Philanthropy – much more than money: Non-cash gifts often the most transformative

© Amanda Coogan, The Ladder is Always There, 2018. MOCA Jacksonville, Project Atrium, Site-specific installation and performance, Jacksonville, FL. Photo © Laura Evans Photography.
© Amanda Coogan, The Ladder is Always There, 2018. MOCA Jacksonville, Project Atrium, Site-specific installation and performance, Jacksonville, FL. Photo © Laura Evans Photography.

When people think about philanthropy, most envision writing a check. Or maybe donating publicly traded stock or bonds, or insurance policies. Moving beyond such liquid assets, creative donors contribute many other valuable items to benefit charitable causes.

“There are a lot of assets people have that they may not necessarily want or need any more that make for great gift-giving opportunities,” said John Zell, vice president of development, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, which helps donors and recipients through the often-complicated process of liquidating non-cash gifts.

“I was on a call with colleagues from other community foundations around the country, and someone had donated a dude ranch, and someone else had donated a rare fossil collection,” said Zell’s coworker Susan Datz Edelman, vice president, strategic communications. “These complex assets take some expertise to liquidate so that the proceeds can be used for philanthropic purposes, but it’s an excellent strategy for some folks.”

One of the most public gifts of this type in Jacksonville was in 2014 when philanthropists and former Jacksonville Jaguars owners J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver donated their $4.7 million home to The Community Foundation when they moved into a condo, Zell said. Proceeds of the 14,000-square-foot home along the St. Johns River in the San Jose area near downtown went into the Weaver Family Foundation Fund to be used for grants to nonprofit organizations.

The Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity that manages more than 600 funds to build stronger communities. Since its inception in 1964, thousands of area organizations throughout Northeast Florida have benefitted from about $640 million in grants.

“They want to see Northeast Florida shine and be a safe, welcoming place,” said Kellie Smith about the Weavers. “They believe in our community, and that’s why they invest in it.” Smith is foundation director of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida that works closely with The Community Foundation to help individuals and families maximize their charitable giving.

The Jewish Federation & Foundation had a similar situation this year when it received the generous donation of a $3 million beachfront condo to be sold to help fund its community programs. (See story on Page 32.)

“That’s a great thing to give to a nonprofit, and then let the nonprofit sell it and the proceeds go to the nonprofit,” said Zell. “If the donor is interested in more than one nonprofit, they should probably consider donating that piece of real estate to a donor-advised fund sponsor organization like The Community Foundation, which would sell the property, and the proceeds would live in a donor-advised fund.” The donor then could recommend funds to any public charity or equivalent in the U.S. over any timeline, he said. A donor-advised fund is a charitable giving vehicle administered by a public charity created to manage donations on behalf of organizations, families or individuals.

The donation occurs when the property is contributed to the donor-advised fund, not when the donor makes the cash gift out of the fund. “So it becomes a very powerful tool because they are able to deduct a fair market value of that piece of real estate on the date of the gift to the nonprofit. And that fair market value is determined by hiring a qualified property appraiser,” said Zell, stressing the importance of securing expert tax, financial, legal and other advice when making all kinds of non-cash gifts to nonprofits.

“Gifting non-cash assets to a nonprofit, such as art, real estate or a conservation easement, can help protect a heritage asset for generations. Some assets are highly personal and donating said asset allows a person to commemorate it and create a legacy,” said David Barton, senior vice president, Commercial Banking, Bank of America. “Donors can gift an appreciated non-cash asset to a nonprofit at its full value without having to pay taxes on the sale. The nonprofit also enjoys the full value because they generally do not pay taxes.”

Longtime Jacksonville philanthropist Helen Lane, who has a home overlooking the Ortega River, has had a fondness for the river since her childhood in Ortega. In 2018, to help the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) purchase land it identified as having high ecological value and a need for conservation, she and her four children made a generous donation to purchase 80 acres. Mostly wetlands, the Lane Family Tract along Collins Road near I-295 and Blanding Boulevard is part of the Ortega River Preserve. The donation helps NFLT preserve the natural floodplain swamp.

“Mother has always been a huge booster of Jacksonville. She loves the city, people, history and future of it, and being able to make a contribution to allow North Florida Land Trust to put aside a decent piece of land on the river was very appealing to her,” said Edward Lane, retired real estate lawyer. “My siblings and I love the idea that we can contribute and help them make other land acquisitions around Jacksonville.”

He said when people don’t have preservation land to give, as in their case, a good option is to help with its purchase.

The Lane Family Fund, a donor-advised fund, resides at The Community Foundation. “My siblings and I, and our children, will say where the income goes within parameters our mother set up,” Lane said. “North Florida Land Trust is very high on our list.”

Businesses To Artwork: Expertise And Usage Is Key

Another example of a non-cash gift would be a closely held business, the type most people deal with frequently. That would be a company where the majority of its shares, which are not traded publicly on an exchange, are owned by a few individuals. “If an owner of a business is thinking about selling it, before there is a contract, before anything is locked in, they can give a portion of that business to charity,” Zell said.

For example, if a donor gives 10 percent to an organization such as The Community Foundation to be put in a donor-advised fund, when there is a contract on the sale, the buyer purchases the 90 percent the owner holds. The donor now has the proceeds from the sale that they are able to give away, plus they get the deduction of the fair market value of the property on the date they transferred it to the foundation. “That’s sort of the backbone of the economy when you think about small business, and this is a great way to make those transfers happen,” Zell said. “And for philanthropic families, it maximizes the amount of money that is available to give to charity.”

Also common, especially for older donors, is giving retirement accounts to charity. “An older donor can give up to $100,000 a year of out their IRA to charity that does not count as income to them. So it’s not taxable and it doesn’t increase their tax bracket,” Zell said, adding that they would have to pay tax on money taken as a required minimum distribution.

People also donate valuables such as art and jewelry, but there are challenges when it comes to giving collectables. “If it is not for a related use, the deduction is subject to the cost of the item when you purchased it; you get no appreciation for it,” Zell said. “For instance, if you give the Cummer Museum a sculpture for their garden, that is a related use. If you give the YMCA a sculpture and they sell it to buy a piece of exercise equipment, that is not a related use.”

In those cases, it’s imperative to consult with a tax adviser to determine whether to donate the articles to charity or sell them and pay the capital gains tax and take the deduction for the donation of the cash, he said.

“The first conversation donors need to have before contemplating any non-cash gift is with tax and financial advisers. They can help them through these gifts that tend to be more complicated and not always cut-and-dry,” Zell said. “Having well-informed tax and legal advice, and a qualified appraiser, is key. And their nonprofit partner needs to be experienced and qualified in accepting these types of gifts. You know you are working with a good nonprofit when they say, ‘We can’t help you but we know who can help make that gift happen.’”

Barton agrees that a nonprofit should have access to a fundraising professional, either on staff, part-time or volunteer, who can help guide it in these cases. “Additionally, having relationships with those people who are helping advise potential donors, such as attorneys, wealth management advisers, tax advisers and community organizations can help nonprofits gain meaningful insight, proactively adapt to trends and often serve as a recipient depending on donor preferences,” he said. “Operational expertise with specific assets is key, depending on the type of donation. A museum, for example, would be a perfect destination for that art collection, but it may not have the right staff and experience to manage a real estate asset.”

Donors Navigate Around Challenges

Despite the complexities and hurdles, donors find a way and charities benefit significantly from in-kind gifts — from cars to grain. Here in Northeast Florida, about a quarter of the budget of a residential program for boys comes from the sales of donated vehicles, and farmers in the Midwest and elsewhere get tax benefits from donating crops to nonprofits.

A university where she used to work in Kansas accepted donations of grain, said DeAnn Collins Dockery, interim chief advancement officer for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. “Farmers would take it to the grain elevator where it would be sold on our behalf. They would get the tax deduction of value on the day they transferred it to us,” she said. “We could have kept it and sold it later, but we treated it like most charities do stock—don’t play the market, just liquidate it, you can guess wrong.”

Indeed, the Cummer itself is a leading example of a generous charitable donation of tangible items. It was established in 1958 when civic leader Ninah Cummer bequeathed her 60-piece art collection and home along the St. Johns River to create a museum, which now boasts more than 5,000 works of art.

“We have very specific guidelines on accepting gifts of artwork,” Dockery said. “There have been donations through estates and from living people. In every case, a committee decides whether or not a piece can be accepted and included in the collection itself.”

Policies also are crucial in determining the feasibility of accepting and selling gifts of property that require title, environmental and other checks, she said.

Negotiation sometimes comes into play, as in the case of an old Bible donated to her previous employer. Because the donor wanted the university to have it, they agreed to make an additional cash gift to cover costs of the specific humidity and security required to maintain and protect it. “It was a good outcome, but it took a lot of work,” Dockery said.

“A nonprofit’s primary responsibility is to develop a clear and mutual understanding with the donor on the front end about the disposition of non-cash gifts, often in the form of policies and written agreements,” Barton said. “Honoring the intent of the donation is part of the fiduciary responsibility a nonprofit and its board have. A nonprofit also has the responsibility of knowing what it takes to own and maintain a gift it is receiving, and ensuring it has the resources to meet those obligations.”

Gifts Of Land And Music Enhance University

In December 2021, the University of North Florida received a land donation of about 190 acres valued at $21.5 million for future expansion. The donation from the family of A.C. Skinner was originally made to the Duval County Research and Development Authority, an independent authority of the City of Jacksonville, which managed the land for the benefit of UNF and is conveying it to the UNF Foundation. The family’s history of supporting UNF goes all the way back to the 500 acres it donated for the original campus.

“It allows us to dream big and expand our campus footprint,” said Teresa Nichols, interim vice president for university development and alumni engagement, and interim executive director, UNF Foundation, Inc. “So many universities are landlocked and can’t grow. This incredible gift puts us in a position to think more broadly.”

Two innovative non-cash gifts to UNF have significantly enhanced learning, she said.

In 2019, former orchestra conductor and investment expert Peter Trofimenko donated his music collection to the School of Music. The generous gift included concert-quality string and percussion instruments, many rare, that students may experiment with and use for ensembles, as well as orchestra scores and sheet music.

“UNF also was the recipient of literally scores of scientific equipment, from primarily one entity. Philanthropically, it outfits our lab for students, and brings industry into the classroom,” Nichols said. “People often think the only way to support a university like ours is through cash. That’s not true. Often gifts in-kind are the ones that are truly transformational.”

Stepping Up In Style: Shoe Gift Benefits MOCA

LaRose shoes from the MOCA Jacksonville collection. courtesy of MOCA
LaRose shoes from the MOCA Jacksonville collection. courtesy of MOCA

Many longtime Jacksonville residents fondly remember LaRose Shoes, located in the downtown building that now houses MOCA Jacksonville, a direct-support organization of UNF. Giuseppe “Joe” LaRose opened his first upscale salon there in 1949, and his styles attained national acclaim over the next few decades, with such famous clients as Betty Grable, Jackie Kennedy and Barbara Streisand. After LaRose’s death in 2000, most of his collection was auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York — but not the selection the LaRose Estate donated in 2001 to the museum, then known as Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art.

According to MOCA information, the gift included 698 pairs of shoes, 340 single shoes and 32 handbags. In 2004, the museum hosted a gala and benefit auction that included some of the shoes and handbags. The shoes have been featured in exhibitions at MOCA, including a performance by artist Amanda Coogan as part of its Project Atrium series in 2018.

Gift of Condo Funds Charitable Programs

The call in May was a big surprise. The offer was not the first real estate gift the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida had received, but most of the others had been vacant land. The donation of a multi-million-dollar beachfront condominium was its second-largest individual gift in its 27 years in Northeast Florida.

Donated by “gracious, humble, longstanding, dedicated members of our community” who wish to remain anonymous, the 2,523-square-foot, completely renovated condo in Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach is worth around $3 million, said Kellie Smith, foundation director. Proceeds will help fund the organization’s educational, social service and programming services for seniors, children and families in Duval, St. Johns, Clay and Nassau counties.

beautiful condo interior kitchen and dining area with waterfront view

For donors, advantages of gifts of real estate come down to tax incentives, she said. Although every situation is unique, owners avoid paying capital gains tax on the sale of real estate, and receive a charitable income tax deduction.

“Donations like this are doable and feasible, and our nonprofit is well equipped to take them on,” said Smith, adding that charities that are not should rely on experts to measure potential liability and risk. “Not every charity is set up to take on the potential risk.”

Smith stressed the importance of seeking expert tax advice when considering real estate donations.

Considerations for the Jewish Federation & Foundation in accepting the condo included risk from potential hurricanes, as well as homeowner association and maintenance fees while on the market. Guided by its gift acceptance policies, the organization’s review committee determines if it can take on the liability, helps to manage appraisals, and engages attorneys and other experts, as needed. Smith said the Jewish Federation & Foundation maintains a strong collaboration with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, which also is equipped to guide donors and recipients through real estate and other complex non-cash donations.

“Donor education and collaboration are key,” she said “Experts are here to help you through the process.”

It’s not just about writing checks, said Smith, noting that one of most unusual gifts she encountered in her career was the donation of a shoebox full of Canadian gold coins worth $300,000 for Hope Lodge at Mayo Clinic.

“It’s so inspiring to see the generosity that lives in our community,” she said, “People in Northeast Florida are incredibly giving.”

Preserving Land Rewards Future Generations

photo of marsh

In Northeast Florida, with its wealth of natural beauty and resources, it’s not uncommon for people to donate conservation land to the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) to be preserved for generations to come. Not as many people consider it when they wish to make a charitable donation of industrial land, houses, businesses or other types of real estate not suitable for preservation. In many instances, NFLT will take that, too.

“If it has conservation value, we will use it. If not, we can accept, and sell it, and use the proceeds to buy more conservation land,” said Lee Anderson Louy, director of philanthropic services. “For example, we could potentially acquire and sell industrial park property.”

If a proposed donation is in NFLT’s seven-county area, its director of conservation acquisitions will adhere to a comprehensive list of criteria to determine if the property can be acquired, maintained or managed in perpetuity, depending on the situation, she said.

Founded in 1999, NFLT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting North Florida’s irreplaceable natural environment. Funded largely by private and corporate contributions, it works closely with landowners, governments, not-for-profit partners and foundations. It has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land through donations, purchases and conservation easements.

people hiking in woods

According to NFLT information, a conservation easement is a voluntarily negotiated, legally binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency to preserve the land’s natural, agricultural or historical resources in perpetuity for future generations. Conservation easements, tailored for individual cases, require landowners to agree to restrict the use of their property forever. Because restrictions often lower market value, the loss may qualify as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return. A donation may also reduce estate and property taxes.

“I’ve witnessed examples firsthand through my work with the North Florida Land Trust where a family or individual decided to take a farm in the path of development and donate the land rights to NFLT, protecting it from development and preserving the land in perpetuity. These types of donations strike a nice balance between philanthropy and tax benefits. Ultimately, the donor is prioritizing conserving an asset and future generations will know it,” said David Barton, senior vice president, Commercial Banking, Bank of America, and board officer with the NFLT.

“A big focus is the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor, with a goal to protect 140,000 acres through donations or conservation easements by 2050,” Louy said. “There are about 26 other partners, and we are the lead organization when it comes to land donations.” The O2O, as it’s commonly called, is a 100-mile long, 1.6-million-acre landscape of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola national forests.

Egan's Creek

“We work closely with landowners on non-cash contributions, particularly of conservation easements which allow landowners to both keep their land and receive income for the development rights. It is a win-win for all,” said Allison DeFoor, interim president, NFLT. “Most of all, we all need to focus on the fact that — for land protection in North Florida — it is now or never. If we want our grandchildren to know what the real Florida looks like, we must act now.”

Information on donation opportunities is at

Vehicle Donations Drive Boys Ranch Operations

If it has a motor and can move, Rodeheaver Boys Ranch will likely accept it to help finance its social, educational, vocational and spiritual development programs for the boys who live there.

Program staff shows a boy how to check brakes.
Program staff shows a boy how to check brakes.

“We take any type of vehicle, running or not running…autos, boats, RVs, ATVs, motorcycles, golf carts, tractors, even lawn mowers,” said Brad Hall, executive director. “Anything that rolls or can go down a river, we take!”

The ranch, located south of Palatka, provides a home environment for up to 50 boys who are at-risk for such reasons as parental death, desertion, divorce or disability. Because about one fourth of the organization’s budget comes from the sales of donated vehicles, it depends heavily on them, Hall said. Sales to dealers bring in about $35,000 a month, which is used mainly for health, liability and other types of insurance.

Licensed as a wholesale dealer, the ranch can’t sell the donated vehicles to the general public. It holds monthly dealer auctions at the ranch, selling the vehicles as is, or with minor repairs.

“It’s a really good benefit for people who donate them, because whatever the vehicle brings at auction, they get that tax write-off, with a minimum of $500,” Hall said.

Donations at vehicle Auction facility | Courtesy of Rodeheaver Boys Ranch
Donations at vehicle Auction facility | Courtesy of Rodeheaver Boys Ranch

For instance, an old vehicle with 250,000 miles on it would get very little on a trade-in, but would bring a significant tax advantage through a donation. Regardless of condition, vehicles must have a clear paper title to be accepted, and the ranch will arrange to pick them up within 100 miles. Boats must come with a trailer to transport them. Rodeheaver also accepts donations of tools and other items that can be sold to benefit the organization.

During the summer, boys may take a vehicle class where they learn the basics in mechanics and maintenance. Boys also help do general checks and cleaning when donated vehicles come in. The ranch may claim some of the donated vehicles for its own use, but must keep them for two years before selling them, according to Hall.

Rodeheaver Boys Ranch was founded in 1950 by the late Homer Rodeheaver who donated the ranch’s 800-acre land along the St. Johns River.

Donation information is available at

Building Gift Provides Foundation for Clinic Expansion

Donor Karen King called it divine intervention. She had a building she didn’t need. The Way Free Medical Clinic needed more room but didn’t have the means to expand.

“When someone calls to say they would like to give you a building, you say, ‘Yes, we would love to have a second clinic to serve more people,’” said Don Fann, the clinic’s executive director, who had faith that the Clay County community would help finance its renovation, just as it had supported its operation for 16 years.

Don Fann with donated building.
Don Fann with donated building.

A vision of late founder Jeannie Gallina, the clinic was established under the guidance of the Clay County Health Department in 2006, and has been on Houston Street in Green Cove Springs since 2010. It is run by a small paid staff who support volunteer physicians, nurses, clerical workers and interpreters in providing free medical services to uninsured and low-income county residents.

Although the need for expansion has been great — largely because many of the patients have transportation problems — creating a second location didn’t seem feasible until King offered her commercial building on College Drive, an area considered to be an emerging social service and cultural destination in Orange Park.

The one-acre lot with a 5,000-square-foot commercial building would easily double the clinic’s impact, even though the building would need to be completely gutted and renovated into a medical facility, Fann said.

Around the same time, the county, which owns the property in Green Cove Springs, announced plans to raze the county’s only free dental clinic’s building to construct a firehouse. That created an opportunity to bring the dental clinic into the new facility on College Drive, he said.

“When Don was telling me they needed a much larger facility, it hit me that’s what I wanted to do,” said King, who consulted her accountant about donating her building. “She said, ‘You can do anything you want. It might make things a little tight, but I’ll work out the details.’”

Operating as the King Group, Inc., Karen and her son, Joe, own McDonald’s franchises in Clay County and Jacksonville. Since the first one opened in 1974 across from the Orange Park Kennel Club, King has made substantial donations to community charities and served on the board of the Salvation Army.

“I can’t begin to say how excited I am that they can, and will, use it,” King said of her former storage building. She said she wanted her gift to remain anonymous but word got out in March at a memorial service for her husband, John Ross.

According to Fann, a memorandum of understanding announcing the formal medical/dental integration model in the new location was signed at a groundbreaking ceremony in August. He said $1,001,000 had already been raised, mainly from foundations and trusts of major corporate and family donors.

The comprehensive campaign, with a goal of $1.5 million, will fund the building renovation, and launch a countywide medical care initiative to reduce unnecessary hospital utilization. A $200,000 challenge grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund called for support from all three Clay County hospitals—Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County, Baptist Clay Medical Center and HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital—as well as Mayo Clinic.

Rendering of renovated building and property. | Courtesy of The Way Free Medical Clinic
Rendering of renovated building and property.

“The hospitals’ support and participation is critical in driving the coordinated care initiative, which, in the end, will save the healthcare system millions of dollars. All medical providers in the county are on board with this innovative expansion of care to reach the county’s most vulnerable residents, and we fully expect to be able to navigate every resident to the care they need, regardless of their ability to pay,” Fann said.

And there’s been even more philanthropic intervention.

Gallina, who died suddenly in July 2021, had donated commercial land she owned in Middleburg to be sold to benefit the clinic. Following due diligence that included environmental studies and a title search, the property was put on the market this fall with the proceeds going toward the medical/dental facility.

“That was the first time in my career I have had a piece of land donated for the express purpose of liquidating it and using the funds for another project,” Fann said.

King’s contributions go beyond her building donation. Way@Work is a free workplace outreach program being piloted in her McDonald’s locations.

“The program partners with companies that have uninsured, low-wage employees to identify and enroll eligible workers as patients at The Way Clinic, pre-emptive of any acute need for care. Workers are fast-tracked into free care should they need medical attention, having been pre-qualified and in receipt of a clinic patient card,” said Fann. “This unique outreach program lets workers know where they can go for care when they need it, and employers have the opportunity to provide a voluntary corporate contribution to help support the program.”

King, who is aware of struggles of her lower-wage employees to pay for medical and dental care, encourages anyone who can donate to the clinic fund to do it.

“It makes you feel really good,” she said. “To know you have, in some way, helped people make a difference in their lives, you can’t explain the gratification and satisfaction. It’s like winning the lottery.”

Information on how to donate is at

By Lorrie DeFrank