Getting involved with charity

You may have the desire to make a charitable impact, but have questions about time, money, tax and more. For some helpful perspective, we recently sat down with two experts: Marissa Greider, Senior Director of Major and Planned Gifts for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Harrison Miller, Vice President and Charitable Planning Consultant at Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest donor-advised fund program.

How did you get involved in the nonprofit sector?

Marissa: Giving back was something that my parents instilled at an early age, and for me, it really became about connecting passion with purpose. Then, when I was pregnant with our second daughter, we had a medical scare, and when the perinatologist said, “We think she’ll be OK” and my daughter was ultimately born healthy, that was the first step in wanting to give back in a more meaningful way. When the opportunity came up at Ronald McDonald House, I couldn’t pass it up.

Harrison: I’ve been with Fidelity Charitable my whole career. I started on our operations side and moved over to our fundraising side. I’m one of twelve consultants around the country that is out there talking to advisors, attorneys, accountants, and really anybody who would be representing someone who wants to make a charitable gift. My mom is from Atlanta and her father was a big philanthropist here, so the other part of it for me is being close to family and our philanthropic roots.

Can you briefly explain how a donor-advised fund works?

Harrison: A donor-advised fund is a vehicle that allows you to separate when you receive the charitable tax deduction from when you actually make the gift to charity. So imagine an executive at Coca-Cola donates some of their company shares to their donor-advised fund. That produces a charitable deduction this year and also avoids potential capital gains tax on those shares. Then they can use the money to provide charitable gifts in the future. For example, they could pre-fund a gift they’re planning to give to Ronald McDonald House Charities five years into retirement.

We see people who are selling a business or farmland and want to not only liquidate the asset, but also save on taxes and benefit charity. Can a donor-advised fund help?

Harrison: Yes, roughly 10-15% of what comes into Fidelity Charitable is actually non-publicly traded, so that could be privately held S-Corp stock or an LLC interest, for eample. For business owner clients, where the cost basis in their company might be zero, the idea is that if they are able to donate a portion of their business ahead of the sale, they can get a full fair market value tax deduction for whatever amount they assign to Fidelity Charitable. We often work with business owners who are looking for an exit in a year or two.

A big part of my role is trying to help folks make tax-efficient gifts, whether it’s the C-suite executive sitting on 25 year's worth of stock in their company, or the business owner that has finally decided this is the year that they’re going to sell the business and really take advantage of pre-sale planning so they can potentially eliminate some capital gains tax on the sale.

What are some ways that a very busy person can get involved in charity?

Marissa: I think if you’re busy, it’s easiest to write a check, so please give! The nice thing about writing that check is you start to get on the charity’s radar, so they begin communicating with you more deeply, more intentionally, so you can learn more about what that charity does and what their needs are.

I also encourage people to go visit in person. Go see the organization, talk to the people that they serve, really understand what they do. It’s a great way to find alignment between your skills and your passions and the organizations that you want to support. When you understand that charity, their mission, and their need, you might find the right way to volunteer.

At the Ronald McDonald House, there are always things that we need for our pantries or for our families. If you’re a busy executive and you lead people, we’ve got some great team building opportunities where you could come and serve a meal and have an offsite meeting and give back at the same time.

What would you recommend to someone who just wants to dip their toe in the water?

Marissa: You have to find what calls to you. One of the simplest things is to just go to the organization’s website, check it out, follow their social media, sign up for their email, really get a sense of what they do, and then you can kind of help be an ambassador for them in the community.

Harrison: I try to practice what I preach, so I funded a donor-advised fund a couple years ago by giving long-term appreciated securities. Now I make grants using our iPhone app all the time because I want to show people how easy it is. You can set up a donor-advised fund starting with $5,000 and make grants of as little as $50, so it’s not hard to start small and give it a try.


Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown


Lisa is a Partner and Wealth Advisor at CI Brightworth and has served as chairwoman of CIPW’s Business Development Committee. In addition to working with clients, Lisa has published three books, Girl Talk, Money Talk. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Money After College; Girl Talk, Money Talk II. Financially Fit and Fabulous in Your 40s and 50s; and CI Brightworth’s first book, Building Your Wealth Inside Corporate America. Lisa has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, YahooFinance,, and many more, and frequently speaks at seminars across the country.


This information is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax, insurance, or investment advice. This does not constitute an offer to provide any services, nor a solicitation to purchase securities. The contents are not intended to be advice tailored to any particular person or situation. We believe the information provided is accurate and reliable, but do not warrant it as to completeness or accuracy. This information may include opinions or forecasts, including investment strategies and economic and market conditions; however, there is no guarantee that such opinions or forecasts will prove to be correct, and they also may change without notice. We encourage you to speak with a qualified professional regarding your scenario and the then-current applicable laws and rules.

Different types of investments involve degrees of risk. Future performance of any investment or wealth management strategy, including those recommended by us, may not be profitable, suitable, or prove successful. Past performance is not indicative of future results. One cannot invest directly in an index or benchmark, and those do not reflect the deduction of various fees which would diminish results. Any index or benchmark performance figures are for comparison purposes only, and client account holdings will not directly correspond to any such data.

Advisory services are offered through CI Private Wealth and its affiliates, each being a registered investment adviser (“RIA”) regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The advisory services are only offered in jurisdictions where the RIA is appropriately registered. The use of the term “registered” does not imply any particular level of skill or training and does not imply any approval by the SEC. For a complete discussion of the scope of advisory services offered, fees, and other disclosures, please review the RIA’s Disclosure Brochure (Form ADV Part 2A) and Form CRS, available upon request to the RIA and online at We also encourage you to review the RIA’s Privacy Policy and Code of Ethics, which are available upon request.

Our clients must, in writing, advise us of personal, financial, or investment objective changes and any restrictions desired on our services so that we may re-evaluate any previous recommendations and adjust our advisory services as needed. For current clients, please advise us immediately if you are not receiving monthly account statements from your custodian. We encourage you to compare your custodial statements to any information we provide to you.