Do you have a strategy for intentional giving? I am told, and have witnessed first-hand, that even people who are very intentional about their own personal financial planning are somewhat less intentional about their giving. I often wonder: “What could we do as a nation or as a world if all of us who had financial means were intentional about our giving?” It seemed this question would be appropriate at this time of year, the time when our country sets aside a day to give thanks for our many blessings.
I thought I would share one story I recently heard about intentional giving that clearly involves the entire family and then give you a resource I found that helped me create my own giving strategy.
I recently heard of a simple strategy that keeps the focus of giving on Thanksgiving. Every year in this family, all of the adult children contribute a certain amount of money to a pooled giving account. Each year they come to the Thanksgiving table with a specific need or charity they have researched throughout the year. During Thanksgiving dinner, each family member makes a case for his or her particular charity or cause. A vote is taken and then the entire gift collected from the family for this “Thanksgiving Gift” is given to that charity.
Interestingly enough, because each of the family members has skin in the game, it has become quite a family competition to see who makes the best case. It’s all done in good fun and keeps the family focused on the meaning of Thanksgiving: being thankful and giving back. I think this is a wonderful exercise! Regardless of the age of your children or whether they were old enough to contribute themselves, creating a tradition around researching causes, articulating why this cause should receive the money that year, and making a joint gift on behalf of the family would all seem to be an amazing tradition to start.
I went to an educational seminar not long ago. While I thought I was very intentional about my giving, I realized in this seminar that my husband and I really didn’t have a strategy in our giving. It is true, we try to be very generous and give to many causes; however, the day made me question the effectiveness of our giving. Could we have a larger impact on the things we cared about if we had a strategy? What I learned that day was eye opening.
At one point during the day, we went through an exercise where we determined where our passions really existed. My initial reaction to this exercise was almost one of dread; I didn’t want to have to organize my thoughts and get too specific. Why? Because I am passionate about so many things! I care about women and girls, the military, the homeless, education, orphans all over the world, water, Mexico, Africa…so many needs, and in my mind, so few personal dollars to effectively make a difference.
I had questions like: Do we support one main cause with ALL of our giving dollars so we can personally have a larger impact or do we spread our giving out among many causes? We discussed the idea that many people like to support local charities – we have plenty of need in our own back yard. For me, my greatest passion turned out to be water, orphans, and the military. In the course of the afternoon, I was given the opportunity to build a giving strategy around those primary passions. That didn’t mean I would ignore the other things I cared about; I would just overweight my giving in those three areas.
The best part of the day was hearing from the other attendees and what they cared about. I think it is in the diversity of our passions we will be able to help the greatest number of causes. What are you passionate about? How will you adjust your strategy for intentional giving?
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