Charity. It’s just a 3-syllable word, but it reaffirms the deeper side of the human heart: its innate desire to sacrifice for love’s sake, its selfless acts of improving the lives of others, and its humble expressions of caring and compassion. This is where life ought to begin.
In his first inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln referred to that intrinsic drive in each of us to connect and to bond with others: “The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
For some reason, charity is woven uniquely and deeply into the fabric of the American soul. Per capita giving in the United States exceeds that of any other nation by a nearly 2–1 margin.
Carefully designed financial strategies enable Americans holding those heartfelt passions to integrate their visions of giving and their heart-held values into clearly defined directives. These directives provide givers with the assurance that they are making a difference in their communities and in people’s lives.
Developing a plan of action allows you to keep track of your donations and provides you with the confidence in knowing your gifts are going to worthwhile causes.
How Does Planning Your Philanthropy Help Charities?
Charity and nonprofit organizations depend on the generosity of donors. While many organizations devote considerable time and effort to fundraising and marketing campaigns to maintain their budgets, the bulk of their donations comes from the faithful givers who believe in the nonprofit’s cause and share its vision.
Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that evaluates charity organizations, provides donors with the resources to choose responsible and accountable recipients. Donors can use the site to investigate nonprofits’ financial transparency and percentage of actual giving. Strong, loyal commitments from donors to nonprofits allow organizations to align their budgets more closely with their mission statements.
CharityWatch, an independent charity watchdog group, analyzes nonprofits’ financial reports to reveal spending trends and budget expenditures in rating organizations. CharityWatch rates organizations as highly efficient if their administrative, marketing, and other overhead costs fall below 25% of their budgets. While this may not be an indicator of effort or impact, it is a percentage that some donors are interested in.
Strategic Giving Helps Donors and Nonprofits
Developing a donation plan helps nonprofits shift their focus to the principles outlined in their mission statements. Nonprofit leaders who know their revenue streams are flowing strongly and steadily can adjust their efforts on either expanding their organizations to help more people or improving their levels of service.
Dedicated giving plans by a network of donors also help lessen the need for nonprofits to sponsor exhaustive marketing campaigns and hold regular fundraising drives. Donors who only respond to mail or cyber-solicitations reinforce the need for charity groups to conduct expensive marketing campaigns, which explains in part why many organizations spend so much of their money to generate more money.
Planning your giving also lets you determine who exactly should receive your donations. You may choose, for example, to earmark percentages of your donation budget to churches, to shelters, or to certain education foundations.
Here are some questions to help bring focus and clarity to your giving strategy:
- What does your pattern of giving reveal about you?
- What charitable causes ignite your passion or grab your interest?
- Have your giving and your gifts been disciplined and focused in one area?
- What motivates your giving?
- How did you connect with your chosen charities?
Developing a plan for your giving provides you with the assurance that your gifts are going where you feel they’ll produce the best impact. Having a plan in place establishes a kind of partnership between you and the charity organization.
Giving also has a secondary and more tangible benefit on your taxes. Listing charitable giving during your tax filing may lower your tax bill.
Philanthropy Accentuates Your Personal Values
A giving plan helps define your core values and fortifies your life mission. Determining how, what, and to whom you want to give involves at least some personal reflection to assess your values and your priorities in life.
Helping people doesn’t always have to take the form of a monetary gift. Volunteering your time, offering your expertise, or sharing your wisdom fits into the category of philanthropy. Volunteering gives people the opportunity to invest in their communities on a deeper human level.
The act of sharing our time and talents with others elevates us by enhancing our problem-solving abilities, strengthening our communities, improving other people’s circumstances, establishing connections with others, and creating opportunities to transform hurting lives on the deepest levels.
Investing in others could never be easier.
Give Now or Give Later: When’s Best?
The timing of your giving is just as important as how much and to whom you give. Here are some questions to consider:
- How often do you want to give?
- Do you want to include a gift as part of your estate?
- How do you want to give?
Consulting a financial professional to analyze your circumstances and review your goals may help alleviate your concerns.
How Can We Help You Reach Your Goals?
As advisors, we want to help you shape your vision into a practical and workable plan. We can help you:
- Explore your values and create a family mission statement
- Develop a system for giving that incorporates your goals
- Understand how planned giving can fit into your existing financial strategies
- Develop your personal legacy and a vision for your family’s future
We will help you identify worthy and reputable groups and organizations by equipping you with the ability to analyze and research nonprofit causes. By working with financial professionals, you gain valuable insight into how to give responsibly and guidance in achieving your charity goals.
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.
The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Published on March 22, 2018 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.