Charitable Gift Annuities

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on May 23, 2023

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What Are Charitable Gift Annuities?

Charitable gift annuities (CGAs) are a type of planned giving arrangement where a donor contributes assets, such as cash or securities, to a charity in exchange for a guaranteed income stream for a specified period or for the rest of the donor's life.

CGAs allow donors to support their favorite charitable organizations while securing financial benefits for themselves or their designated beneficiaries.

In a CGA agreement, the charity invests the donor's contribution and uses the returns to make regular income payments to the donor.

Upon the donor's death or at the end of the specified period, the remaining assets in the annuity become the property of the charity to support its mission and programs.

Types of Charitable Gift Annuities

Immediate Gift Annuity

An immediate gift annuity is a simple agreement where a donor transfers assets to a charity in exchange for a fixed income stream that begins immediately. The payout rate is typically based on the donor's age and the size of the gift.

Deferred Gift Annuity

In a deferred gift annuity, the donor transfers assets to a charity, but the income stream begins at a later date, usually coinciding with retirement or another significant life event. Deferred annuities provide a larger tax deduction and higher payout rates.

Flexible Deferred Gift Annuity

A flexible deferred gift annuity offers donors the option to choose the income start date within a specified range. This flexibility allows donors to adjust their income stream based on their changing financial needs.

Commuted Gift Annuity

A commuted gift annuity allows the donor to receive a lump-sum payment instead of a regular income stream. This option is usually chosen by donors who want to support a specific project or those who need a large sum of money at a particular point in time.

Establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity

Choosing a Charity

When considering a CGA, it's essential to research and select a reputable charity that aligns with your philanthropic goals. Ensure that the charity has a strong track record and a history of honoring CGA agreements.

Determining the Gift Amount

The gift amount will depend on your financial goals, the charity's minimum requirements, and the desired income stream. It's advisable to consult with a financial advisor to determine the optimal gift amount for your situation.

Selecting the Annuity Type

Choose the annuity type based on your financial needs, age, and long-term goals. Each type offers specific advantages, such as immediate income, flexibility, or lump-sum payments.

Creating a Contract

A CGA contract is a legally binding agreement between the donor and the charity. The contract should include details about the gift amount, annuity type, payout rate, and payment schedule. It's crucial to have a lawyer review the contract before signing.

Tax Implications

CGAs offer multiple tax benefits, such as income tax deductions, reduced capital gains taxes, and possible estate tax savings. Consult a tax professional to understand the implications of your specific CGA arrangement.

Advantages of Charitable Gift Annuities

Financial Benefits for Donors

Regular Income

CGAs provide a steady income stream, making them an attractive option for donors seeking financial security during retirement.

Tax Deductions

Donors can claim an income tax deduction for the charitable portion of their gift.

Potential Capital Gains Tax Savings

When donors fund a CGA with appreciated assets, they can potentially reduce or defer capital gains taxes.

Benefits for Charities

Consistent Funding

CGAs provide charities with predictable funding, helping them better plan and execute their mission.

Donor Engagement

CGAs facilitate long-term relationships between donors and charities, fostering a strong sense of community and loyalty.

Long-Term Financial Planning

Charities can use CGA funds for endowments or other long-term financial planning strategies, ensuring their sustainability.

Risks and Considerations

State Regulations and Oversight

CGAs are subject to state regulations, which may vary. Ensure you understand the specific rules and requirements in your state.

Financial Health of the Charity

Before committing to a CGA, research the financial health and stability of the charity. A financially unstable charity may not be able to fulfill its CGA obligations, putting your income stream at risk.

Inflation and Purchasing Power

The fixed income from a CGA may not keep pace with inflation, potentially affecting your purchasing power over time. Consider diversifying your income sources to mitigate this risk.

Market Risks

While charities typically invest CGA funds conservatively, market fluctuations can still impact their investment returns, potentially affecting the charity's ability to meet its financial obligations.

Illiquidity and Early Withdrawal Penalties

CGAs are generally illiquid, and early withdrawal may result in penalties or reduced benefits. Ensure that you're comfortable with the long-term commitment before entering into a CGA agreement.

Comparing Charitable Gift Annuities to Other Charitable Giving Options

Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) allow donors to make tax-deductible contributions to a fund, which can then be distributed to multiple charities over time. Unlike CGAs, DAFs do not provide an income stream for the donor.

Charitable Remainder Trusts

Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) are similar to CGAs in that they provide an income stream for the donor while benefiting a charity. However, CRTs are more complex, involving trust documents and separate tax filings.

Private Foundations

Private foundations are another option for philanthropic giving, offering donors greater control over their charitable activities. However, private foundations require substantial administrative work and are subject to specific tax regulations.

Direct Donations

Direct donations to charities are simple and straightforward, providing an immediate tax deduction. However, they do not offer the same financial benefits or long-term income as CGAs.

Comparative Table on Charitable Gift Annuities With Other Philanthropic Giving Options


Charitable gift annuities are an essential instrument in the world of philanthropy, providing a win-win scenario for both donors and charities. They enable donors to fulfill their philanthropic aspirations while securing their financial future through a steady income stream, and tax benefits.

To make the most of a CGA, it's essential to carefully evaluate your personal financial situation and philanthropic objectives. By doing so, you can identify the type of CGA that best suits your needs, whether it's an immediate, deferred, flexible deferred, or commuted gift annuity.

This evaluation process may involve assessing factors such as your age, income requirements, retirement plans, and the causes you are passionate about supporting.

Furthermore, seeking professional advice from financial planners, tax advisors, and legal experts can help you navigate the complexities of CGA arrangements and ensure that your interests are protected.

Proper planning is critical to optimizing the benefits of a CGA for both you and the charity you choose to support.

Charitable gift annuities offer a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on the causes you care about while simultaneously reaping financial benefits.

By thoroughly assessing your goals and seeking expert guidance, you can create a CGA arrangement that benefits both you and the charity, leading to a positive and lasting legacy.

Charitable Gift Annuities FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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