How To Give Like Mark Zuckerberg
Fortune Magazine Article, November 2010
In his mid-30s Georgia lawyer Bertis Downs, the longtime manager of rock band R.E.M., started buying fine red wines, mostly early Bordeaux. Over time his tastes changed. He stopped drinking red wine much, but he still had 30 cases, including some 1982 Mouton Rothschild, in his cellar. “I thought, I’m never going to drink this,’” says Downs, now 54. “I’m never going to have enough parties to use it. It’s a wasting asset.’”
Rather than hassle with liquidating this most illiquid of liquid assets himself, Downs donated it. Bryan Clontz, a charitable middleman, took bids from wine dealers, shipped the cases to Hong Kong and transferred $150,000 into a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. From there Downs and his wife, Katherine, direct grants to their favorite charities. If you’re feeling generous, look at all your assets. These days you can convert everything from real estate to private company stock to hedge fund shares into a charitable kitty. Moreover, depending on what you give, to what kind of charity and how you time your donation, you may get a much more valuable tax break than if you’d just given cash.