Making philanthropic choices matter
I love that friends and colleagues frequently ask my advice. I am famously frugal, and consider every transaction worthy of thoughtful consideration. The money matters, and every gift is also a communication of values, hopes and future thinking.
Here are the top FAQs and my thoughts.
Q Can you explain how most people identify worthy charities and causes?
A Most people start with “shoulds”, and tend to give most generously to the causes they feel they ought to support, or feel obliged to support. That often begins with a church, synagogue or other religious organization. Next, ties to schools, local cultural institutions and non-profits working to cure an illness a family may have been touched by are typical choices. These are all important and meaningful choices, and, for a person of wide-ranging interests and pursuits, there may be many more to consider including.
Q How do I best broaden my support without losing focus?
A Really what works for most people is to blend. Continue to give to your core charities and causes and then consider broadening your giving to more organizations you’ve enjoyed affiliating with, or that you may see having an impact in your community, and want to learn more about. Another option is to use an online inventory tool to assess your interests and priorities. That makes it easy to match your areas of greatest affinity with organizations dedicated to a cause, whether in the arts, human services or animal welfare, to name a few examples. I also advise checking out organizations you are considering with online tools like GuideStar and Charity Navigator, which provide non-profit 990s on file, and other fiscal records and ratings.
Q Is it a good idea to have a family meeting about giving and estate plans?
A Yes! You don’t need anyone’s “permission” to make decisions about your own giving but you do want to ensure that ultimately no one is surprised by your choice of charitable beneficiaries and scope of giving. Much inherited wealth is needlessly wasted by squabbling heirs.
Q If I decide to reorder my giving priorities, what is the best way to proceed?
A Communication is the most important action item. Make sure any organization that might be impacted by your change in plans is advised. Most often, a shift in your giving will not create an operational deficit, but there could be impacts you don’t foresee, and might unnecessarily destabilize an organization you care deeply about. So let them know! For new recipients of your funds, it is always nice to build a relationship. Reach out and you will be offered opportunities to learn more about how your funds can fuel new initiatives or keep mission critical core programming strong.