In the fourth quarter of 2017, the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA) launched a new Donor Advised Fund (DAF). The Board of MMFA hopes this new fund encourages giving in new and exciting ways. We also hope this opens up philanthropy to new donors who may desire more choice in their charitable contributions.
The Moravian DAF allows donors to establish a gift account with the MMFA. That account and the assets are invested into an investment pool consistent with the donor’s style and risk tolerance. The donors serve as the initial grant advisors. Over time they make charitable gifts from their gift account as they see fit. MMFA will invest the funds and handle administrative matters for the individual accounts, giving donors a way to live out philanthropy without an administrative burden.
I want to tell you about a very personal experience of my own and how that experience opened up DAFs in a new light to my family.
A DAF for the one in heaven
When people ask me how many children I have, the quick answer is always “four.” But a more accurate answer is “four on earth and one in heaven.” You see, I’m the proud father of Zachary, Austin, Nolan and Kaitlyn, whom I enjoy parenting with my wife, Kelli. But I am also the proud father of Jonathan, with whom I spent only a few hours on August 21, 2009.
Jonathan’s story begins on February 22, 2009. We know Jonathan’s story, like our own, began long before that, in the heart of his Creator. God always had planned for Jonathan, but his mommy and daddy had not. Little did we know just how life-altering this unexpected gift was going to be.
Our initial shock quickly turned into excitement about the fact that God had chosen us to add a family member – to be part of another miracle. We welcomed him into our hearts figuratively as we literally made room in our home by making plans to add two rooms.
In March, an ultrasound revealed a 50 percent possibility of health problems with the baby. Subsequent tests confirmed what no expectant parent wants to hear. Our baby had Trisomy 13, a condition that is “not considered compatible with life.” Suddenly, our lives had changed in a most unwelcome way.
Facing the grim prognosis for our baby, we wrestled with many questions about God’s plans for us. When we learned we were having a son, we chose the name Jonathan because it means “given by God.” So, Jonathan, given to us by God, would now have to be given back to God by us. This was unchartered territory for us. How were we going to tell our boys? How would we help them through this when we couldn’t imagine going through it ourselves? Where was God in this?
On August 21, Jonathan was born at 9:32 a.m. I will never forget how quiet the room was. Usually, there is so much hustle and bustle happening, and above all that, a tiny little cry can be heard. Not this time. There was no talking at all. The nurses gathered around the bassinet holding our tiny, still and quiet baby boy. He had a heartbeat, but was not breathing. He would not be with us long. They weighed him, wrapped him up in a blanket and brought him—all 2 pounds and 11 ounces—to Kelli.
He was so peaceful—not struggling or suffering, and in that we found peace. He never opened his eyes. It’s as if he just wasn’t meant to see this world. He was destined for a far better place. We don’t know the color of his eyes. We don’t know the sound of his voice. He just slept peacefully in our arms. Occasionally, a pediatric doctor listened to Jonathan’s heartbeat. At 10:34 a.m., she listened, and then softly said, “My deepest condolences.”
In the years since Jonathan has been in heaven, God has revealed to us that He was indeed with us every moment – even those when we felt so alone. He provided tangible expressions of His love for us through the love and support received from our family and friends. Our fifth child, Kaitlyn, has the middle name “Grace” because God does give us beautiful gifts of grace even during our darkest days. We cling to the precious promises He has given us through Jesus Christ, and we rest in the knowledge that, one day, all of the yet unanswered questions about His purpose in giving us Jonathan for so short a time will be revealed to us.
We believe that although Jonathan’s life was brief, it was powerfully purposeful, and that is why we started a DAF in his memory. We wanted to have a tangible way to make a difference honoring him every year. As our children get older, they are able to participate in the choices we make for recommending grants. Jonathan will always be a special part of our family, and the DAF is a means of celebrating his life, even as we still grieve his loss.
Impact through life’s story
I recently heard someone refer to history as “HIS story” – meaning that every event and every life is woven into God’s story from the beginning through the end of time. Each of us has a story. A DAF is a way to organize your giving and make an impact through your life’s story. You do not have to be wealthy; Jonathan’s fund was started with just a small initial donation. Kelli and I have moved Jonathan’s fund to Moravian Ministries Foundation because we believe we can partner with MMFA and the organizations they serve to best steward the way we share our Jonathan’s story moving forward. We want Jonathan’s fund to impact our world for Christ.
A DAF can be funded with virtually any asset that can be donated, and you can make grants overtime at your leisure. You get the maximum charitable tax benefit allowed by law for contributions to a donor-advised fund and the other benefits are too plentiful to list in one article. Please find more information on DAFs from us and contact us to find out more or start your own fund today (336) 725-2589.
Christopher W. Spaugh joined MMFA as president on June 1, 2017. A lifelong resident of North Carolina, Chris worked for Wells Fargo Bank NA, and its predecessor, Wachovia Bank before joining MMFA. He brings experience in relationship-driven philanthropic services, and, since 2004, served as a trustee representative of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.