Retired minister establishes DAF to extend giving beyond her lifetime

January 30, 2018 by Eva Stimson

When she was 11 years old, Judy Skaggs began playing the piano for worship in her congregation. At 14, she was earning $2 an hour giving piano lessons to other children.

“At the end of the week,” she recalls, “I always gave a tenth of that to the church.”

Now a retired Presbyterian minister, Skaggs still preaches and plays the organ when called on by churches in the Austin, Texas, area where she lives. And she is still a tither.

Three years ago, she set up a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) through the Presbyterian Foundation to ensure that the habit of generous giving would continue beyond her lifetime.

“I have tithed all my life,” says Skaggs, parish associate at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Austin. “I wanted to make sure that even in death I would give a tenth of what my estate is worth.”

After learning about the Foundation’s DAFs from a pastor friend in Austin, Skaggs contacted Sherry Kenney, a Ministry Relations Officer for the Foundation, who worked with Skaggs and her financial advisor to set up the fund.

A DAF works like an online charitable checkbook, making giving convenient and flexible and often providing tax benefits.

Skaggs has designated three beneficiaries to receive legacy gifts from her DAF after her death. One is Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where she did her preparation for ministry. Another is Mo-Ranch, a Presbyterian conference and retreat center in Hunt, Texas, where Skaggs has been on staff and led music.

“I have been going to Mo-Ranch since I was a child and still go there at least once a year,” she says. “I met my husband there. It’s been a constant throughout my life.”

The third beneficiary of Skaggs’ DAF is Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, which provides care and support for struggling children and families throughout Texas and Louisiana.

Skaggs observed firsthand the valuable work of this organization when she was pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Austin. “Some teenage girls from the children’s home were part of our congregation,” she recalls.

“Their stories were incredible — the things they had endured. I still keep up with some of the girls.”

When choosing her beneficiaries, Skaggs wanted to support ministries related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Because she had been involved in several congregations during her career as a pastor, she says, “I decided I wouldn’t give to a single congregation but to the greater church.”

A minimum of $2,500 is required to open a DAF through the Foundation. Tax laws require that a donor’s charitable gifts be irrevocable and unconditional to receive the associated tax benefits of a charitable deduction. Thus, the Foundation has sole control over all investments and grants of the DAF. However, donors like Skaggs can recommend grants of $100 or more from their fund to each charity they want to support.

In the year of her 70th birthday, Skaggs was required to begin taking money out of her IRA. Instead of spending the money, she makes an annual deposit to her DAF and receives a tax deduction.

In her work with Skaggs, Kenney has seen how the DAF facilitates both present and future giving. “It will function like a family foundation during Judy’s lifetime, and like a bequest under a will at her death. Judy has created a beautiful legacy gift for three important Presbyterian ministries, she says.”

Talk to a Presbyterian Foundation Ministry Relations Officer about how your members can use the flexibility and simplicity of a donor-advised fund to support the church’s mission. Call us at 800-858-6127 or email at