Charitable Giving FAQs

Explore our Frequently Asked Questions. You are also welcome to reach out to our team anytime. Contact us.


An Endowment Fund…

  1. is a fund established to benefit mission and ministry
  2. demonstrates commitment to the future of the ministry
  3. is established by a written agreement which defines the purpose, distribution amount and guidelines for administration
  4. provides a lasting income stream for its designated purpose
  5. invests for the long-term, and generally pays out only a set percentage of the assets so the fund can grow over time
  6. is different from ‘special funds’ that may fill more short-term needs, e.g. a building fund, emergency or rainy day fund
  7. gives donors confidence that their contributions will be managed well and used for the designated purpose
  8. is a place where members and/or supporters may designate legacy gifts
  9. A significant gift to the endowment will not overwhelm or discourage on-going annual giving, as the purposes are distinct.
  10. Many universities have Scholarship Endowments that provide funding for students who might not otherwise be able to attend the school. These endowments are frequent recipients of significant legacy gifts.
  11. is a way for your institution to lead by example in good stewardship of resources
  12. is one way your institution can “dream big” and make those dreams come true

Endowment funds evidence the commitment of your ministry to the future. Because only a specified percentage of the income is paid out each year, the fund can grow and flourish far into the future, supporting your ministry for years to come.

An endowment is not intended to replace annual giving by members, but to be an additional way to give. Many endowment gifts in fact, come from donors’ estates or trusts. As a permanent fund established to benefit a mission or ministry, an endowment becomes a perpetual source of funding for its defined purpose. The goal is to build it over time.

An endowment can be started with any amount of money. An endowment invests the principal, and spends only a defined portion of the earnings. The rest of the earnings are directed back into this fund so the endowment grows over time.

You will need an independent investment manager for your endowment fund. Covenant Trust can partner with you on this important endeavor. Our values are in line with those of your ministry, and our goal is to see your ministry grow. As a fiduciary, it is our obligation to put your best interests ahead of our own. We are a disciplined and prudent asset manager; focused on long-term growth. Our comprehensive portfolio enables us to maximize return while reducing risk. We develop a specific plan for your account, based on your goals and objectives.

  1. Once your Endowment Fund is in place, there are several ways donors can make gifts:
  2. Outright charitable gift [cash or check] designated for the Endowment Fund
  3. Memorial or Honorary Gift
  4. Designate the Endowment Fund as the beneficiary of an IRA
  5. Life insurance proceeds
  6. Designate the Endowment Fund as the policy beneficiary
  7. Gift the insurance policy itself; consider annual gift to ministry to offset premium payment
  8. Gifts of assets like stock, bonds, or real estate
  9. Name your ministry and the Endowment Fund as a remainder beneficiary in a charitable trust, revocable living trust, or charitable gift annuity
  10. Other legacy gifts, such as a bequest from a will
  11. Your ministry can contribute as well, by designating a percentage of its annual budget for the Endowment Fund

An endowment fund represents a long-term commitment to the specified purpose. You might designate the funs for

  • Capital improvements and expansion
  • New ministries, programs or positions
  • Scholarships for camping or youth trips
  • Missionary support
  • Funding for a ministry food pantry, day-care or other program that benefits the community

First steps in developing a plan for your Endowment Fund include the following:

An ad hoc committee may be appointed to investigate the need for and potential purposes of an Endowment Fund. This group usually reports to the executive board or church council, which then approves the establishment of an Endowment Fund. An Endowment Fund Committee is then elected by the board, council or entire membership, and given appropriate authority regarding the Endowment Fund. This committee should include those with a sense of mission for the ministry, committed to stewardship, with knowledge about legal and/or financial matters.

There are many aspects to establishing and managing an Endowment Fund for your ministry. The list below is not complete but reinforces the fact that an Endowment Fund is a long-term commitment on the part of your ministry, its leadership and supporters. This Endowment Fund Committee is charged with:

  1. Determining the designated purpose of the Endowment Fund which
  2. keeps the ministry focused
    1. helps develop support [and gifts] for the Endowment Fund
    2. helps insure the long-term integrity of the Endowment Fund
  3. Developing initial support for the Endowment Fund
    1. gather a nucleus of supporters who will make both initial and legacy gifts to the Endowment Fund and are willing to talk to others about doing the same
    2. those included in the core group might include ministry leaders, board or council members, stewardship committee members, donors with a long history of support and giving, those who have expressed a long-term vision for your ministry, etc.
  4. Setting up the infrastructure of the Endowment Fund
    1. research and implement proper method of establishing a formal Endowment Fund document within ministry’s constitution and/or by-laws, including
      1. formal name of the Endowment Fund
      2. annual distribution percentage [generally around 5% of the assets]
      3. how and when distributions are to be made
      4. method and chain of authority over administration and revisions of the Endowment Fund
      5. other ministry-specific criteria regarding the Endowment Fund
  5. Establish system for receiving, receipting, and adding gifts to the Endowment Fund
  6. Determine the Investment Manager for the Endowment Fund and take steps to open the account
  7. Establishing a ‘marketing plan’ for the Endowment Fund, which may include ways to
    1. encourage contributions
    2. share information about the Endowment Fund
    3. highlight distributions and their effects or benefit

Covenant Trust Endowment Services are specifically designed as an ongoing resource for your ministry in planning, establishing and managing your Endowment Fund. Here are some of the ways Covenant Trust can help:

  1. Meet with leadership during the initial stages of Endowment Fund planning
  2. Provide educational resources and presentations for both leadership and supporters, including
    • Philosophy of endowments
    • How endowments work
    • Various ways to give to endowments
    • Investment management for endowments
  3. Discuss specifically how Covenant Trust can work with your ministry to implement your Endowment Fund
  4. Provide professional investment management for separately created and managed endowment funds with an initial balance of as little as $10,000
  5. Work with you to create an appropriate investment plan with ongoing portfolio management
    • Discuss your ministry’s goal for the Endowment Fund, as well as its risk tolerance in achieving that goal
    • Provide periodic reporting to leadership and/or Endowment Fund Committee
    • Provide additional perspective during periods of market distress
  6. Work with individuals who may be interested in making planned or deferred gifts to your ministry and/or its Endowment Fund

Serving as a fiduciary brings a significant level of responsibility and liability to Covenant Trust; and there is a fee for these services. Our fees are right in line with the industry averages, and are easily identified on account statements. We intentionally price our services this way to ensure that all who are interested in the value and values Covenant Trust brings to the table can take advantage of our high quality, professional trustee and investment management services. We understand that your Endowment Fund may start out small, and take some time to grow. Covenant Trust is willing to discuss fee incentives that can help during this initial period.

Covenant Trust provides investment management aligned with your values to achieve your goals. We provide reporting, resources and support for your Endowment Fund program, and many other aspects of your ministry. Our goal is the success of your ministry.

  • Assistance in deciding on an appropriate investment objective
  • Detailed portfolio performance evaluations
  • Regular account statements
  • Evaluation and advice regarding the cash flow and return expectations for your Endowment Fund
  • Prompt distributions from the Endowment Fund as provided by the Endowment Fund Agreement
  • Regular visits from your Covenant Trust representative to answer questions, provide educational opportunities, or work with individuals who wish to include your ministry and its Endowment Fund in their financial and legacy planning

The Covenant Endowment Trust was established to accept gifts of cash or appreciated assets into individual Endowment Accounts earmarked for the Covenant ministry of your choice. A gift to the Covenant Endowment Trust will benefit the designated ministry for years to come.)

Anyone—an individual, family, or any Covenant ministry.

Yes. You can name an Endowment Account for your family, your church, or a special individual.

You can start your Endowment Account with as little as $5,000. Then you or other friends and members of your family or church can add to the account as you wish, in amounts of at least $1,000.

The account assets are invested for growth with the objective of providing increased future income. A quarterly distribution (currently at a 5% annualized rate) is made to the designated Covenant ministry. The distributions are normally made from income. If income falls below 5%, principal is added to make the distribution. Any income in excess of 5% is added to the invested account principal to provide a larger base for future earnings.

No. You can set up the account now, and fund it with a bequest from your will, or designate it as the beneficiary of an insurance policy, IRA, pension plan, trust or annuity.

The written agreement which sets forth your wishes for the use of your gift remains on file, providing both continuity and assurance that your gift will always be used for its intended purpose. As Trustee, Covenant Trust provides professional management and investment services which may not be available or affordable to the local ministry.

Yes. Gifts to the Covenant Endowment Trust are irrevocable, so they qualify for a charitable contribution deduction on federal income tax.

You can designate your account to be established in perpetuity (forever) or for a term of years, after which the principal is distributed to your chosen Covenant ministry.

Charitable Gift Annuities

It is an agreement between you and The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). You transfer assets of cash or marketable appreciated securities to the ECC. You then receive fixed payouts for the rest of your life and/or the lifetime of another person, if you so desire. The charitable gift annuity is aptly named–it provides a benefit both to the donor during lifetime and to the Covenant ministries chosen by the donor to receive the residue.

The payout rate is determined by the age of the income beneficiaries at the time the annuity is written. The annual payout amount is fixed at the time the annuity is written and does not change. The older you are when your gift annuity begins, the higher the payout rate.

There are several:

  • Lifetime payouts for you and another person, if desired
  • In most cases, payouts are partially tax-free for the period of actuarial life expectancy of the donor(s)
  • Favorable treatment of capital gains, if funded with appreciated securities
  • A charitable deduction on your federal income tax in the year of the gift
  • The amount used to fund the gift annuity does not count as part of your estate for estate tax purposes, and it avoids probate
  • The opportunity to make a significant gift to one or more Covenant ministries

All gift annuity funds are held in segregated accounts until after the death of the last surviving annuitant. Then the remaining funds are distributed to those Covenant ministries named by the donor. There are two kinds of charitable gift annuities–immediate and deferred. A donor may choose to begin receiving payouts right away, or at a future time (such as age 65). Donors may choose to receive payouts monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Payouts are made at the end of the period, i.e. the last day of the month, quarter, etc.; and may be made by check, direct deposit to a bank account, or transfer to an existing revocable trust where Covenant Trust serves as trustee. Information to assist in income tax preparation is provided both at the time the annuity is written, and annually thereafter on IRS Form 1099-R.

Yes, a $10,000 minimum normally applies. However there may be special circumstances when exceptions are made. There is no maximum amount for charitable gift annuities, and many are for amounts in excess of $100,000.

No. Because there are income tax benefits, a charitable gift annuity is an irrevocable agreement.

You should be aware that a charitable gift annuity is completely different than annuities (or variable annuities) sold by insurance companies. If you are considering any type of annuity or other charitable life income agreement, you should consult with your personal legal and/or tax advisors before making the gift.

Because the charitable gift annuity is an irrevocable gift, we strongly recommend that any donor have a minimum of $150,000 in liquid assets beyond what would be used to fund a charitable gift annuity. This helps ensure that the donor has adequate resources remaining to provide for any unexpected needs.

The residue of charitable gift annuities written through The Evangelical Covenant Church must be designated 100% for Covenant ministries of the donor’s choice.

The charitable gift annuity is aptly named–it provides a benefit both to the donor during lifetime and to the Covenant ministries chosen by the donor to receive the residue.

Gift annuity services for The Evangelical Covenant Church are offered through Covenant Estate Planning Services® while Covenant Trust provides management for the actual gift annuity funds. Some states have special regulations which apply to charities offering charitable gift annuities; the ECC complies with these regulatory requirements. We will be happy to prepare a personalized example for you to specifically demonstrate the possible benefits of a charitable gift annuity as part of your overall estate plan. You may work through your local Financial Services Representative, or contact our office directly. There is no cost or obligation for the example or any information about charitable gift annuities.

  • The growth of future charitable dollars designated for your ministry
  • The growth of ministry dollars that you entrust to us for management
  • Your ability to advance your ministry and achieve your ministry’s goals
  • Peace of mind for both your ministry and your supporters about their legacy for the future

Most of us have a favorite ministry we want to support—that ministry’s goals are important to us and we often look for ways to help them grow. Covenant Trust believes that investments, including IRAs, are a vital part to everyone’s financial security; we also believe they can play an important role in reaching charitable goals, too.

Covenant Trust offers several charitable gift planning options such as Charitable Gift Annuities and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts. However, if these options aren’t right for you, there are ways to ensure your charitable dreams will provide the greatest impact.

If you donate the appreciated assets directly to a Covenant ministry, you will avoid the capital gains tax. The ministry, due to their tax-exempt status, won’t have to pay any taxes when they sell the assets. Additionally, if the appreciated assets have been held long-term (i.e., longer than one year), the assets’ value on the day of the donation can be claimed as a tax deduction. (The deduction for assets held less than a year is equal to the assets’ purchase price).

If you have assets that are worth less than what you paid for them, you can sell the assets instead of donating them. By selling the assets at a loss instead of donating them directly to the ministry, you will be able to claim the loss on your taxes. Doing so may reduce your taxable income which in turn may mean a lower tax bill. You can still donate the proceeds from the sale to a Covenant ministry and receive a charitable tax deduction as you normally would from giving a cash gift.

Covenant Trust is happy to facilitate your gift to your favorite Covenant ministry. Covenant Trust will take delivery of the donated security on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and upon receipt of the stock, will sell the shares. Upon receipt of the proceeds of that sale, we will send a check to the ministry along with a letter indicating the check is proceeds from a stock gift from you.

To begin this process, contact Mike Magnusson at Covenant Trust: 847.583.3252 or

A gift of your life insurance is an excellent way to make a gift to a Covenant ministry. There are two ways to do this.

  1. Make a gift of life insurance today
    By giving your life insurance policy to a Covenant ministry today you’ll receive a charitable income tax deduction. You can then make deductible contributions to this ministry each year which they may use to pay the premiums. The ministry then benefits from the proceeds of your policy.
  2. Designate a ministry as beneficiary of your policy
    You can also designate your favorite Covenant ministry as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. You will continue to own and can make use of the policy during your lifetime. The policy will be included in your taxable estate when you pass away, but your estate will benefit from an estate tax charitable deduction for the value of the gift.

Charitable Remainder Unitrust

A Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) is an irrevocable deferred gift to one or more charitable organizations. Assets—cash, securities or real estate—are transferred to a trustee, and the donor receives income for life. After the death of the last income beneficiary, the property remaining in the trust is distributed to one or more charitable ministries of the donor’s choice. Where Covenant Trust serves as trustee, Covenant ministries must be designated to receive at least 50% of the charitable portion.

You should consider a charitable remainder unitrust:

  • If you want to make a significant deferred gift that results in an income tax deduction, regular payouts to you, and then ultimately benefits one or more Covenant ministries
  • If you have highly appreciated securities or real estate that you want to use to make a charitable deferred gift
  • If you want a stream of income that may be greater than what the funding assets are currently earning
  • Only if you have in excess of $150,000 in additional assets beyond those used to fund the CRUT

A fixed percentage (referred to here as the “stated percentage”) is determined at the time the unitrust documents are prepared. Each year you receive that percentage multiplied by the fair market value of the trust assets on December 31 of the previous year.

Yes. Both you and another person can receive payouts from the unitrust for your lifetime. Most unitrusts are for one or two lives.

Yes, although there are several things to consider first. The real estate cannot be mortgaged, and you must be able to provide clear title. You must provide complete environmental information. The property must have sufficient value to be sold; however the sale may not be “arranged” prior to placing the property in the unitrust. You are required to provide a current appraisal of the property.

One of the benefits of a charitable remainder unitrust is that the trust assets are not counted as part of your estate for probate or estate tax.

Because property transferred to the trust will be used for charitable purposes in the future, gift, estate and income tax deductions are allowed in the year of the gift. You receive a charitable contribution deduction on your federal income tax for the charitable portion of the unitrust. Any unused portion of the charitable contribution can be carried forward up to five additional years. Charitable remainder trusts can result in tax-free diversification and growth of investments. If you fund with cash, it is deductible up to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). If you use securities or real estate to fund the CRUT, you can deduct up to 30% of your AGI.

If you use appreciated securities or real estate to fund your CRUT, you also eliminate capital gains tax. Assets that have appreciated in value but don’t earn much income can be used to fund a unitrust. Then the trustee can sell them and reinvest in higher-yielding assets. Because the trust results in a deferred charitable gift, the capital gain realized on the sale is not subject to tax when the assets are sold. This means the entire proceeds from the sale of the funding assets is available to provide income. Any income beyond what is required to make payments to the income beneficiaries is allowed to accumulate inside the unitrust tax free. It’s important to remember that the trustee must be the one to sell the assets once they are funded into the unitrust.

Most unitrust payouts are taxed as ordinary income. However, there can also be some capital gains or tax-exempt amounts, depending on how the trust was funded and how the trust assets are invested. The trustee (Covenant Trust) provides you with tax information every year that tells you exactly how to report the payout you received from the unitrust.

Yes. The straight unitrust pays the stated percentage even if the trust earned less and it means paying out principal. The net income unitrust pays out what the unitrust earns, as long as it does not exceed the stated percentage. Net income with make-up allows any deficiencies in income from years when the trust may not have earned the stated percentage to be made up in future years when the trust earns more than the stated percentage. You can also have a unitrust that lasts for a specific period of years (maximum 20) rather than for life.

Here’s an example. Let’s assume that you are 65 years of age and your wife is 62. You want to use $100,000 of appreciated securities to fund a Charitable Remainder Unitrust with a payout rate of 6% for life. Your cost basis (what you paid) for the stocks is $50,000, and you are in the 25% federal income tax bracket. Your securities currently earn a 3% dividend. Once you transfer the securities to your unitrust, the trustee sells them. You do not have to pay the capital gains tax on the $50,000 of appreciation, a tax saving of roughly $7,500. You would receive a charitable deduction of about $26,800 on your federal income tax. Your payout for the first calendar year of the trust would be $6,000 (6% of $100,000.) Assuming the trust actually earned 7%, your payout for the second year would be $6,060 (6% of $101,000.) After the death of both you and your wife, your chosen Covenant ministries would receive approximately $130,000, based on these assumptions.

We are happy to provide a personalized example showing exactly how a Charitable Remainder Unitrust might apply to your situation. Contact your local Financial Services Representative or call our office toll-free at 800-483-2177.

Donor Advised Fund

A Donor-advised fund (DAF) is an excellent alternative to a private family foundation and offer donors a very flexible way to address their charitable interests over both the short- and long-term. While there are many ways to structure charitable giving, there are few alternatives that offer the versatility and tax efficiency of a Donor Advised Fund. Donor Advised Funds offer donors the opportunity to establish an individually named DAF and remain actively engaged in the gift making process through recommendations regarding the use of fund income and principal.

A Donor Advised Fund allows you to take action today to fund a future of charitable giving…

    • To establish your Donor Advised Fund, complete an application and submit to Covenant Estate Planning Services® along with your irrevocable tax-deductible contribution to the Evangelical Covenant Church. An initial donation of $10,000 or more is required to establish a Donor Advised Fund. Additional gifts to a Donor Advised Fund must be $5,000 or more. There is no maximum gift
    • Donations may be made with
      • Cash
      • Marketable securities
      • Real estate, personal property assets, such as coin or stamp collections, require prior approval from Covenant Estate Planning Services. The Donor is responsible for securing an appraisal of such property prior to approval.
    • Since donations of real estate and/or personal property assets require special effort, the Donor may incur expenses that are unique to the transfer of such
    • All Donor Advised Fund gifts are to be made to the Evangelical Covenant Church and will be coordinated and processed by Covenant Estate Planning Services. The written agreement used to establish an individual Donor Advised Fund shall be between the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Donor.
    • Each Donor Advised Fund will be individually named, e.g. The George Johnson Family Donor Advised
    • The Donor can be the Advisor for a Donor Advised Fund and may name one or more additional
    • These contributions are placed in your named Donor Advised Fund and are professionally managed by Covenant Trust on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church for the published Investment Management Account fee. These assets have the potential to grow tax-free and fund more charitable The Donor may choose from these investment strategies:
      • Money Market Fund
      • Conservative Growth
      • Moderate Growth
      • Focused Growth
      • Strategic Growth
  3. GIVE
    • The Advisor can recommend at any time that distributions be made from the account to Covenant and/or other ministries of your
    • Covenant Estate Planning Services shall give careful and thoughtful consideration to all recommendations for gift distributions under the authorization of the Evangelical Covenant Church and based on Evangelical Covenant Church guidelines.
    • When two or more persons are named as Donor Advised Fund Advisors, Covenant Estate Planning Services may accept and act on recommendations for gift distributions from anyone Advisor without any requirement to contact or receive concurrence from the other named Donor Advised Fund Advisors.
    • Recommendations for gift distributions from a Donor Advised Fund must be written and signed by a Donor or named Donor Advised Fund
    • The minimum gift distribution from a Donor Advised Fund is $500.
    • Donor-Advised Fund Gift Distributions will be made twice a
    • During each calendar year, every Donor Advised Fund is required to distribute to charity 5% or more of its January 1 value, or a minimum of $500 unless there are special circumstances such as the Donor Advised Fund holding non-liquid
    • If the required 5% distribution has not been made from a Donor Advised Fund by December 25th of each calendar year, it shall be made automatically. The Donor will be encouraged to include a ‘default’ charity in the fund agreement, but if there are no written recommendations or default provisions on file from the Donor regarding distribution, the 5% distribution shall be made to the Evangelical Covenant Church to be used where needed
    • Donor-Advised Funds may recommend up to 50% of the annual distribution be made to 501(c)(3) charities other than Covenant ministries. Any such charity must have goals and objectives compatible with those of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Covenant Estate Planning Services reserves the right, in the exercise of its sole and absolute discretion, to approve or disapprove distribution recommendations
  • When a Donor Advised Fund has maximum assets of less than $5,000 for a full calendar year, the Donor Advised Fund will be closed and its assets distributed to Covenant ministries. If there are no written recommendations on file from the Donor regarding ultimate distribution, the Donor Advised Fund assets will be distributed to the Evangelical Covenant Church to be used where most
  • Upon the death of the last surviving Donor, the assets of a Donor Advised Fund will be distributed to Covenant ministries. If there are no written recommendations on file from the Donor regarding ultimate distribution, the Donor Advised Fund assets will be distributed to the Evangelical Covenant Church to be used where most
  • A Donor may provide for the Donor Advised Fund to continue after death with gift distribution recommendations being received from one or more Advisors selected by the Donor for a time period up to 20 years or for the lives of the named Advisors, whichever is less.
  • Distributions from a Covenant Trust Donor Advised Fund may not be used to discharge or satisfy a charitable pledge or obligation that is legally enforceable against the Donor or any other person, or to pay for goods or services of value or any other private benefit received by the donor or any other person affiliated with the Donor.