Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Stock Donation

I think the lesson of this story is "it's all in who you ask."

We decided to donate some Apple stock to Lori's church. Apple stock has done extraordinarily well, and we feel it's right to share some of the good fortune with St. James.

So in early December 2010, I got the E*TRADE charitable donation form, and asked St. James' business manager for help filling it out. We ran into confusion and complications, because St. James has no brokerage account, and actually isn't a financial entity of its own. Some E*TRADE customer support person suggested that St. James could open a temporary account just to receive the stock, and a month ensued of St. James faxing forms to E*TRADE, forms going lost or missing or rejected, and whatnot.

Finally, on December 30, I overnight-mailed a form to E*TRADE asking them to send a stock certificate to St. James, in the hope that I could claim the tax deduction for 2010 and we could then figure out how they could turn the certificate into cash.

In January, I got a call from E*TRADE about this; apparently the stock I wanted to give was in the wrong part of my account. That got fixed, and then it got sent out to be issued as a stock certificate.

And there it got stuck. For eight weeks.

I finally got a personal relationship manager at E*TRADE, which has the advantage that I have one guy I can talk with who remembers my situation without me having to explain anew each time. He tracked down the holdup: it's not possible to get certificates for Apple stock. So I gave him the number for the St. James business manager, and asked the two of them to sort out how to transfer the shares electronically. (That was March 24. I remember the date because I got the call as I was going through a security scanner on our way to New Orleans.)

More weeks of people not making progress calling each other back followed. Finally, last night the E*TRADE guy called me with a proposal from the St. James guy: I sell the stock and transfer the money to St. James. (For those keeping count, it's now been almost five months since I started this donation process.)
That raised my hackles. Doing that would mean that a lot of that money would go to the IRS in taxes instead of to St. James. I don't object to being taxed, but I feel that the tax deduction for charitable donations is a government endorsement of giving more to charity, and I see no reason I shouldn't go along with that endorsed behavior.

I ranted "there must be someone in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who has experience in dealing with problems like this."
I typed "charitable donation diocese pittsburgh" into Google. The answer wasn't quite as obvious as I'd hoped, but from the first page of the results, I teased out a name and phone number for Paul Stabile, the diocese's Director of Planned Giving & Diocesan Foundation. I left voicemail for him at 9pm.

What a difference it makes to knock on the right doors.
Paul Stabile called me back at 11:45am, less than 15 hours after I'd left my message. He said (paraphrased), "The process is for you to transfer the shares to the diocese's brokerage account, and we then sell the shares, transfer the proceeds to St. James, and send you a donation letter. These two numbers are the numbers you need for an electronic transfer into our brokerage account. If you have any questions, you or your broker can call this person at our brokerage. I'll give her a call to let her know what to expect."

The E*TRADE guy is out of the office til Monday, so I called the woman at the diocese's brokerage to see what I could do to keep the ball rolling along. This call was radically different from all the phone tag I've played over the last few months. I mentioned my name, and she knew exactly what I was talking about, with a full command of every detail I had told Paul Stabile.

I think I've made more progress towards a solution in eighteen hours than I had in the previous five months. I don't think I'll finish this until after Easter, but I now have a solution that looks straightforward enough to fit easily into all the standard forms.

Now I'll just hope that Apple's stock price surges in the next few days, so that St. James gets even more out of this donation.
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