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Richard and Gay Found a Tax-savings Way to Help Kansas City Ballet

Professors Richard Jensen and Gay Dannelly recently moved to Kansas City after retiring from academia at the University of Notre Dame.

For Richard, he was finally returning to his hometown after decades away. For Gay, who grew up in California and spent much of her adult life in the northern Midwest, Kansas City promised a new adventure with exciting new cultural offerings such as a resident ballet company and a symphony.

Gay taught Richard about the importance of ballet. “I love the music and the grace,” she says. “The way it brings everybody in the audience practically into the process.”

Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Having a background in gymnastics as a kid, Richard could appreciate the ballet and especially the athleticism involved. So, the arts became a natural focus for supporting both in attendance and financially. And the Kansas City Ballet quickly captured their attention.


“We have always had a long-standing commitment to generosity,” Richard says. “We came from not-wealthy backgrounds and inherited nothing. As most people know being academics is not really a way to build wealth, but we were more successful than average. We felt it was appropriate to give back and we essentially have long had the policy of donating 10% of our take home pay.”


Richard Jensen and Gay Dannelly increased their giving to Kansas City Ballet and their other favorite charities when they were required to take a minimum distribution from their IRA. At 70 ½ years old they could receive tax benefits by making an annual gift from their IRA up to $100,000 per person, or $200,000 for married couples.

“In our case we’re currently giving most of our charitable donations from the IRA,” Richard admits. “Once we were required to take a distribution, it made sense for us to donate directly from our IRA.”

Before they retired, Richard says they were clueless about donating from their IRAs. “We were busy working. And I wasn’t aware that you could make an IRA donation directly, until a friend told me,” he says. “The light bulb went on. We’ve been doing it that way since then.”

[Richard is referring to the ability to make direct gifts to charity from IRAs after age 70 1/2, which can be beneficial.  While the distribution would not be taxable, the deduction for the gift is not available. However, for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions, the charitable deduction may not matter.]


After spending 45 years as an economist, Richard felt he was capable of doing his own planning. Though he admits it was complicated even for somebody like himself.

“I remember when we first moved into retirement, I spent weeks trying to figure out what we were going to be earning and what tax bracket it was going to put us in and what we needed to do to avoid penalties,” he says. “I have a PhD in Economics and it took me weeks to do this! What does an ordinary person do?”

He suggests reaching out to your Financial or IRA Advisor but notes that donations out of IRAs don’t have to be limited to the required minimum distribution, they can be up to $100k per year, per person.


The couple admits they just liked the people they met, the things the ballet was doing and the atmosphere. It was a perfect fit.

They attended a presentation on “The Business of Ballet” which pointed out that programming a season is a trade-off between what Devon, as the artistic director, would really like to do and what the organization can afford to do. Richard and Gay see their role is to help the ballet with what they can afford to do so they can perform what they want to.

“Artistic rights are part of it. They’re not cheap,” Richard says. “It was clear from Devon that was a constraint for him. You don’t want your artistic director to be any more constrained than necessary. Devon also described that to keep the best dancers you have to perform more than just the classics.”

Richard insists that watching a recording is not the same as seeing it in person and Gay agrees.

“Seeing it in person is a remarkable experience in motion, especially if you haven’t been to ballet before,” Gay says. “I hope the ballet stays strong and continues to bring in the best dancers.”

Disclosure: We encourage you to consult your financial advisor or attorney as you consider a gift for Kansas City Ballet. The information provided here is not intended as legal, accounting, or other professional advice.

We would gladly assist you with ways to make a gift that is meaningful to you and has a lasting impact for Kansas City Ballet. Please contact Rebecca Zandarski at 816.216.5597 or

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