Tis The Season

While philanthropic opportunities avail themselves year around, this time of year has it in the forefront of our financial decision making. There are invites to fundraisers; paper petitions for end of year gifts, phone calls explaining enticing programs.   There are so many good causes and wonderful organizations.  Do we give to our place of worship, local non-profits, international NGOs?   It is challenging to decide.  While my husband and I put ourselves in the “middle benevolence market”; more than some and less than others – we enjoy giving.  We have embraced it as part of having a healthy relationship with money.  When we give, we acknowledge our blessings and the opportunities to share with others.  It has been a journey of growth and joy for us, one that continues with twists and turns.  Maya Angelou shares “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

As a financial advisor, I have the opportunity to learn from a variety of sources and walk alongside clients to explore and expand their philanthropic journey.  Here are some things to consider as you decide what your giving strategy should entail.

Why do you give?  There are a variety of reasons.  Do you want to make a difference?  Are you passionate about a cause?  Do you want to live in integrity with your faith or spiritual values?  Do you want to simplify your life?  Do you want to create a living legacy? What does it look like to embrace contentment in order to free up resources to funnel towards your intentions?

How much do you give?  Have you considered how much is enough for yourself, and your family?   Should you give of your surplus or sacrificially? What discussions need to happen with family and advisors?   These are the very personal questions that will change depending on what season of life you are in.

Are you a systematic or symptomatic giver, or both?  Jason Franklin, the Executive Director of Bolder Giving recommends the 50/30/20 idea: 50% of your giving plan is focused on one charity – the one cared about the most.  30% of your giving is targeted for causes and organizations that you want to support on a monthly basis (systematic) as part of your intentional spending plan.  Finally, 20% reserved for small, impulse gifts (symptomatic).  These are the opportunities for random acts of kindness, or to be part of a social networking appeal when warranted.  Another thought leader, Ron Blue of Kingdom Advisors suggests giving 10% of your income at your place of worship as a place to start giving, but not a place to stop.  The main goal is to get strategic with your giving.  This will keep you focused on what is important to you and free you from the guilt about not giving to everyone that makes an appeal.

What do you give?  You can simply write a check or text to a cause. You can get more leverage from your giving by donating appreciated stock or other assets. You can do this directly to an organization (they need to be set up to receive it) or through a donor advised fund.  Along with the feel good component, there are tax benefits to giving in this way. With a donor advised fund, you get a tax deduction in the year given, but can spread out the giving decisions to different causes over time.   Locally, Donor Advised funds include the Aspen Community Foundation; and Two Rivers Community Foundation.  You can make beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement plans amongst other creative giving strategies.

Where do you give?  Once you narrow down your heart direction, how do you vet the multitude of organizations that ?  On what basis do you determine where to send your charitable dollars?  Dan Pallotta has an interesting TED talk on “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”” that warrants some consideration.  Several websites evaluate charities from a variety of perspectives include GreatNonprofits.org, MyPhilanthropedia.org and Ministrywatch.com

Sharing of our financial resources is only one opportunity to give.  Look at creating margin in your life to share some time or your talents with organizations that need your participation.

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