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Madoff Again Earns Spot in Top 50

Professor recognized for her work on the efficacy of donor-advised funds.

A round table conversation regarding higher education endowment, taking place on the second day of BC Law School's Philanthropy conference. BC Law Professor Ray Madoff. 

For the second year in a row, Professor Ray Madoff, the co-founder and director of the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, is among the NonProfit Times Power & Influence Top 50, primarily for her insights into donor-advised funds and their potentially negative impact on charities and taxpayers.

“It is a great honor to be included among these innovative leaders who, through their work, are living evidence of all the good that can be achieved when charitable dollars are put to use for the  public good,” Madoff said.

DAFs, as they are known, are a kind of charitable investment account that allows donors to make a charitable contribution and receive an immediate tax benefit, yet it doesn’t have to pay out any money or perform any charitable activities.

“As donor-advised-fund sponsors are becoming America’s biggest charitable entities, concerns about them become ever more consequential,” Madoff explained in an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Most troubling is that there is no evidence that the benefits from these funds are going to the public. Instead, most of the benefits appear to be going to America’s richest people, biggest financial houses, and a host of investment advisers across the country.”

Calling Madoff the “go-to person” for a counterpoint to arguments that DAFs are socially beneficial, the Nonprofit Times noted that her impact on policy-makers and legislators is what earned her a spot in its top 50. “Her ideas are starting to influence lawmakers who see a big pot of unreachable, often stagnant dollars,” the Times announcement said. “The tax benefit is instant for money that can sit untouched. Madoff wants the money put to work faster. She’s right.”

Since 2011, Madoff has been spotlighting the donor advised funds problem through articles and interviews in publications ranging from Tax Notes to the New York Times, LA Times, New York Review of Books, and The Atlantic.

She’s also been convening experts from academia, government, and philanthropies to discuss how the tax code treats charitable giving at events held by the Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, which she cofounded in 2014 with William Bagley, a BC Law adjunct faculty member who teaches philanthropy law. The forum is a non-partisan think tank that explores questions regarding whether the rules governing the charitable sector best serve the public good.

“I am very appreciative of all of the support that I have received from the Law School in pursuing this work,” said Madoff.  “One of the things that makes the BC Law such a wonderful environment in which to work is the way that faculty are encouraged to pursue research and engage in those conversations that feel most personally meaningful and important.”

A regular commentator on On Point, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, Here and Now, and Marketplace, Madoff, who also teaches and writes about property and estate planning, is the author of Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead.