Recovery in Giving

Americans might be trying to be more optimistic in 2011, but charitable organizations are little more guarded, according to findings from a recent study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. The national survey found that 36% of charities reported an increase in donations in the first nine months of 2010, compared with only 23% in the same period of 2009. On the flip side, 37% of charities reported a decrease in giving, a significant drop from the 51% that reported similarly in 2009. Still, charities have a long way to go if they hope to return to the same levels of giving they saw three or four years ago, says Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which collaborated on the study. Indeed, the 2011 outlook is mixed for charitable organizations. Forty-seven percent plan budget increases, 33% expect to maintain their current spending level and 20% anticipate a lower budget.


Target-Date Fund Proposals

In late November, the Dept. of Labor (DOL) proposed rules to help workers understand the essential elements of the target-date funds offered through their workplace-sponsored retirement plans. Some of those basics include how the fund allocates its holdings between stocks and bonds, how that mix changes over time and the date when the mix is slated to become most conservative. In another big move, the DOL says each company should explain what the term "target-date fund" actually means, and clarify each fund's interpretation of that phrase. If advisors want to weigh in on the rule proposal, they have until Jan. 14 to email their comments to e-ORI@dol .gov, attention TDF Amendments.


Alternative Strategies

It seems like everyone is interested in alternative investing these days, including generous clients who manage their charitable giving through the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. One of the country's largest donor-advised fund programs, the Charitable Gift Fund expanded its investment program to enable financial advisors to invest a portion of the gift fund's charitable assets in alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity funds. Fidelity is acting on strong interest from its affiliated advisors and their clients. The Boston-based financial services company found in its 2009 Fidelity Investments survey that 82% of financial advisors view alternative investments as important to their clients' investment goals.