WELS celebrates exciting milestone in endowments program

This year WELS Ministry of Christian Giving and WELS Foundation are celebrating 16 years of God’s blessings—and the generosity of God’s people—through the WELS endowment funds.

In 2005, synod convention delegates prayerfully considered how WELS could help support gospel ministry in a predictable and ever-increasing manner. One answer was to establish the WELS endowments, which benefit the Lord’s work in WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions and at our four ministerial education schools. Out of gratitude for God’s love and a desire to help more people know Jesus as their Savior, WELS members have faithfully contributed to these endowments over the last 16 years, resulting in more than $100 million in gifts received ($36.7 million) and expected ($68.9 million).

“We praise Jesus for guiding our synod’s plans and prompting our members’ gifts so that we’re now able to distribute more than $1 million from these endowments for greater tuition assistance for ministerial education students and the funding of mission work to people groups located both in the U.S. and in foreign fields,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving.

In addition to the two synod endowments, WELS Foundation also manages endowments that are set up by individuals, congregations, and other WELS ministries. In total, WELS Foundation distributed $3.5 million to gospel work from more than 350 endowments this year, providing ongoing financial support for gospel work throughout WELS.

One of the endowments managed by WELS Foundation was established by WELS members David and Lynette Buss, longtime supporters of Jesus’ work through their local congregation and area Lutheran high school. “We read an article about Martin Luther College in a flyer from WELS,” says David, “and we knew we needed to distribute [our blessings] to people in the ministry field.” The Busses are helping reduce the burden of tuition costs for students so they can focus on training for the ministry.

The Busses understand that an endowment fund is an ideal way to support MLC students for years to come. “This fund will grow as long as we are on this earth, and it will continue to grow and help hundreds of students in future years,” says David.

“An endowment is a great way to create a lasting legacy of Christian faith while carrying out the Lord’s work,” says Mr. Jim Holm, executive director of WELS Foundation, “and there are a variety of ways to set up an endowment: cash or appreciated assets; or through a will, trust, beneficiary designation on a retirement account, or insurance proceeds.”

To learn more about adding to an existing endowment or setting up an endowment for a ministry close to your heart, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor at wels.net/giving-counselors or call 800-827-5482.

God blesses the generosity of his people through endowments

This year WELS Ministry of Christian Giving and WELS Foundation are celebrating 15 years of God’s blessings—and the generosity of God’s people—through our synod endowment funds.

In 2005, delegates at the synod convention prayerfully considered how WELS could better support ministry in a predictable and ever-increasing way. One answer was to establish the WELS endowments. These funds were established to benefit gospel work in WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions and at our four ministerial education schools: Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Luther Preparatory School, Martin Luther College, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

These endowments would not be possible without the generosity of God’s people. Out of thankfulness for the Lord’s blessings and to leave a legacy of faith for generations to come, WELS members have faithfully and steadily given to these endowment funds over the last 15 years, resulting in $32 million in gifts received and $68 million planned for the future. What innumerable blessings for ministry!

In July of this year, Lord willing, WELS Foundation will distribute over $1 million from these WELS endowment funds to support Ministerial Education and Home and World Missions.

Annual distributions from these endowments have profoundly impacted gospel work in our neighborhoods and around the world in addition to supporting the future called workers who will carry out that gospel work.

“Because of the highly competent way in which these endowment funds are administered, the ministerial education schools can make firm plans to help students with financial assistance and to repair buildings on campus every year. It’s hard to overstate how helpful that is,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education and chairman of the Joint Mission Council.

Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS Board for World Missions administrator, agrees that the endowments are crucial for ministry. “The reach of our Joint Missions work, funded almost entirely by these distributions, has led to work in Vietnam, South Sudan, Liberia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and several new opportunities that continue to be explored. The sturdy backbone these endowments provide allows us to aggressively pursue contacts that our WELS members in the US have around the globe. It seems the more we explore these contacts, the more doors the Lord is opening for his gospel to grow.”

The list of impacts—and the list of blessings—could go on and on. Even following a year of great uncertainty, these endowment funds are a solid foundation for gospel work. Not only do they provide dependable support today, they also provide predictable, growing support for ministry next year, and every year after that, until the Lord returns.

To learn how you can join your brothers and sisters in faith in supporting ministry through WELS endowments, visit wels.net/endowments or call 800-827-5482.



WELS Foundation featured in “Table Talk” vlog

Jim Holm, executive director of WELS Foundation, was the featured guest of Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School’s Estate Plan Counselor Paul Snamiska in the KML Foundation’s new vlog series “Table Talk.”

In the interview, Holm answered the basic question, “What is WELS Foundation?” in addition to giving more details about how WELS Foundation helps donors make gifts to the ministries that are closest to their hearts, in the most efficient way possible.

Watch the latest vlog with Jim Holm, or listen to the interview in your favorite podcast app by searching for “KML Foundation Table Talk.”

To learn more about WELS Foundation and how it can help you support the ministries you care about, contact Executive Director Jim Holm at 414-256-3206.



WELS Endowment Fund finishes in 90th percentile of Commonfund study

We have some very exciting news to share with you!

Here’s the technical part of the news:
In the recently released Council on Foundations—Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations®, the WELS Endowment Fund’s 2019 net investment return of 22.39% placed in the 90th percentile of the 265 foundations who participated in the study.

So, what does that mean for ministry?
Well, this is great news because the better the investment returns for the WELS Endowment Fund, the more the fund earns. And the more it earns, the bigger the distribution checks will be to our ministries that have an endowment fund through WELS Foundation—and those distributions help fund gospel work. We praise God for his blessings!

Here’s a portion of the September 28 press release:
With 265 participating foundations representing combined assets of $104.7 billion, the Study is believed to be the most comprehensive annual survey of its kind. This is the eighth year that Commonfund Institute and the Council on Foundations—two leading organizations in the field of foundation investment and governance policies and practices—have partnered to produce this research.

Contact us about setting up an endowment fund:
To learn more about how an endowment fund can support your ministry for years to come, contact Executive Director Jim Holm at 414-256-3206.

Inspired by a donor’s gift, a WELS giving counselor follows his lead

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

Arnie Nommensen is retired after serving WELS first as a teacher and then as a Christian giving counselor. As a giving counselor he assisted members with different options for supporting WELS ministry. Arnie recalls working with one gentleman whose “wish was to leave as much as he could to support the Lord’s work when the Lord took him to heaven.”

“The charitable gift annuity (CGA) served his purpose,” says Arnie. A CGA provides a donor with a tax deduction when they make a gift of cash or securities in exchange for fixed quarterly payments for life. When the Lord calls them home, the remainder of the gift goes to proclaim the gospel through the designated ministry.

“He knew things could change in his life and his expenses could use up much, if not all, of his savings,” says Arnie. So, by setting up a CGA, the donor ensured he’d have income to cover his expenses while preserving his hoped-for gifts toward ministry.

The donor so enjoyed giving through his first CGA that he set up more. “He had enough CGAs set up that the payments from them gave him enough income to set up a new CGA each year,” says Arnie. The donor would designate the CGAs to correspond with the ministries he was supporting. “He enjoyed watching the work of these ministries and praying for their success.”

That donor’s thinking impacted Arnie. “Realizing Christ has done all we need for our salvation, we want to find ways to thank him. Seeing how the CGAs had been a blessing to this gentleman, my wife and I have been setting up CGAs corresponding to the areas of the Lord’s work that affect our lives.”

Does the CGA sound like a giving instrument that could work for you? The illustration above shows how a CGA would work for someone 75 years old with payments beginning immediately (payments can also be deferred to a future date). Transferring appreciated assets (e.g., stocks) may be an even more beneficial way to fund your charitable gift annuity since it may allow you to avoid capital gains taxes now and pay them in a more favorable way later.

Your local WELS Christian giving counselor can share more (at no cost or obligation) about how a CGA may be a good way for you to give to the ministries you love.

A great time to consider a charitable gift annuity

If you’ve been looking for a tax-wise way to financially provide for you or a loved one—and ultimately give a thank offering to Jesus for WELS ministry—now is a great time to consider moving forward with a charitable gift annuity (CGA). CGA payment rates are going down as of July 1, so if you establish a CGA before then you will receive more in payments each year (for example, a $10,000 CGA would provide $30-50 more per year).

Many WELS members enjoy how a CGA allows them to make a gift of cash or securities in exchange for fixed quarterly payments for life and a charitable deduction now (plus savings on capital gains tax if you fund the CGA with appreciated assets). When the Lord calls you home, the remainder of the gift goes to proclaim the gospel through the WELS ministry you designate.

Here’s how it would work for someone 75 years of age:

You can do a personalized illustration based on your age. Another option is the deferred gift annuity, which provides a tax deduction now while payments start in the future.

If interested, call 800-827-5482 and we’ll connect you to your local WELS Christian giving counselor for free assistance with taking the next step.

The CARES Act and its impact on planned giving

We are certainly living in unprecedented times, aren’t we? COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives. We want to keep you updated on anything related to COVID-19 that will impact charitable giving, like the CARES Act.

The U.S. Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the president has signed it into law. Below are some of the highlights as they relate to charitable giving.

Please contact your WELS Foundation team at WELSFoundation@wels.net, your WELS Christian giving counselor at wels.net/givingcounselors, or other mission advancement representative at other WELS-affiliated ministries with questions at any time.

Highlights of the CARES Act*
The law allows an above-the-line income tax charitable deduction up to $300 even if you don’t itemize on your 2020 income tax return. The tax break is available to people who claim the standard deduction, which is $12,400 for singles or $24,800 for married-filing jointly in 2020. This provision was inserted specifically to encourage charitable giving this year.

• The CARES Act impacts owners of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) by providing a temporary waiver of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for 2020, allowing IRA owners to keep funds in their IRAs (and other qualified retirement plans). The decreased value of their IRAs may motivate some people to keep funds in their accounts temporarily, waiting to see what happens in the investment markets. Donors age 70.5 and older may still make direct distributions to charity from their IRA, just as before, if it makes financial sense to do so.

For the 2020 tax year only, donors may elect to apply a 100% of adjusted gross income (AGI) limit to cash gifts to public charities. Gifts to donor advised funds (DAFs) don’t qualify. This means that in 2020, a donor who deducts 30% of AGI in long-term appreciated property gifts and elects the 100% of AGI limit for qualified cash contributions will be able to also deduct up to 70% of AGI for qualified cash gifts, a total deduction of up to 100% of AGI. If this donor uses all available deductions for qualified cash gifts, that donor will pay no federal income tax in 2020. (Please note: Donors should consult their tax advisers to determine whether the 100% election makes sense for them.)

The new law, coupled with current financial uncertainty, has created an appealing climate for those concerned about their income from investments. Please let us know if would like to learn more about how you can transfer assets (cash, securities, real estate, etc.) into a secure income stream for yourself and/or others while also providing for the Lord’s work.

Recent steps taken by the Federal Reserve Bank on federal lending rates have made certain charitable gift strategies more appealing than they have been in some time. Please let us know if would like to learn more about how you can reduce the size of your taxable estate for a planned transfer to heirs, all while making a sizable gift to the Lord’s work.

• If you’re thinking of updating your estate plan, we would be pleased to help you consider including a gift to your local congregation and/or other WELS or WELS-affiliated ministries.

In the meantime, this is a good time to just stay in touch. Please reach out to your Christian giving counselor or mission advancement representative with questions about what is going on locally and nationally to discuss those ministries that are of most interest to you. They will be glad to hear from you.

Please continue doing everything you can to help keep yourselves, your families, and your communities safe. And as with all situations in life, we lean on our Savior’s promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. May God bless you all!

*CARES Act summary compiled by Dan Shephard of The Shephard Group

The SECURE Act and Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

The “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act, aka the SECURE Act, was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The SECURE Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, changes many of the rules governing retirement plans, including several provisions relevant to making charitable IRA rollover gifts (also known as qualified charitable distributions, or QCDs).

Under the SECURE Act, the charitable IRA rollover, or QCD, remains a terrific way to make a tax-free gift to WELS ministries using your traditional IRA.

How Do I Qualify?
• You must be 70½ years old or older at the time of the gift.
• Gifts must go directly from your IRA to a charity such as your congregation, a WELS-affiliated ministry, or WELS/WELS Foundation.*
• Gifts must come from a traditional or Roth IRA account.
• Gifts cannot exceed $100,000 per donor per year.
• You cannot receive a benefit in return for your gift, such as tickets to a gala.

Benefits of a Charitable IRA Rollover Gift (QCD)
The SECURE Act increased the age at which individuals must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70½ to 72. (Note: Those who turned age 70½ on December 31, 2019 or earlier must continue taking RMDs.) Once a person reaches 72, one of the great benefits of a QCD is that it will count toward your RMD. However, even if you have not reached age 72, there are still good reasons to consider a QCD at 70½. First, a QCD offers all the benefits of an income tax charitable deduction, even if you don’t itemize your deductions. You can’t claim a deduction for your QCD, but your QCD is not included in your income. Your QCD is always a tax-free gift.

Another reason to consider a QCD at age 70½ is to reduce the balance in your IRA. At age 72 or older, your RMD is based on the balance in your IRA at the end of each year multiplied by a factor published by the IRS. You may be in a position where you don’t want or need the income from your IRA. Higher income can increase your Medicare premiums and create other tax issues.

Another change brought on by the SECURE Act is the elimination of the stretch IRA for many beneficiaries. With a few exceptions, children and other non-spouses who are more than ten years younger than you no longer can stretch their withdrawals from an IRA they inherit from you over their life expectancy. Instead, they must withdraw and pay income tax on all funds within ten years. This change means that it may be most tax efficient for you to support WELS ministries and provide for your heirs by making QCDs during your life and setting aside other assets to pass on to your loved ones. You may also want to consider assigning your IRA by beneficiary designation to WELS Foundation to provide life-income payments for your loved ones and to designate the remainder for the Lord’s work.

Learn more about making an IRA charitable distribution at wels.net/qcd. Your financial planner and local WELS Christian giving counselor can help guide you through the process.

*QCDs received by WELS Foundation can be designated by the donor for any WELS or WELS-affiliated ministry.

Furthering ministry while helping your retirement

Many WELS members, seeking to thank Jesus for his grace and blessings, find the charitable gift annuity to be the ideal tool for supporting gospel ministry because it provides fixed payments throughout your retirement years and directs the remaining value to the Lord’s work. Marlin and Sharon Braun are an example of this. In fact, they have set up multiple charitable gift annuities (CGAs) and plan to do more.

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

We first heard about CGAs from Sharon’s parents, who set some up years ago for their retirement. Since we had been a bit negligent in funding our own IRAs over the years due to financial situations, we felt this was a good way to try and “catch up” on our retirement planning once Marlin turned 60. So far, we have funded about half of our goal and feel good that not only is the money being well used to further our synod’s work (when we go to heaven, numerous WELS entities of our choice will be receiving donations), but we have helped our own retirement plan. It has been a pleasure and quite straightforward working with our Christian giving counselor each time we have been ready to fund another of our CGAs.

Besides the gift to charity and dependable quarterly payments, a CGA also offers tax advantages. The illustration above shows how a CGA would work for someone 75 years old with payments beginning immediately (payments can also be deferred to a future date). Transferring appreciated assets (e.g., stocks) may be an even more beneficial way to fund your charitable gift annuity since it may allow you to avoid capital gains taxes now and pay them in a more favorable way later.

Your local WELS Christian giving counselor can share more (at no cost or obligation) about how a CGA may be a good way for you to give to the ministries you love.


There’s an endowment for you

WELS Foundation offers several options allowing individuals, families, churches, and WELS-affiliated organizations to provide ongoing support to WELS ministries.

  • WELS endowments – Contribute to one of the synod-established endowments providing regular support and stability for missions, ministerial education, and the operating fund.
  • Donor designated endowments – Through WELS Foundation, an individual or family can establish an endowment for the benefit of WELS ministries they designate, such as their church, school, and synod.
  • Congregation endowments – A church or WELS organization can also establish an endowment to benefit local causes like community outreach, scholarships, and building maintenance, as well as wider synod efforts.

For free assistance with a gift or setting up an endowment, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Christian estate planning quiz

The following “true or false” quiz will help you gauge your familiarity with Christian estate planning. To see how you did, check out the answers that follow.

True or False

  1. ____ I’m young; I don’t need an estate plan.
  2. ____ If my will is up-to-date, I’m all set.
  3. ____ A will is a secular document.
  4. ____ Adding a planned gift for the Lord’s work means starting over with my attorney.
  5. ____ If a person dies without a will, the state automatically takes one half of the estate for probate fees.
All the answers are false. 1. Young families need a will to designate a guardian for minor children. Plus, even young people own assets that can be shared with family and the Lord’s work. 2. Be sure your estate plan coordinates the beneficiary designations for major assets not controlled by your will. 3. You can witness your Christian faith to loved ones through a Christian preamble in your will. 4. Some planned gifts can be arranged with the stroke of a pen after consultation with your advisors. 5. While it is true that the state, in the absence of a valid will, dictates the disposition of the estate, it certainly does not automatically receive half the amount. However, if you die with no will, there may be a large increase in probate costs. Plus, the state—not you—will determine who cares for your loved ones; and there will likely be no charitable distributions.

If you would like a refresher in how to arrange an estate plan that maximizes benefits for loved ones while supporting the spread of Christ’s gospel, review our booklet, Estate Planning for the Christian Steward, then contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for free assistance.

“A way to gift to the charities I love to support”

Phyllis’ Story

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

Years ago, when Phyllis Moore and her husband John (who is now with Jesus) sold their business, each established a charitable gift annuity (CGA). At the time, they did this primarily for financial reasons. A CGA provides a charitable deduction when the gift is made, then fixed quarterly payments to the donor until he or she goes to heaven—at which point the remainder goes to the designated charity. “But,” Phyllis says, “over the years it has become a way to gift to the dozen charities I love to support.”

She uses the payments she receives to give to her church, WELS schools, a campus ministry, and parasynodical organizations—as well as medical foundations. “I like the letters and phone calls from students thanking me. I know how they need it. Those future pastors and teachers are needed, and I am glad I can help them.”

Your Story

The combination of tax advantages, dependable payments, and accessible minimum gift amount make the CGA one of the more popular planned giving instruments. Perhaps it can fit into your Christian giving story as it did for Phyllis. For example, if you are 45 or older and would like to make a gift towards the Lord’s work that provides income during retirement—and a charitable deduction now (while income is higher), consider a version of the CGA called the deferred gift annuity. A deferred gift annuity allows you to make a gift in exchange for fixed quarterly payments starting at a future date and continuing until you go to heaven. Pictured is how a deferred gift annuity would look for someone who is 55, assuming payments begin in ten years. Transferring appreciated assets, e.g. stocks, may be an even more beneficial way to fund your deferred gift annuity since it may allow you to avoid capital gains taxes now and pay them in a more favorable way later.

Your local WELS Christian giving counselor would be happy to discuss with you further how this type of gift could work for your situation.

Why give from your IRA?

Lawrence Frank of Stevensville, Mich., points to 2 Cor. 9:6-7 as his motivation for giving to God: “If you give from your heart—not because you expect something back—the Lord does reward you.” He and his wife, Gini, give from their IRAs to avoid taxes on their required minimum distributions (IRA charitable distributions are free from federal and potentially state income tax for anyone 70.5 or older). Lawrence says it’s “easy” to give to multiple ministries through WELS Foundation, which distributes the funds per a letter of instruction. If interested in this giving opportunity, visit wels.net/qcd or call your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482.

Why an endowment fund?

An endowment fund is a donor restricted gift that is not spent immediately but is invested. Endowments annually distribute a portion of the invested funds to provide ongoing, predictable financial support for our Savior’s ministry.

Giving through an endowment fund provides the following benefits:

  • An endowment provides a framework for receiving cash gifts, appreciated property (stocks or real estate), and other planned gifts, such as through a will, trust, beneficiary designation on a retirement account, or insurance proceeds.
  • An individual can use an endowment to continue his or her charitable gifts even after being taken to heaven.
  • An endowment provides additional funding for current operations as well as money for future and expanded efforts.
  • An endowment is an ongoing witness of Christ’s love that compelled you to make a current or estate gift (will, etc.) to glorify God and share his love with others.

A donor or group of donors can work with WELS Foundation to establish an endowment fund. WELS Foundation provides a full-service endowment program including promotional material, endowment statements, investment management, and annual distributions.

Learn more about supporting gospel through an endowment fund. For free assistance, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Financing your annual gifts forever

Many people, out of grateful thanks to God, give a set amount to WELS each year. We praise Jesus for this consistent generosity and faithfully use these gifts to carry out our ministry (see “Your Gifts, God’s Blessings—An Annual Report to Our Members”). Realizing the need for these consistent gifts, some have taken a step to ensure their gifts continue forever!

In their estate plans, they have arranged for part of their remaining assets to go to be given to a WELS endowment fund. The result will be that their current annual gifts continue in perpetuity. To God be the glory!

Here’s how it works: A gift to an endowment fund is not spent immediately but is invested in a diversified investment portfolio. Annual distributions from the endowment funds are used to provide a source of ongoing financial support for our ministries. The endowment is managed in such a way that the distributions are anticipated to keep up with inflation. This method preserves the spending power of each year’s payout.

How do you figure the amount to give to extend your annual gift? Using the typical endowment distribution policy of four percent each year, a bequest that is 25 times the amount of your annual gift will assure that it is financed forever.

Individuals, families, churches, and other WELS organizations can also set up their own endowment funds through WELS Foundation for the benefit of WELS gospel ministry. Learn more and receive free assistance with this type of gift through your local WELS Christian giving counselor. We are grateful for your annual gifts and, as God has blessed you, invite you to explore how you can continue that support.

Wisconsin allows tax-free IRA distributions to charities

In March 2017, Nick Krueger, a member at St. Mark’s, Watertown, Wis., and staff member of Representative Terry Katsma of the Wisconsin State Assembly, invited fellow St. Mark’s member, WELS director of Christian Giving Kurt Lueneburg, to testify in front of a legislative committee on a proposed bill that would apply the federal government’s treatment of qualified charitable distributions from an IRA to Wisconsin’s tax code (pictured). That bill was adopted into Wisconsin’s budget law as of 2018, meaning Wisconsin residents 70.5 or older can make charitable distributions of up to $100,000 from their IRAs tax-free at the federal and state levels. Lueneburg shares, “Since 2007, members of our church body who live in Wisconsin have made over $1.8 million in qualified charitable distributions to support our church body’s gospel ministry. Year over year giving since 2007 shows a trend of growing interest. We’ve heard donors mention it would be nice if Wisconsin allowed tax-free distributions as well. Thus, this bill has the potential to increase donor satisfaction and the positive impact on Christ’s work.”

Another prosperous year

As Christians, we are thankful all year long for everything that God has given us, but the fall season has traditionally been a time for us to reflect on our blessings. It’s a good time to take notice of the abundance we have received through Jesus and to consider how we should manage our gifts from God.

Making a year-end gift is a wonderful way of expressing your gratitude to God for the blessings you have received while helping fund the Lord’s work at the same time. Another reason to make a charitable gift before year’s end are the tax benefits. For example, you can give more for less through a gift of appreciated assets (e.g., stocks, mutual funds, etc.). And donors who are 70.5 or older can make tax-free charitable distributions from their IRAs.

Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for information on completing a year-end gift or any question you may have about Christian giving and/or your estate plan.

The perfect tool to meet major goals in retirement

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

Retired WELS teachers Ron and Joan Zahn have established several charitable gift annuities (CGAs) over the years. “They seemed to us a perfect tool through which we could meet two major goals in retirement.” Those goals include giving to the Lord while having money for their own needs. As you can see from the illustration, a CGA is a great way for someone 60 or older to do just that (shown for someone 75 years old with payments beginning immediately—payments can also be deferred to a future date).

Giving through CGAs provided the Zahns with “the satisfaction of furthering ministry.” They said, “We found it to be fun to decide which organizations or entities would be the recipients.” They decided to support endowment funds for missions and ministerial education as well as several congregations and area Lutheran high schools that have been a blessing to their family.

If you are interested in a charitable gift annuity, your local WELS Christian giving counselor can assist you.

The donor advised fund – a popular way to give

“The growth of donor advised funds (DAFs) may be the biggest story in the charitable sector during the last decade,” according to planned giving consultant, Alan Cantor. What is a donor advised fund and why is it so popular?

With a donor advised fund, an individual, family, or corporation makes an irrevocable, tax-deductible contribution of cash, securities, or other property to WELS Foundation. At any time thereafter, the donor recommends distributions to qualified WELS ministries. The fund can be established with current gifts, deferred gifts (such as charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts), and testamentary gifts (such as wills, revocable trusts, or beneficiary designations for life insurance policies or retirement accounts).

What’s driving the growth of this type of gift? A donor advised fund provides an alternative to the private family foundation. You can accomplish many of the same goals, but with far less administrative work and expense. Some of the benefits include:

• Donor advised funds (DAFs) provide an income tax charitable deduction in the year of the gift to the DAF regardless of when distributions are made.
• As with all gifts of long-term appreciated securities, none of the appreciation is subject to capital gains tax.
• Donors enjoy the convenience of deciding when to contribute to the fund and when to make recommendations for distributions to ministry. They can give to the fund in the years when they have greatest tax liability.
• Donors enjoy encouraging family stewardship by involving children and other loved ones in the decision-making process for the grant recommendations.
• As with all gifts to ministry, there is joy in giving to the Lord and supporting areas of ministry close to your heart.

Learn more here, then contact a WELS Christian giving counselor if you are interested in starting a donor advised fund.

Online tools personalize gift benefits

With the help of planned giving vendor PG Calc, WELS Foundation has updated our website with online tools to help users personalize the benefits of different giving options:

  • The Explore Gift Options tool walks the user through several questions to help them find the best gift for their personal situation.
  • The user can Run a Personalized Gift Illustration for a tailored diagram of any gift.
  • As a person navigates the WELS Foundation site and reads about certain gifts (for example, the charitable gift annuity) they can click to view a specific illustration for that type of gift and personalize the illustration to their situation.

As always, if somebody is interested in learning more or would like assistance with making a gift, WELS provides Christian giving counselors at no cost or obligation to help WELS members carry out their charitable goals.

WELS Foundation executive director Jim Holm hopes prospective donors find the tools useful. He says, “We want to make it as easy as possible for those supporting WELS ministry—their church, synod, or another WELS organization—to explore the options available.”

Springtime and harvest

Spring is planting time for the future harvest. The ground is prepared and the seeds sown. Then comes the growth and eventually the ripened fruit and the harvest.

The same sequence occurs when donors plan for future ministry support by planting endowments. The “seeds” of cash or appreciated assets are placed in the “ground” of an agreement where growth occurs under the watchful eye of investment managers. Eventually the earnings are harvested and used to fulfill the purpose of the donor’s endowment. The cycle repeats year after year as a specified portion is used for operational expenses or other designations identified in advance by the donor.

Endowment funds are valuable to the synod’s ministry plan because they represent a steady flow of financial resources. They add stability or even allow for new ministry to be accomplished.

Endowments benefit donors as well. Not only is it a way to give to the Lord’s work that continues the offerings they’re giving now and that provides tax benefits, these giving vehicles, which sometimes are named by the donors, create a legacy for the donor so future family members and coming generations will know that the donor was committed to the mission and work of Jesus.

WELS has endowment funds that provide annual support for missions and ministerial education. If interested in supporting WELS ministry through an endowment, you can give to one of these endowments or start your own.

The process of setting up an endowment is quite simple. A donor or group of donors can establish a donor designated endowment through WELS Foundation, which provides the necessary reporting and administration and invests the funds in the cost-effective, professionally managed portfolios of WELS Investment Funds.

Would you like to learn more? Your local WELS Christian giving counselor can help you explore the possibilities and benefits.

Two options when giving real estate

Real property values have been rising at a time when interest rates have remained low for an extended period. Financial assets have seen market values increase, too. Is it time to consider making a gift of your real estate to the Lord through WELS Foundation?

You may have a vacation property or undeveloped lot that has appreciated in value over the years. Did you intend to use it a lot more when it was purchased than you do now? It can be given through WELS Foundation to your church, synod, or another WELS ministry without incurring tax on that appreciation. Once we sell it, the value of your gift can be significantly more than had you sold it and donated after-tax proceeds of the sale.

Either way, your gift qualifies for an income tax charitable deduction, but it is typically lower if you sell first. Consider these possibilities for your appreciated real estate.

1. Give the entire property.

As a qualified charitable organization, WELS Foundation can sell the property without incurring capital gain. For example, a lot purchased for $10,000 in 1990 that appraises for $60,000 today would produce a $50,000 capital gain. Instead, a gift toward ministry through WELS Foundation of that same lot avoids the tax on the gain.

2. Give a portion of the property.

Imagine that giving the entire lot doesn’t make sense to you, but a smaller gift might. It is possible to give an undivided interest and accomplish similar goals, though to a lesser degree. A gift of an undivided one-half interest in that $60,000 lot today means that both you and your designated ministry will receive half of the sale proceeds when it sells. Today’s charitable deduction will help offset the capital gains taxes due on the portion that you kept.

More information

To learn more about gifts of real estate, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Confusion about bequests

The language used to make a gift through your will to the Lord’s work can sometimes be confusing. We talk about making a bequest, but what is that? The word “bequest,” which has its origins in Old English, means a transfer of personal property by will. Many people say a bequest can occur through any end-of-life transfer (e.g., beneficiary designation), not just through a will.

It is common to arrange our bequests in ways that minimize taxes and administrative costs in order to maximize the benefits to family and charity, but what’s the best way to accomplish this? Will your heirs incur income or inheritance taxes or will your estate have estate taxes or hidden income tax liabilities?

Does any of this this confuse you? If so, you’re not alone, and that may be why people put off writing a will. It is intimidating to some folks to set an appointment with an attorney and to discuss unfamiliar topics.

Fortunately, we can assist you with taking the confusion out of bequests. In fact, we want to send you a free booklet, Estate Planning for the Christian Steward, that explains in simple terms the basics of having a will and other steps for establishing a sound, tax-wise estate plan. We can also help you plan a future gift to Jesus through his work at WELS.

We are ready to personally assist in answering any questions you may have without cost or obligation. We can also help you find a qualified attorney, one who will simplify the process for you.

To receive the booklet or personal assistance, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

A gift to the Lord, a tax deduction now, and income in retirement

A single-life annuity illustration. (Call 800-827-5482 for a two-life annuity illustration.)

If you are 45 or older and would like to make a gift towards the Lord’s work that provides income during retirement—and a charitable deduction now (while income is higher), consider a deferred gift annuity. A deferred gift annuity allows you to make a gift in exchange for fixed quarterly payments starting at a future date and continuing until you go to heaven. Pictured is how this would work for someone who is 55 with payments beginning in 10 years.

(Transferring appreciated assets, e.g. stocks, may be an even more beneficial way to fund your deferred gift annuity since it may allow you to avoid capital gains taxes now and pay them in a more favorable way later.)

Rev. John Beck and his wife Cindy have found the deferred gift annuity to be a convenient and beneficial way to make a planned gift to the Lord. Pastor Beck says:

Some years ago, I recall a WELS Christian giving counselor commenting that Christians who have given offerings all their life may want to make one last planned offering in their death. That made sense to me; the question was how to make that happen. By the grace of God a very generous and supportive congregation enabled us to buy a home near the bottom of a housing market that began to swing sharply upward after we bought. After some medical setbacks and early retirement we needed to sell our home but realized a significant financial gain that would allow us to plan that final offering. Still, looking ahead, we knew that we would need to supplement our income stream. That’s where the deferred charitable gift annuity comes in. With this vehicle, there will be a nice future gift for the Lord’s work, and we will receive lifetime payments. It is a win-win situation that I would encourage everyone to explore.

A WELS Christian giving counselor can discuss with you the details of how this type of gift would work in your personal situation.

Giving opportunity continues in 2017 . . . and beyond

If you’re 70.5 or older, you can make qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) from your IRA to your church, synod, and other WELS organizations without counting the distributions as income for federal tax purposes. WELS member Alan Kohlhaas says the process is “very smooth.” “One check sent directly to WELS from my IRA holder counts as part of the required minimum distribution, but no taxes are paid on the transfer. The QCD also allows me to maximize the donation and use the standard deduction on my tax return.” Learn more at wels.net/qcd or by calling your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Revocable or not?

Can you identify the differences between a revocable and irrevocable gift? See whether you think the statements below are true or false.

  1. A gift made through your will is an irrevocable gift.
  2. Both revocable and irrevocable gifts qualify for a current income tax deduction.
  3. Naming WELS as a contingent beneficiary in an IRA is a revocable gift.
  4. A gift that can be recalled before it is completed is revocable.
  5. Donors without a lot of assets are wise to make irrevocable gifts first.


  1. False. Anyone naming a charity as a beneficiary in his or her will can change the amount and even revoke that gift as long as they are alive. Only at death (when the estate is activated) does that gift become irrevocable.
  2. False. To qualify for a tax deduction, every gift must be completed. Any gift that is revocable will not entitle the donor to a deduction until the gift is transferred to a qualified charitable entity.
  3. True. A contingent IRA gift such as “equal shares to A, B, C, and WELS” can be revoked any time during life. In fact, if B does not survive the IRA account owner, upon death A, C, and WELS will be paid their shares by the IRA administrator.
  4. True. When giving shares of stock, for example, the transaction can be reversed if the wrong stock is mistakenly sent out. Only when the shares are correctly sent and accepted by WELS is the gift complete.
  5. False. People of modest means are normally advised to keep what they have in case it is needed at some point in the future. Changes in health, financial circumstances, or income could mean that an asset irrevocably given away previously, even if placed in a trust, could be seen as a mistake.

What This Means to You
Whether you are thinking of making an irrevocable or revocable gift to WELS, an important consideration is to “expect the unexpected.” In other words, it may be better to give in such a way to preserve your future personal freedom and financial security.

This is just one reason we recommend that you talk with your local WELS Christian giving counselor. He knows the various options for supporting WELS gospel ministry through irrevocable and revocable gifts. He can help you think through the purpose for your gift, the best way to fund it while covering your family’s financial needs, and the right timing. He can also encourage you to talk with your attorney or other capable adviser, and provide information that will help you have that conversation.

Five benefits of an endowment fund

God has blessed WELS as members see the benefits of giving to the WELS Missions and Ministerial Education Endowment Funds or establishing their own donor designated endowment fund through WELS Foundation. Some give now because they want to see the results right away. Others make arrangements for their estate assets to be transferred when the Lord takes them to heaven. Some stand in both worlds by giving now and adding to it later through a bequest.

Why do people make endowment gifts to WELS? Here are five benefits.

  1. Giving thanks to God. Our gifts are a recognition that all we have is from God for the purpose of bringing him glory. We worship him for giving us a Savior from sin, Jesus Christ. We appreciate the privilege he has given us to be a part of sharing his gospel with others.
  2. A lasting legacy. Donors often inform their families regarding the endowment funds they establish. Because the fund is permanent, the legacy of support for Christ’s work through WELS will carry forward in perpetuity and influence future generations in the family. The commitment of the fund’s first donor(s) remains as a reminder of their values for children, great-grandchildren, and others.
  3. Continue regular giving. There are a number of donors who recognize that their gifts each year will be missed once the Lord takes them to heaven. Instead of allowing that to happen, these wise givers create an estate gift that is 25 times the amount they currently give. For example, a couple who gives $1,000 annually can endow their gift by making a one-time gift of $25,000. Once the endowment gift is made, their inflation-adjusted annual distributions continue in perpetuity.
  4. Permanence. Donors may see a similarity between their retirement funds and endowment funds in that both are guarded closely, invested separately, and protected so the principal remains intact. Endowments are managed much like retirement accounts, providing needed income in a predictable way while seeking to grow the amount and not have it eroded by inflation.
  5. Strengthening WELS. Every year WELS needs funding for continuing the training of workers, supporting congregations, and doing mission work. That priority for the support of current ministry will always remain. Annual endowment distributions ease some of the financial pressure and allows synod leaders to plan with confidence.

You can learn more at our website about supporting WELS ministry through an endowment fund. For assistance with an endowment gift, please contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

WELS Foundation’s 2016 annual report: “Helping people support ministry”

WELS Foundation’s 2016 annual report summarizes how the WELS subsidiary helps members leave gifts as a lasting monument of their faith. The Foundation does this by providing information on different giving opportunities and assistance with gifts through WELS Christian giving counselors. Over the last three years WELS Foundation has administered and distributed more than $14 million in donor directed gifts to various WELS ministries. Of this amount, 72 percent went to WELS national ministries, 9 percent to WELS affiliated ministries, and 19 percent to WELS congregations.

WELS Foundation President, Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, and Executive Director, Mr. Jim Holm, thank God for the many generous gifts the Lord has prompted for the benefit of his kingdom. Quoting the apostle Paul, they state the Foundation’s high privilege: “We administer (the offering) in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help” (2 Corinthians 8:19).

A printed copy of the annual report was mailed in late November to all WELS congregations, area Lutheran high schools, and parasynodicals.

O give thanks unto the Lord!

As we thank God for so many earthly blessings and, most importantly, for sending his Son to be our Savior, this is a reminder of one particularly exciting gifting opportunity. Anyone 70.5 or older can make qualified charitable distributions from their IRA of up to $100,000 per year to their church, synod, and other WELS organizations without counting the distributions as income for federal tax purposes. This may be an especially useful gifting strategy for those who do not itemize their income tax deductions.

To learn more, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

A gift that pays income to you or your loved ones


Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

A charitable gift annuity (CGA) is a unique way to support WELS ministry. Make a tax-deductible gift and receive an income stream for life (or have the payments go to loved ones). This illustration shows how a CGA would work for someone who is 75 years old with payments beginning immediately. (Note that rates vary based on age. Payments can also be deferred to a future date.)

Some WELS members enjoy giving in this way so much that they have multiple gift annuities. One donor we worked with exclaimed to his WELS Christian giving counselor, “Charitable gift annuities are like potato chips; you can’t have just one!”

Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for more information and assistance.