Top four questions Duke alumni and friends ask about charitable giving

As an associate director of gift planning, I speak with a lot of Duke alumni and friends across the country about ways to support the university. Here are the four most common questions I receive from donors, alumni, and friends of Duke about planned giving:

1.  What is a planned gift and why should I consider supporting Duke in this way?

I realize that this is really two questions, but they go together like peanut butter and jelly! A planned gift is a type of gift that requires more tax or estate planning than a typical outright gift. Some planned gifts are deferred gifts—gifts that Duke will not receive until after a donor passes away (such as a bequest made through a will)—and others may involve complex assets such as appreciated stock or art.

One reason many donors choose to support Duke through planned giving is because it allows them to make a larger gift than they ever thought possible. Planned gifts can provide unrestricted support to the university or they can support specific schools or programs a donor is passionate about. A planned gift can even establish an endowed scholarship or professorship at the university.

2.  What is a life income gift? 

A life income gift is a gift to Duke that pays you or your loved ones an income for life or a period of years. At the time the gift is made, the donor would receive a charitable deduction for part of the gift’s value. The two most common types of life income gifts are charitable gift annuities (CGAs) and charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs). A CGA provides a fixed payment for life while a CRUT offers a variable payment. Read more about these life income gift options.

3.  How can I make a gift to Duke from my retirement plan or IRA? 

For many of us, our retirement accounts remain one of our most significant assets. There are two ways you can make a gift to Duke from your retirement plan or IRA:

  • Name Duke as a beneficiary of your retirement plan, e.g., 401(k) or 403(b): This is an easy and tax-wise way to make a gift to charity. And since Duke will not receive your gift until after you pass away, there is no immediate impact on your bank account. Additionally, if your circumstances change, you can update or change your beneficiary designation at any time. Discover the reasons why other Duke alumni and friends have named Duke as a beneficiary of a retirement account or IRA.
  • Make a charitable IRA rollover to Duke: If you are age 70 ½ or older, you can transfer up to $100,000 per year from your IRA to Duke. Your gift may count towards your required minimum distribution and does not result in additional taxable income to you. Read more about the charitable IRA rollover. Please note that under current legislation, rollovers can only be made from an IRA and not from an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k).

4.  How can I find out more information about planned giving at Duke? 

This is a softball, but it is a great question! If you would like information tailored to your personal circumstances, please contact a member of our team. We are happy to talk with you in person or by phone to explore the different ways you can support Duke through a planned gift. In addition, Duke’s Office of Gift Planning provides a treasure trove of information on its website. We encourage you to subscribe to our Blueprints blog to receive quarterly insights and timely news.

TAGS: Charitable IRA rollover life income gifts Charitable remainder unitrusts Frequently asked questions Cahritable gift annuities

About the author

Gift Planning

Duke University’s Office of Gift Planning specializes in charitable gift planning for estates, charitable trusts and annuities, and other complex current and future gift plans.

For more information, please contact the Duke University Office of Gift Planning at 919-681-0464 or