Robert Liu is passionate about supporting the causes that matter most to him: higher education, the arts, and social justice. He hopes eventually to provide a level of financial support that will ensure his contributions to these causes last beyond his lifetime.

The San Francisco Bay Area attorney said his legacy of giving began at a young age. Even before becoming successful enough to write large donation checks and consider funding endowments, Liu said he gave small donations to local organizations that he believed in.

“My giving criteria are: one, I know them, and two, they are close to me geographically,” said Liu, a client of Wells Fargo Private Bank. “Those two things are really important to me since I want to know the people and organizations whose causes I give to personally and have contact with them. I’m sure that’s why I believe in them so much.”

Beth Renner of Wells Fargo Private Bank's Philanthropic Services group outlines three simple steps anyone — regardless of bank account size — can follow to build a charitable giving legacy.

  1. Review your current giving strategy.
    Make a list of recent gifts and consider the reason for each. Were some gifts and organizations more meaningful to you than others? Did certain gifts give you a greater sense of happiness and belonging, and make more of an impact?
  2. Plan your charitable giving.
    Create an annual budget for your giving, whether a percentage of your income or a fixed dollar amount, and use it to focus your giving on the causes and organizations that matter most to you.

    “If you give to any particular organization, does that mean that you’ll not be able to support other, more important organizations or causes?” asked Renner. “To answer this question, it helps first to have a budget for your giving.”
  3. Give with confidence.
    Make the gifts, and enjoy peace of mind because you’ve been intentional with your giving.

By following these steps, Liu said he has experienced the joy and satisfaction of helping advance the causes he cares about the most. His two sons have followed in his footsteps — choosing to give locally and with purpose.

When they were in high school, they would give donations, sometimes as small as $5, to organizations they cared about, and they continued to increase the amount of their contributions over time, Liu said. Today, both of his sons still donate to the school they attended as children.

“This is something I think is important because it’s what I believe in as a person, and charitable giving is something anyone can do — whether the gifts are large or small,” Liu said. “You just have to commit to it and have discipline.”

This article first appeared in Wells Fargo Stories.

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