Tax Benefit Provides Extra Perk for Tamarind Institute Volunteer-Turned-Donor
During her long career, Lara Johnson didn't have much time or energy left over for giving back to her community. She deferred that dream until 2016, when she checked off two bucket-list items: Move to New Mexico, where she had long wanted to live; and volunteer for an organization that was well-suited for her talents and interests. From her volunteering grew friendship, trust, and a financial pledge with benefits for both parties.
After settling in, Johnson focused on becoming involved with Tamarind Institute. "I knew about Tamarind from its early days in Los Angeles. I studied printmaking in undergraduate and graduate school, specifically lithography. Tamarind set the gold standard for lithography in the U.S., and maybe the world." Johnson had aspired to be a print curator, but her career took a different turn. She worked in public relations and marketing for architecture firms, then for an engineering design firm in Maryland. But she never forgot Tamarind's reputation for quality.
In spring 2016, Johnson attended an opening at Tamarind. "Diana Gaston [Tamarind's director] came up to me," she said. "She didn't know my face, and we got to talking." Johnson met with Gaston to discuss potential volunteer work. "I was trained in how to handle prints," Johnson said, "and I told them I would like to help with tasks they didn't have time to do or were not top priorities."
Three days a week, Johnson keeps Tamarind's large working collection of prints protected and in order. She also assists with exhibitions and special events. "They're small things," Johnson said, "but they free up the staff and the students." After about a year, Johnson decided to give more than just time.
"I was about to reach that age where I had to start taking taxable minimum distributions from my IRA," said Johnson. But by choosing to make a qualified charitable deduction from some of that distribution, she could avoid paying taxes on the amount of the donation. Johnson committed to a five-year pledge to gift a portion of her IRA withdrawals to Tamarind. As she wishes for Tamarind to eventually benefit beyond her pledge, Johnson has also made an estate gift through her will.
"That gives them money to do something special," she said. "When they asked if I had a preference for how the money would be used, I told them they should spend it as they see fit. But it has to be budgeted somewhere, so Kristine Purrington [senior director of development for the UNM College of Fine Arts] set up the Tamarind Director's Fund to give Diana discretion for how to use the money every year. I thought it was brilliant. I know these ladies really well now, and I trust them.
"I've never been in a position to do much charitable giving," Johnson continued, "or had much time or energy to do any volunteering while working. I was certainly not contributing much in any way. Tamarind turned out to be the perfect match. It's such a special place. They still set the standard, 60 years later."
Story by Michelle G. McRuiz