The Issue of Giving

As spring is in full swing and many have recently received their tax refunds, let’s talk about your options. You can spend it, save it, use it to pay down your debt, us it to pay next year’s tax bill, or last of all use your tax refund to jump start your new Charitable Giving Plan. What? What is a Charitable Giving Plan? Just what it say, a plan for your charitable giving.

As the London-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) describes it, “The impulse to give, to help others if you can, is a natural human instinct.”

If you are like many of my clients, you plan for things. You plan for your eventual retirement, your kid’s college, your next new car, your summer vacations, your family reunions, etc… As you know, you plan for many things.

Just as we review your living plans on a regular basis, will you consider reviewing your giving plans too? If you don’t have plans, let’s make them. Many of us wait until the end of the year to give to the local community foundation or charity. We give haphazardly and without focus. I submit your giving will be more effective if you plan for it. I ask, “Why wait?” Let’s begin to plan in the spring, as flowers are budding and new life comes to our front yards and city gardens.

Let’s plan to help someone this year. Who we will help? What causes are important to you? How can we best help them? How much of your time and resources can you afford to give? To whom and what causes will you bring new life to this year?

According to the World Giving Index, some of the world’s most generous countries are among the most deprived. While the US and New Zealand second and third in the 2015 survey, Myanmar is ranked “most generous.” The CAF measures the average percentage of people in each country who donate money, volunteer time to organizations, or help a stranger. And besides the US, only four of the remaining G-20 nations are ranked in the top 20 generous countries.

Great examples in philanthropy. John Wesley, an Anglican Minister in the 1700s is reported to have capped his standard of living to what it was early in his life. When he earned 30 pounds he gave 2 away. Late in his life while earning 1400 pounds, he was found to be living on 30.

Last year, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made headline news by informing their newborn daughter that they were going to pledge 99% of their Facebook shares to a giving mission, to make the world a better place for her.

GivingPledge.org has a collection of over 140 billionaires from around the globe, famous and unknown, that have made public pledges to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. As Vincent Tan Chee Yioun describes in his pledge, I am keenly aware that there is only so much money a person needs for himself and his family and when one is blessed with wealth beyond what is needed, there is a corresponding moral and social responsibility to put the money the good use.”  Warren Buffett described in his pledge: “Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks (Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others.” And, Laura and John Arnold say, “We view our wealth in this light – not as an end in itself, but as an instrument to effect positive and transformative change.”

R.G. LeTourneau was a successful Vermont businessman in the early 1900s. He was reported to have increased his regular giving to the point of giving 90%. LeTourneau stated, “I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back – but God has a bigger shovel.”

Generous Giving is an organization that has been around for over fifteen years and encourages people to “Explore the Joy of Generosity.” They say that conversations about generosity with no agenda are rare. Let’s be positive and talk about the good we will do instead of complaining about the latest political scandal or recent stock market volatility.

Many of us are doing our part. The longest running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in America, Giving USA reports increased giving from every source; bequests, corporations, foundations, and individuals. Total contributions in 2014 was well over $350 billion, with individuals contributing 72% of the total. The report continues that while the economy grew, giving grew even faster. Charitable giving was 2.1% of total GDP.

Why Give? There are many reason to give. I’ll give you three here. The first reason we should give is because we are able to. An old Jewish directive was that “Every man shall give as he is able.” So, we should give because we can give. Secondly, we should give because Jesus asked us to. And old Doctor recorded Jesus’ words a couple of times. “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And, “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” Thirdly and selfishly, we can give because it’s good for us. An old Proverbs states, “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” I don’t know about you, but I like being blessed.

How much is enough? Do we need to give 90% like our examples? Probably not. Let’s start by giving something of our income and let’s consider giving some of our accumulated wealth. An old preacher once directed his congregation, “Each of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver.” Consider what the old Jewish Doctor recorded what Jesus said, Give, and it will be given to you. For by the standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” How much do you want back?

Let’s give it a try. Pick a cause or two, set some money aside, and as my eighth guiding money principles states, “Give early, give often.” As Paul Allen mentions in his giving pledge, “When smart people work together with vision and determination, there is little we can’t accomplish.” If you need help with starting your giving plan, give me a call. There is a wealth of resources available to you in your giving quest.

Be a blessing,

Dan

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