“Functioning under the assumption that each of you had a similar illuminating experience while serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Finland, I propose that you may wish others could benefit from a similar journey. The question for me was not how I could support others like myself – professionals with an eye toward teaching and doing research with like-minded colleagues – but rather how could I support students from Finland who might wish to study in the United States, specifically at my home university? The trick for me was utilizing what I knew about the Internal Revenue Service charitable contribution allowances, the rules for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and what is known as the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).
Specifically, the tax rules say that once you reach 70 ½ years of age - and thereafter on an annual basis - each bearer of an IRA or other employer-sponsored retirement plan must withdraw a percentage of those funds and this withdrawal is taxed as income. However, if you donate some or all of the RMD of the IRA account to a qualified non-profit, then you can take advantage of the tax benefit for charitable contributions. The donation requires that your financial advisor or the institution holding the IRA makes the donation directly to the destination charity without it ever touching your hands. As in most monetary transactions there are additional rules and regulations; however, most financial advisors are aware of these requirements, and they should have no difficulty completing the transaction on your behalf. This donation can then be used to create an endowment that will provide the financial basis for your new scholarship!
So, if you are thinking about a genuine philanthropic gesture and if you are thinking about a way to “pay-it-forward”, might I suggest that you consider establishing a scholarship that will serve as a lasting legacy to the Fulbright Program in general and to the Fulbright Finland Foundation specifically. My hope is that you will give this opportunity serious consideration and join me as one of the Fulbright Finland alumni who has become a permanent fixture on the roster of grant programs for Finns. In my case, a new grant has been developed that will support a Finnish student to attend Cleveland State University’s College of Education and Human Service.”