

Peter Panepento