At the outset of my marriage, my wife and I were approached by one of my friends who, at the time, worked at a local non-profit. He was asking us to consider supporting their ministry. Until that moment I had never been directly targeted as a possible donor for a non-profit (probably because I was in my early 20’s then and had the maturity to prove it.) So, we welcomed our friend into our home, and he unfolded the ministry’s vision for us; explaining their need and his “ask.” Essentially, he gave us a number he thought was reasonable for us as an annual charitable giving plan.
Supporting non-profits: not just a task for the super rich
Some might cringe at the thought of such an assumption — but I was immediately drawn in. His “ask” gave me parameters to work within. I could see how it helped the cause and would make a definitive, measurable impact. I realized that my gift was not only wanted but needed — and would make a real difference. It helped me realize that this was not only the ultra-wealthy’s problem to fix. Yeah, someone could write a check that would make mine look like couch change.
Starting your journey to charitable giving
But it didn’t matter. That seed of generosity my friend planted early on in my life grew roots that planted deep in my heart. In my opinion, we should feel the “burden” of generosity; it betters our communities, locally and globally. We should care about preserving the non-profit organizations that look after the areas we cannot, and the gifts can make a difference for generations.
If you’re considering a charitable gift, there are several things I found useful in my own journey that I hope will help you on yours.
Feeling joy and making a difference: tips for charitable giving
- Create a charitable giving budget. If you’re just starting out, I would have an amount (agreed on by both spouses if married) that you would be “happy” with. I think the gift should give you joy and excitement, rather than out of guilt or otherwise begrudgingly. Start with comfort and allow the joy of giving to grow in your heart over time.
- Research your charity of choice. Get involved, if you can, with the organization to which you are donating. You can do this by giving your time in service, leadership, or attending their events (banquet chicken is not THAT bad a couple times a year.) By getting involved, you will see how the organization is set up and how they are applying their resources towards their stated mission. This shows you how your donation goes to work! Don’t ever be afraid to ask to see an annual budget or financial report. Caring about the organization is enough justification for asking good questions. Also, by giving your time — which is an invaluable asset — your heart will grow for those you’re serving.
- Consider “deep” gifts as opposed to “wide.” I don’t want to disrupt any good habits, but instead of giving $10 here and $20 there to several recipients — consider picking one or two organizations. The money can be allocated to one or two of your chosen causes, has further to go, and can make a bigger effect.
- Consider giving more than your lifetime will allow. Your life will eventually end and with most of us, so will our giving. These non-profits depend on the generosity of those who donate. What happens when those who give cease to exist in this world? The need doesn’t just fix itself when you’re gone! What I’m getting at here is thinking of charity when you are doing your estate planning. For example, you can structure your remaining estate through a trust that will give to your chosen causes after you’ve passed. You may also be able to increase your legacy gifts through a life insurance policy. In other words, you can create an estate gifting goal that goes beyond your generation – you might consider giving two lifetimes worth, even!
- Be aware of the tax benefits and tax efficiencies of charitable giving. With the changes in the tax code in 2018, it made it more challenging to give money in ways that create tax advantages. But that shouldn’t hold you back. Talk with a financial advisor who knows how to maximize your gift and has the experience and resources to do so. Some ways of doing this are through multiyear giving, gifting of your RMD, and giving highly appreciated shares. Your financial advisor should partner with your CPA and other professional advisors when it comes to tax planning; have them rally around your life for the causes you are supporting.
I hope that you find the road of generosity filled with joyful challenges. There is a great need out there, and it requires many hands at work. We are not all qualified to help in all ways, but we can provide support through charitable giving. If I can ever be a help to you or someone you know in this area, please feel free to contact me!
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.