Bar Bulletin

Bar Bulletin

You Can Be a Philanthropist

December 2017 Bar Bulletin

By Andrew Prazuch

Make a Year-End Gift to Our Charitable Arm

There are some seriously wealthy people who call the Pacific Northwest home: Bill Gates ($89.8 billion net worth); Jeff Bezos ($84.2 billion net worth); Steve Ballmer ($32.8 billion net worth); Paul Allen ($20.5 billion net worth). And with wealth of that magnitude, tremendously large, hundred-million-dollar-plus gifts are commonly covered in local, national and international news reports. Unfortunately, those of us with somewhat smaller amounts of net worth — all of us reading this! — could be tempted to think any charitable gifts by mere mortals like ourselves could never be as impactful as gifts from the uber-rich.

I’m here to tell you that such an idea is not worth another moment of your thought and that each of us can practice meaningful, impactful philanthropy right now.

According to the Philanthropy Roundtable, two-thirds of all Americans make charitable donations each year, with an average amount of $2,650. Thirty-nine percent ($1,034) of those donations go to religious causes, 19 percent ($504) toward educational charities and 15 percent ($398) toward “human service” related charities.

Another gauge for giving comes from the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks the average annual charitable gifts made by individuals at various income levels. For those whose annual income is less than $25,000 per year, on average they donate an impressive $1,874 each year to charities (an inspiring 7.5 percent for a person earning $25,000). At the $75,000 income level, total charitable donations grow to an average of $3,356 per year (4.5 percent of the top earners’ income). And at the $100,000 to $200,000 income level, donations average $4,130 per year, although the percentage of contributions to income continues to slide.

An annual gift of $50, $150, $250, $500 or $1,000 to the King County Bar Foundation is well within those ranges. While KCBF is not an “obvious” charitable cause such as the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity or even the ACLU, it is the King County Bar Association’s charitable arm. KCBF is an IRS-designated, 501(c)(3) charitable entity, just like those “obvious” groups and our foundation is approved to accept financial donations from the legal community to help fund the bar’s pro bono civil legal aid and minority law student scholarship programs.

But didn’t you already pay your bar dues, you say? Shouldn’t that cover the cost of these programs? Actually, membership dues primarily support member-related services such as judicial liaison, public policy work, subsidized CLE programs and publications, and our monthly Bar Bulletin. But KCBA conducts two large initiatives that benefit the public at large, not members of the bar.

First, our Pro Bono Services Program includes 1,400 volunteer lawyers who each year provide 10,000 indigent King County residents with free legal help in areas such as domestic violence cases, eviction matters, vacating criminal records, and debt relief plans. We spend more than a million dollars each year to run these programs. Second, we offer 50 scholarships each year to local minority law students. These grants to worthy future lawyers and judges add up to $140,000 each year.

To sustain these initiatives, we rely primarily on grants and individual charitable donations, not bar dues. The good news is that in the past year 1,399 attorneys made an average charitable donation of $222 to the King County Bar Foundation, in addition to their annual dues, to ensure these programs could be offered.

While I am grateful for that support, I can’t help but note that those 1,399 donors represent just 10 percent of the entire 14,000-member bar in King County. If we could get that up to 20 percent, another 1,400 lawyers and judges, we could raise an additional $310,000 per year. Think about how we could put that money to impactful, immediate benefit with hundreds more volunteers available to meet with indigent clients and many more scholarships to attract minority law students to our community.

Are you one of our 1,399 individual donors? If yes, thank you! If not, there’s still time for you to join this group of lawyers and judges. Your year-end, giving circle, charitable donation — of any amount — will have an impact in our legal community just like the donations of those billionaires living among us. I’m a donor to the King County Bar Foundation and I know how good it makes me feel. Won’t you give it a try, too? Visit www.kcbf.org/donate for easy giving instructions.

Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (andrewp@kcba.org) or phone (206-267-7061).

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