Enid's Blog

Seven Steps to Better Charitable Giving

You make donations, but do you give well? Here’s a roadmap to better giving, now and later.

1. Capture your Commitments

Make a list of the organizations you have supported or plan to support in 2016 and the total amount you’ve given to each. Include walks, drives, sales, thrift store donations, fundraising events, auctions, and donations with cash, by check or by credit card. Then add the non-profits where you volunteer. Calculate the amount of time you spend each year, then multiply the number of hours by the value of an hour of your time. Add up all the subtotals to see your total charitable commitment.

2. Ask Yourself “Why?”

For each organization and with just a few words, answer the question, “Why did you make this gift?” Habit? Loyalty? Perceived obligation? Passion for the mission? To honor someone? Write down your primary motivation. Highlight or bold the gifts that have given you the most satisfaction. Why did you select each of them?

3. Make Mission and Metrics-Based Decisions

Can you identify the mission of each organization you support? Do you know how your charitable gifts are used by the organization? Do you care about the particular programs and how effective they might be? How closely aligned is your giving to your personal values? Hint: if alignment isn’t there, you probably have little satisfaction in giving and it feels more like paying a bill. Rate yourself by choosing one of these four categories for each entry: Mission alignment? Values alignment? Both? Neither?

4. Be Tax-wise and Leverage Your Giving

If you itemize, consider the value of your charitable income tax deduction and any Colorado child care charitable tax credit you might receive to figure out the actual net cost of your gifts. Look at whether this is a tax year where charitable deductions would reduce your overall tax rate. Calculate your tax savings and consider using your savings to enable additional giving.

5. Give from Assets too!

Now think beyond just your income about whether you have any appreciated assets that could increase your giving capacity further based on the net cost after possible capital gains tax avoidance. You may find you can be even more generous.

6. Get Tough

When you get this far, you are ready to create a focused annual giving plan that is based on an alignment of your values, the organizations’ capacity to deliver results, your understanding of your capacity to give from both income and assets and acknowledging the real cost of your gift after taxes. Eliminate the organizations where your alignment and satisfaction are low. Review the top few organizations on your spreadsheet and consider increasing your support. You may even want to look into related organizations or explore a new impact area. Make your giving thoughtful and purposeful.

7. Plan Longer Term

If you are already a significant, thoughtful donor with an annual giving plan, think beyond where you are now. Commit to multi-year gifts, restricted gifts for a purpose, gifts of complex assets, life income gifts and beneficiary designations/bequests. Consider gifts for capital projects and for endowments for the sustainability of the organizations you want to thrive.

Bottom line for better giving: if you don’t have a plan, create one. If you do, review it, prune it, and focus. Use your charitable deductions to leverage your gifts so you can give more. Think about giving assets, giving with impact now and planning ahead for yourself and the organizations that matter to you.

And remember, while it is never too early or too late to give, if you want a tax deduction for 2016, your transaction must be fully completed (postmarked, processed, transferred) before December 31st.

Commentary: A Story of Freedom and Gratitude

Peeling the apples, adding the walnuts and honey and, of course, the special wine.  Charoset. Yum.

It is one of the tastes on the ceremonial Passover Seder plate representing the mortar used by the slaves of the Pharaoh to build his city thousands of years ago. There are others, like salt water to represent tears and bitter herbs for burden.

Every year the story is retold, especially to the younger generations, to understand, to feel, and never to forget.  Every year, the pain is fresh.  Around the Seder table there is talk of what it means to be free.  And there is awareness and gratitude.  Freedom is a gift, both precious and fragile.

For the children and for those remembering when they were children, there are traditions that delight.

But the underlying story is one of a leader deciding to enslave a minority living in his midst. It is about hardship and abuse and inequality. A desperate flight.  A miraculous story of escape to a new life.

That was then and this is now, yet slavery and ethnic cleansing still happens. Human trafficking flourishes.  Basic human rights are denied with impunity.  Exploitation.  Persecution. Subjugation. They are pervasive. For so many, freedom is only an idea.

When fleeing begets freedom, it can be at an unimaginable price as people try to escape all that holds them captive, whether regimes, religious law, poverty, mental illness, abuse, or other oppression, even the barriers or even cages we impose on ourselves through fear.

In the absence of divine intervention, how can freedom be achieved and by whom?  How can political action, economic policy, technology, and especially charitable outreach, address freedom’s most basic tenet, human dignity?

And when we are privileged to know freedom, do we accept the responsibility that goes along with that privilege?   Do we feel gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, from the bounty of food we eat to the rights we so easily take for granted?  Do we welcome the stranger to our table?

Whether it is when we learn of another group of refugees arriving (or not) on a foreign shore or of a battered woman seeking shelter at a safe house, we have too many reminders and an abundance of opportunities to act. To give. To be an advocate. To volunteer.  To give money to an organization that can help.

One gift can impact one person and maybe, just maybe, that person will know, even fleetingly the meaning of freedom, even if just the freedom to hope.

There is a song sung merrily at the end of a Seder.  The refrain starts with the word Dayenu which means “enough” or literally, “it would have been enough.”

Dayenu is a reminder to be grateful for the things that would have been enough, like freedom.