The Undermining of American Charity


            By Lewis B. Cullman and Ray Madoff
            New York Review of Books

Our backgrounds may be relevant to the criticisms we make here of a major flaw in the financing of charities today. Lewis Cullman is a New York philanthropist who, at the age of ninety-seven, has given away over 90 percent of his wealth to charitable causes. Ray Madoff is a professor of law at Boston College and the director of a think tank on philanthropy at Boston College Law School who has written—as has Lewis Cullman—about the ways by which the tax system grants benefits to donors to private foundations without ensuring that those donations are put to charitable use.1

 We now write because we are alarmed about a major new force that has entered the field of charitable giving. It has so far been hardly noticed by the general public. But now it is threatening to undermine the American system for funding charity. This force is the commercial “donor-advised fund,” the fastest-growing, but still largely unknown, charitable vehicle.2 Donor-advised funds (or DAFs) give donors all of the tax benefits of charitable giving while imposing no obligation that the money be put to active charitable use.
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         Ray Madoff, a Professor at Boston College Law School, is the cofounder and Director of the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good. She is the author of Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead.
 (July 2016)

        Lewis B. Cullman is a retired business owner and philanthropist who serves on many not-for-profit boards. He is the author of Can’t Take It with You: The Art of Making and Giving Money. (July 2016)