Three Steps Toward Making the Greatest Impact with Your Charitable Giving

Written by Melanie Nichols, CFA, CFP® on August 14, 2018

Three Steps Toward Making the Greatest Impact with Your Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is one of life’s greatest sources of happiness. It offers both the recipient and the giver a sense of joy and satisfaction that is often not found through any other means. Whether your giving takes the form of time, money or talents, you want to know you are making a positive impact. The interesting thing is you likely are already doing various activities throughout your day that seamlessly give back to your community. You may also be regularly donating time, money or talents to organizations that you care about. The South, after all— especially Alabama—continues to rank high among regions that donate personal income. According to the personal finance website, in its most recent assessment of state-by-state charity published in November 2017, Alabama ranked fifth in the nation for the highest percentage of individual income donated to charities. But, at times, we all still wonder, “What else could I do?” or “Am I contributing where it matters to me?”

To help you sort through your charitable giving and make the greatest impact, examine these three steps that many other impactful donors often take:

1. Create a Personal or Family Giving Statement.  

In a nutshell, a giving statement helps you focus on the change you want to create. For example, it might include social issues such as child endangerment, adult illiteracy, poverty, homelessness, bullying, family disintegration or crime. It might also include the organizations, foundations or other groups that actively engage in the causes important to you and that align with your core values or beliefs. Furthermore, if you have children, a giving statement is a simple way to teach them about charitable giving and about leaving a legacy of family giving or philanthropy.

This statement outlines the causes to which you want to dedicate your time, money or talents. It can change from year to year, and it is powerful. It helps offer clarity to what can sometimes become the “haphazardness of giving.”

2. Evaluate Where You are Currently Giving.  

You may find this is also the case for you. But, to really know, take time to do this exercise and make a list of all your contributions; truly assess your giving. If you find you are not giving your time and money to the causes most important to you, use this new clarity to make a change.

Are you giving to the causes that truly matter most to you and that are on your giving statement? My husband and I recently went through the exercise of making a list of all our charitable contributions from the past year. We categorized them into a few buckets—church, addiction prevention and recovery, women and children, education and other. Then, we examined where we are spending our volunteer hours. In our case, the dollars and time lined up.

3. Act on Your Desired Changes to Your Giving.

Now that you have outlined your giving statement and you have assessed your current contributions, make changes to your charitable giving if you need to. For example, if you have a gift with numbers, perhaps you offer to be a treasurer or serve on a finance committee. If you have the gift of networking, perhaps you manage the social media sites or blog for your favorite organization. Or, maybe you help them recruit new members or help them with fundraising. Also, if you donate money, refer to your giving statement periodically to make sure you are giving to the causes or organizations that you already outlined.

Whether you give time, money or talents, focus your charitable giving on your desire to effect change where it truly matters to you, because as we all know, the joy of giving is irreplaceable.

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