It’s that time of year when our mailboxes are full of letters from charities that are doing good work in our communities and around the world. They appeal to our hearts, our consciences and our wallets, with hopes that we care about their cause and still have room for another charitable contribution before the end of the year (or that we need to improve our tax situation).

CC by asenat29

CC by flickr user asenat29

As you read through the deluge of appeals, do any of the following questions resonate with you? Ponder these questions on your own, with your spouse or family, or other giving group:

  1. Do I [we] want to give?
  2. How do I decide which organizations to fund?
  3. How do I know if they will use my funds wisely?
  4. Are there other organizations/people that need funds more but cannot afford to send out a glossy year-end appeal letter? If so, how do I find them?
  5. What is motivating my giving?

As I sift through the letters, I find myself thankful that my husband and I put together a “generosity road map” back in January. This annual plan enables us to direct our giving funds to the causes and people we care about all year, therefore alleviating any guilt or panic in December when the appeals start arriving and our financial picture/tax situation comes into clearer view.

However, having a road map doesn’t make us immune to the questions above, so here are some of my thoughts that may be a guide as you consider the questions for yourself.

If you’re questioning whether to give or not, consider the following:
  1. Giving is good for your health—a Syracuse University study showed that giving improved people’s health and well-being as people felt less stressed and more able to handle their own financial and family issues. I know I could use more of that this time of year.
  2. Giving brings joy—as we GIVE to charities, we GET the joy of meeting the needs of others.
  3. Giving teaches our heirs the value of caring for others in the world—don’t we all want our kids to grow up as people who care about others in the world and look for opportunities to meet the needs of those less fortunate?
  4. Giving allows us to make a difference. Your $25 donation to the local food bank will feed five families this week who have fallen on hard times. Those families would certainly tell you that your giving made a difference in their lives.
If you’re questioning where to give your funds, ask yourself the following:
  1. What do you feel called or led to give to?
  2. What causes/issues are you passionate about?
  3. Do you have a specific geographic area that you want to give in?
  4. Do I have other resources to give that would also be beneficial to organizations I care about (e.g., my time or expertise)?
If you’re questioning if a charity will use your funds wisely, try this approach:

Consider thinking of your giving like your investments. Evaluate the performance of the organization (just like you would a company you’re thinking of investing in), see if they’re actually doing what their mission says, and check to make sure they’re using their funds in responsible ways.

When we give, we need to think of it not as giving our money AWAY or just “doing charity”, but rather as making an INVESTMENT into the change we want to see happen in the world.

If you’re wondering whether there are other organizations that better suit the needs you want to give to, but you don’t know who they are, try this:

Consider hiring a philanthropic advisor (just as you would hire a financial or tax advisor) to help you find those organizations. This will enable you to have confidence that you’re giving in the most strategic way to move the needle on the things you care most about.

If you’re confused about your motivation for giving, consider the following wisdom:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Put your money where you want your heart to follow, and then sit back and enjoy the pleasure of meeting a need, thinking of others before yourself, and leaving a legacy of generosity.

If you’d like help navigating this season or if you’d like to develop a generosity road map for yourself or your family that will help you avoid future year-end giving pressure cookers, please feel free to give me a call at 360.451.0709 or email me.

 

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