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The joy of giving

For a father who lost his daughter to cancer, supporting charities with a donor-advised fund is as much about what he's getting back as it is about what he's giving.

Carl Golub has never met the woman who wrote him a thank-you letter for helping send her family on vacation, free of charge. But by supporting Camp Sunshine, an organization that offers free, weeklong retreats for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, Carl has indeed helped give her family a carefree week in the country, away from doctors' appointments, medical bills and heartache.

Hearing that he's made a difference in someone's life always feels good. But for Carl, the greater reward is something more personal. With his giving, Carl is honoring his daughter Ellen, who he lost to cancer in 2012. She was just 48 years old.

Carl remembers his daughter's unwavering positive attitude and her thoughtful generosity with others. For his 75th birthday, Ellen rented a recording studio, hired an orchestra, and produced a CD of songs he had composed on the piano. Then, even while she was battling her own disease, Ellen volunteered at a hospital, helping to ease the suffering of other cancer patients. Today, her legacy lives on through the Ellen M. Golub Memorial Fund, a donor-advised fund Carl established at Fidelity Charitable

“You can't stop grieving for a mate or a child. But by giving in their name you're doing something that makes you proud.”

Setting up a memorial fund

A self-directed investor, Carl had heard about the Fidelity Charitable donor-advised fund program through his relationship with Fidelity Investments as an IRA customer. He liked that he could set it up himself without having to hire a lawyer or spending a lot of money. “[The donor-advised fund] is very easy to operate from beginning to end,” he said. “And you don't have to be a multi-millionaire to do it.”

But he wasn't entirely on his own. When Ellen passed away, family members and friends called with condolences, and about 90 people contributed into the donor-advised fund he established in her honor. Some gave as little as $50, others as much as $10,000. Each one made their tax-deductible contribution directly to Fidelity Charitable, and at the end of each year, Carl sends them a letter explaining which charities received support from the fund.

I get a lot of psychic pleasure out of the fact that I've been giving to charity in her name as if she was the one giving it


A new approach to giving

Before Carl established the Ellen M. Golub Memorial Fund, his approach to giving was very different. He gave money to organizations that either solicited his support, or that he had already heard of in some way. But with his Fidelity Charitable donor-advised fund, Carl became a lot more deliberate—he wanted the fund named for his daughter to support only the most reputable organizations.

Carl looked to charity rating services, like CharityNavigator.org, to help him filter out any charity that wasn't top-notch, and the process of taking a closer look was eye-opening. For example, Carl realized that some popular charities were devoting few resources to actually delivering programs and services, which seemed off-base to him. Meanwhile, he found a large number of relatively unknown charities that are running their organizations professionally and with integrity, and doing wonderful work out in the world

He zeroed in on organizations doing work that resonated with him, and that he knew his daughter would have appreciated as well. Sticking to organizations based in the U.S., his final mix included ones that conduct medical research, assist veterans in need, and provide aid to sick or hungry children and their families.


Making an impact

For each of the last three years, Carl has chosen 10 organizations to support. Doing so allows him to provide support in an amount that's substantial enough to make an impact for each one, but also small enough that the fund won't be depleted too quickly.

“I know Ellen would have loved it, and I know the organizations need the money,” Carl says. He schedules his grant recommendations so that grants go out in March, just before Ellen's birthday on the 24th.

“I get a lot of psychic pleasure out of the fact that I've been giving to charity in her name as if she was the one giving it.”

In addition to Camp Sunshine, Carl supports Cure Alzheimer's Fund, The Cancer Research Institute, Feeding America and more. One of his favorites is Homes for our Troops, an organization that builds fully furnished homes for families of veterans who have died or been seriously injured in service to their country

Continuing Ellen's legacy

Three years after he initially set up the fund, Carl has maintained his momentum. “All year I'm active, thinking about what I'm going to do next year,” he said. “It becomes a habit.” Carl hopes his grandchildren, who have already donated to the fund, will eventually take it over and carry on the legacy of giving he started.

“I can't bring Ellen back,” he said. “But I can do something for other people, and help them through their difficulty.”

[The donor-advised fund] is very easy to operate from beginning to end. And you don't have to be a multi-millionaire to do it.

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