A framework for philanthropy: Giving back starts with a plan
Many individuals and families want to be more strategic with their philanthropy, but they don’t know where to start. A simple giving plan — a roadmap for your philanthropy — just might be the ticket!
Individuals and families are often encouraged to develop a mission statement as they become more strategic with their giving. We believe this statement can be a helpful tool, but don’t focus on it as the key to your philanthropy and community involvement. Sitting down and writing out a statement that represents what you stand for and value can be intimidating and frustrating, especially if the process is for a family with different perspectives and opinions. Simply put, don’t let your mission statement, or lack thereof, be a roadblock.
Instead, focus on a plan. Start by defining the purpose of your wealth, the source of your philanthropic intent, the role of philanthropy in your life and family, examples of meaningful gifts, and a snapshot of your giving history and future commitments — all on one page. Consider these questions:
- What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve given, or experience you’ve had with an organization, and why was it so meaningful?
- What’s your motivation for being generous?
- How do you want to be remembered?
Answering these questions will likely result in a more meaningful plan than just writing a generic mission statement. The grand prize goes to those individuals and families that do this collaboratively. The stories, experiences, and memories that are shared are far more valuable than a family tagline — not that it wouldn’t be cool to have one!
While the impetus for developing a philanthropic framework is generally the desire to be more strategic and proactive with one’s philanthropy, an unexpected and empowering byproduct of becoming more intentional is the ability to say yes and no with more conviction. How might this play out? Perhaps you develop a philanthropic framework focused on human services and early childhood education, and you’re intentional about funding and collaborating on projects in these areas. Your friend approaches you about a worthy organization involved in youth health issues. Historically, you’d feel compelled to fund this project, even if you weren’t heavily interested in the cause. This is where your giving plan comes into play. It gives you permission to acknowledge the importance of your friend’s interests while saying no and staying true to your passions, perhaps with less guilt and more conviction.
Keep in mind that this plan is just a roadmap. It should serve as a guide but never a barrier to your philanthropy. This framework should be a thoughtful living document — one that can be altered as your interests change and evolve over the years. We’ve seen this tool used in various ways — from helping someone say no to funding solicitations, to reflecting on past projects and planning for future commitments, to communicating family values to the next generation.
With this in mind, how might a giving plan help you be more intentional?
Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investments include risk and have the potential for loss as well as gain.
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