A Donor’s Profession Converges with her Philanthropy

Fifteen years ago, Nicole Dunn joined UCLA to lead the university’s planned giving program as senior executive director of gift planning. She brought with her a love of libraries and an extensive portfolio of professional experience. While at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, she helped establish and manage their planned giving program, and for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, she talked with donors about gift options, helping them to fulfill their philanthropic goals. A member of the UCLA Library Powell and Legacy societies, we caught up with her to talk about her professional work and her decision to make UCLA Library a priority in her philanthropic planning.

Thank you very much for your generous support of the UCLA Library. How did you decide to include the Library in your own estate plans? 

I have always loved books and libraries, but it was probably when I was in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin that I came to truly appreciate the value of a library. It was staffed with knowledgeable librarians always ready to lend a hand, an idea, and a lead for my research—often right at the tip of my fingers. In fact, the library became my home away from home. 

Fast forward to UCLA and the extraordinary library resources available to today’s Bruins. It far surpasses anything that was available during my graduate school days. It’s so inspiring and exciting to see how libraries continue to evolve, expanding our knowledge across media platforms, and how technology is keeping libraries not only relevant, but as the beating heart of the university. 

When my husband and I set up our estate plans, we thought that an estate gift to the UCLA Library would enable us to have the broadest impact – touching nearly every student and faculty member on campus. And we decided to make the gift unrestricted to give the University Librarian the flexibility to use the funds for the Library’s greatest needs at the time the gift is received.  

Are you seeing more donors interested in supporting UCLA through their estate?

Absolutely! I think many people have used the past few months to get themselves organized, to clean out their closets, and to make sure their financial and estate plans are up to date and in order. As a result, many friends of UCLA and alumni are reaching out to our office to talk about their philanthropic goals and how best to structure their gift in their estate plans. A future gift through a donor’s estate gives the donor the immediate satisfaction of having a lasting impact and costs nothing now.

Donors can make a gift to UCLA Library through their will, living trust or other estate plans, using what is left after gifts to family and other loved ones have been fulfilled. Donors may provide a specific amount, a percentage, or the entire remainder of their estate as a future gift to UCLA Library. These gifts can be directed to a specific fund or focused use, or be unrestricted to support the Library’s top needs down the road.  

Library donors have been reaching out to us about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress earlier this year. How should donors think about their philanthropy in 2020 and beyond?

That’s a great question. The CARES Act includes several charitable tax provisions to encourage charitable giving and many generous donors have come forward to ask me how they can best structure their philanthropy this year. Here’s what I share with them:

  • For donors who do not itemize but make a gift to charity, they will be allowed to take a special tax deduction, up to $300, to reduce their tax liability.
  • In 2020 only, for charitable donors who itemize when filing their tax returns, the deduction limit has been increased to 100% of a donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash gifts. Previously the deduction was capped at 60% of AGI.
  • IRA gifts may still make sense for many donors. Although the CARES Act waived the required minimum distribution (RMD) in 2020, donors 70½ and older may still make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from their IRA to charity and save the tax.
  • Donor Advised Fund (DAF) distributions are another option for donors who wish to support the UCLA Library. If you have a DAF, this is a wonderful way to make a gift without affecting your personal financial security.
  • Charitable Gift Annuities can provide a lifetime of fixed income, including a portion that is tax-free, and a charitable income tax deduction. Donors can exchange low-performing stock, CDs or cash for guaranteed, lifetime fixed payments. This is a great option for donors who are concerned about their financial security and the ups and downs of the stock market.

How should a donor get started with a planned gift or get their questions answered about CARES?

My team and I are available to talk through these gift options and answer any donor questions – no obligation! For estate planning, we can also draft sample bequest language for attorneys to review and incorporate into estate plans. I can be reached at ndunn@support.ucla.edu or direct questions to giftplanning@support.ucla.edu or call (800) 737-UCLA (8252).

I also encourage donors to visit our website for more information about all of these gift arrangements and more at www.legacy.ucla.edu.