What is a Charitable Trust?

At its most basic, a charitable trust is a set of assets signed over by a donor to create and maintain a charitable interest. Once established, assets are managed by the trust administrator with generated assets being utilized to support an organization’s philanthropic mission.

Understanding the Types of Charitable Trusts

The specific type of charitable trust ultimately dictates the short- and long-term structure. For charitable remainder trusts, assets are directed to the identified charity at the end or of the trust period, generally at the end of life. Growth of the trust during the trust period is directed to a specific purpose and can include the financial support of the donor or another purpose. In the case of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, for example, the expiration extends to 50 years after their deaths.

Remainder trusts can come with short or longer periods of time depending on the desires of the donor and the charity. However, once the period runs out, all assets and associated interest become property of the charity.

While the other form of charitable trusts -- lead trusts -- are very similar, there is one glaring difference: the donor retains control of the assets given to the charity or organization. Similarly, interest may be considered property of the donor -- in some cases, it goes to the charity while, in others, it’s split between the donor and the charity.

At the end of the established period, the assets and interest are taken from the charity and given to a designated party chosen by the donor. This is, often, a beneficiary, heir or relative, but may be the supported charity also.

The Benefits of Charitable Trusts

There are countless benefits to establishing a charitable trust. For starters, there’s the emotional benefit of doing so much good. Donors are using their assets to help their community at large -- that alone is powerful and overwhelmingly positive.

Beyond that, though, there are the tangible and ongoing benefits that come from starting a charitable trust. Assets given to the trust are tax deductible, which can greatly reduce a donor’s tax burden. Moreover, in the case of lead trusts, when the trust expires and assets pass back to the donor’s heirs or other designated parties, the mandatory estate and gift taxes are much lower than they would be through traditional inheritance channels.

For many, the latter is one of the unique benefits of establishing a charitable trust. Very few estate planning methods enable a donor to take decisive philanthropic action while, at the same time, safeguarding their wealth for future generations. What’s more, by pairing a donor-advised fund with a split-interest trust, families can gain critical benefits of both an income stream and charitable giving.

For more information contact the WiseHeart Foundation at 901.410.3608 or at info@wiseheartfoundation.org.

Another Update from the Congo

Hello from Kindu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I apologize for the slow rate in updating my blog, but communication here is almost non-existent.

Kindu is the center of United Nations Security Forces fighting the ongoing insurgency and the basic lack of government in this region. Women and children are the object of attack for so many of the insurgent forces and it is overwhelming to see the horrible impact of these atrocities.

The DRC is the rape capital of the world. So many of the women have had their husbands murdered in front of them and their children. Then the women and some of the children have been raped and sexually exploited. Once this happens, they are considered outcasts by both sides of this conflict. We hope through this trip to further support building a center for those affected by this violence to once again enter society and live a fruitful life.


We have had much difficulty getting here. Travel in the Congo is a challenge at best. It seems that at every corner, the government challenges the attempts to provide the necessary information to make this project "work." Nevertheless, we are making progress.

Yesterday upon our arrival, we were greeted by more than 2,000 children singing and dancing while lining the road to the proposed center. The ladies walked with us around the road of the area singing songs of joy and praise for our presence. It was most humbling.

Today we worshipped with the leadership of the church community, walked the proposed center site and will be interviewing the brick makers who are already at work. Tomorrow we will interview many of the victims and leadership for the effort before going to West Congo to meet with leadership there.

The proposed center will allow for training, counseling and support of victims for up to three months. It is desperately needed and will cost approximately $350,000 to complete. I believe we can do it together. Please come back for more as we are able.

Update from Travels to India & the Congo

An update from Dr. David Lewis, Executive Director of the WiseHeart Foundation, who is travelling to India and the Congo this week.

It has been a long trip thus far. After flying for two days, we reached our first stop in India. Last night I got to deliver the commencement address to the largest graduation class of pastors from the Bible College in the school's 17-year history. I was fortunate to be there in the beginning and to see the growth of the program - the quality and commitment of these men and women is awesome. God is doing a great work here for sure.

After the ceremony concluded I got a rare treat. Back in the 1990’s, I taught a mini-course each year at Bible school in the northern state of Rajasthan. Over a four year stretch, I had the privilege of teaching some of the same students year after year. Last night, following the commencement, three pastors around the country approached me with big smiles on their faces. I immediately recognized one of the men as a former student. I then realized that all of these men, now married with families and active in the ministry in India, were all part of those classes. The wife of the missionary I work closely beside in India was a member of the first class I taught. They all graduated together. When it was confirmed I would be coming to India, she let them know and they formed a mini-reunion with me, traveling hours to take part in the ceremony. They said they wanted to see me, visit with me, and thank me for being a part of their Christian walk. I was extremely humbled. What a small thing I had done years ago was still remembered as a milestone in their lives. You very seldom receive validation in your ministry that also confirms what you did was something God truly used. I am so thankful I got the chance to see these fine men of faith in a difficult ministry.

We covet your prayers as we continue the trip. Tomorrow we leave for Africa and the Congo. We will be visiting the future site of a planned home to help the victims of rape and other female violence as a result of the ongoing wars there. Please pray for the success and safety of this part of our work and may God bless the work we are attempting to do. If I have internet access, which is doubtful, I will post more. Just know we covet your prayerful support.

WiseHeart Welcomes Ministry Partner: Families Matter

Families Matter exists to increase the number of healthy, loving, caring and forgiving families through a community–wide movement.

Families Matter was founded in 2004 through a three-year grant from the Urban Child Institute of Memphis based on a marriage enrichment program developed by a pastor at Second Presbyterian Church at that time. It is Families Matter’s experience that the breakdown of the family is the root cause of the many negative social issues we witness today. In order to increase the number of healthy families, they are compelled to address the need to educate, encourage, empower and support men in their knowledge of building and sustaining a biblically-based Christian relationship with their wife/significant other and their children.

Families Matter is a resource center that provides tools to build up every member of the family. Their educational offerings include everything from workshops for boys and men instructing them on how to become men of integrity to the indispensable purpose of being a father. Classes are also offered to couples and to single parents. In schools Families Matter supports students in understanding the necessity of making wise relationship choices, thereby assisting them in creating future success for their lives.

Families Matter is also collaboratively positioned to connect individuals and couples to counseling services around the area when one-on-one attention is needed.

For more information, please visit www.familiesmattermemphis.org.