Out of the Box Giving

October 17, 2012

Traditionally, foundations accept gifts of money, publicly traded stocks and some forms of non-cash gifts such as business interests or privately held stock. Imagine my surprise when I got a call from a financial advisor who said that he had a client with a very unusual gift: bathroom tile. This wasn’t just any tile. This was historic and valuable Malibu tile from an estate in Bel Air. The caveat? It was still attached to the bathroom walls.

The donor came to the decision to donate the tile when he realized that several groups of Malibu tile fans had already made it clear that destroying the tile to remodel bathrooms would amount to an offense for which the donor would not easily be forgiven. His decision to donate of course created a win-win for him but it left both parties scrambling to find a way to salvage the tiles and of course, sell them.

Our first step was to help the donor find an appraiser who specialized in antique tiles. We then helped him find the one man in America whose life’s work has been salvaging Malibu tile. After he finished the painstaking job of removing each antique tile by hand and the tile was delivered to CCF, we set  out to find a willing buyer. After spending some time in the garage of  a work colleague, we shipped the tiles to the buyer and sent a check for the value to the charity that the donor had designated to receive the gift.

While I don’t expect ever to see a request quite like this one again, there is an important message to remember.  Personal property, while sometimes a bit more complex in terms of tax law when a resale is involved, is a wonderful and under-utilized option in philanthropy.

Next time you are looking for charitable gifts to give or receive, look around; you might see something of value that could benefit a deserving nonprofit.

Thank you for reading.


Carol Bradford is senior counsel and charitable advisor at California Community Foundation

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