The Gift of Land

“I am sure everyone can find their equilibrium between enjoying life and philanthropy,” says Ish Sud.

It’s about making choices. It’s differentiating between what is important and what is not. It’s perhaps spending judiciously on larger items, sacrificing symbols of status, and contributing the cost difference to charity while still being able to enjoy a fun vacation and a fine bottle of scotch, a smaller pleasure that could be defrayed by the tax savings.

Ish grew up happily in a well-to-do family in India, but he remembers seeing poverty: “Some things are difficult to erase from your memory,” he says. “People born poor and caught in a cycle of survival.”

He recalls that on their birthdays, his family would take food and clothes to people in need, at orphanages or homes for the blind. “It was just an atmosphere to be kind to the poor and to animals.”

Ish came to the United States in 1970 to pursue graduate studies in engineering at Duke University. He had an assistant ship that covered his tuition, but his living stipend was small. However, he says, “I did not feel deprived. I learned to be frugal and enjoy life…to enjoy experiences over expensive things.” Asked if he found ways to give back even then, he says that “When you were young, you just did what you could.” He volunteered as a Big Brother.

After graduating from Duke, Ish worked for a while at the university and for a consulting firm before eventually founding his own company in 1979.

Ish and his family have been in Durham ever since and made it their home. The walls of his office are still decorated with the colorful drawings made by his two daughters over twenty years ago when they were small.

He encourages “giving back in kind” as when he volunteered his time and expertise at his temple, helping to redesign their air conditioning system and managing some construction projects.

Now that his children are grown and his biggest financial obligation (their education) is fulfilled, Ish says he’s thinking more seriously about how to make a difference.

This year, Ish donated two lots of land on Horton Road to Triangle Community Foundation’s real estate subsidiary. The net proceeds from the land’s subsequent sale were placed into the Sud Family Charitable Fund at the Foundation, and Ish can now distribute grants from this fund to charitable efforts that are important to him.

For Ish (who says he was familiar with the Foundation through several sources), donating to the Foundation met his needs perfectly. “It’s convenient, allows time for thinking, and you can donate anything – land, stocks, any appreciated asset – on your schedule.”

The tax savings benefit is important too; any capital gains tax that Ish would have owed if he had sold the land personally is instead funneled into his donor-advised fund.

According to Robin Barefoot, General Counsel at the Foundation, if you look beyond the simple transactional details, however, you see the story of Ish’s donation.

For example, the word-of-mouth network that connects donors to Triangle Community Foundation. “People find out about the Foundation through relationships. It’s an organic process,” Barefoot says.

Another example: the realtor who helped with the sale of Ish’s land had connections to Habitat for Humanity and brought the opportunity to the attention of the non-profit (which has benefited regularly from Foundation grants).

Habitat eventually entered a bid for the land, but their offer was below the asking price. Barefoot took some time to consider all the offers before eventually accepting Habitat’s bid. In her mind though, what ultimately makes the transaction a “perfect circle,” is that, when she asked what Ish thought about selling the properties below market value, he told her “it’s as if I’m already making a grant from the fund before it even exists.”

All in all, Ish’s donation of land is like a triple-win in the arena of giving back: a charitable fund that gained money through tax savings; a charitable non-profit acquiring assets to continue their work; and eventually disadvantaged families who will have new homes.

Ish thinks it’s important to give back to the community.

“Whether we appreciate it or not – our community, society and system contributed a lot to those of us who have been successful. The socio-economic barriers in this country have hardened,” he says, pointing to the low minimum wage and the day-to-day struggle to survive that prevents some people from attaining upward mobility.

According to Ish, while giving back may not “uplift” everyone, it does provide opportunities for people “to escape the system and do better. At the same time, we should be willing to extend a helping hand to those who are in dire need.”

Interested in learning how to turn real estate assets into philanthropy? Contact us! Reach out to Robin Barefoot at [email protected]