An unexpected option

When retirement neared, one nature-lover chose to donate her stock options to the Edmonton Area Land Trust

Joanne McDonald had an urban childhood, but her parents imparted a great love of nature just the same. “When birds came by or there was a salamander in the yard, those were events in my family,” she says.

As an adult, McDonald fostered the same appreciation in her own children, often taking them for hikes around Edmonton. One of the family’s favourite places is known as maskihkîy meskanaw (Medicine Trail) in Cree, or Glory Hills in English.

“It’s rugged,” she says of the 100-acre site north of Stony Plain, Alberta. Here you’ll find trails that haven’t yet been worn down by hikers in dense aspen forest, open grasslands and wetlands. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot moose, beaver, or a pair of loons nesting along the lake.

This is one of 14 properties stewarded by the Edmonton Area Land Trust (EALT), a non-profit created in 2007 through a partnership with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and five other organizations. EALT secures land to conserve native habitats and encourage its appreciation — a mandate McDonald believes in as an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover.

Recently, McDonald’s new financial planner pointed out that she could give far more than she’d imagined she ever could by donating her stock options from her years at Capital Power rather than exercising them herself and then donating the proceeds, which would come with a hefty tax bill.

Joanne McDonald supported the Edmonton & Area Land Trust by donating stock options.

Unlike stock shares, which represent a portion of company ownership, stock options are contracts allowing stock to be bought or sold at a certain price.

McDonald wasn’t keen on forfeiting almost half their cash value to income tax. Donating them directly to EALT seemed an elegant solution.

“The huge value to me was that for quite a small amount of money, I could make a much larger donation,” she says. After factoring in the tax deductibility of the donation, McDonald was able to make a donation with a benefit to EALT that was more than five times as much as the final cost to McDonald. “People are more motivated to donate when their donation is matched, and in this case donating options supercharged my donation by turning it into what was effectively a 5-times match.”

“This is the first time anyone has donated stock options to EALT,” says Executive Director Sheila Campbell. ECF staff were instrumental in taking care of the technicalities: “It’s one of the reasons why the foundation is such an important partner for us.”

The donation will allow EALT to purchase a parcel of land that meets its regional ecological priorities and strategic plan.

“We still need to secure additional funds to make that happen, because land is expensive, but Joanne’s donation seeds the ability for us to do this,” Campbell says.

While McDonald donated her options at her retirement, “I wish I’d been aware of the opportunity to donate my options while I was working”.  Donating options can happen any time, providing a tax receipt for the fair market value of the security being donated and eliminating capital gains tax too.

Support EALT’s Capital Fund

Many corporations in the Edmonton area and across Canada issue stock options to employees. Contact ECF’s Donor Services Team to learn more.