Family Dynamics - Three Ways to Make Charitable Giving More Fulfilling - The Private Bank

In this update:

  • Having the financial means to support charities can be satisfying yet also frustrating.
  • Feelings of guilt are common when it comes to turning down some requests.
  • There are some practices used by families to help alleviate these pressures.

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Supporting organizations and causes you feel strongly about can provide great satisfaction. So how come you feel bad when you are asked to financially support other charitable organizations? If you do feel bad, you are not alone. Participating in charitable giving as an individual or family can be one of the most rewarding and gratifying activities you’ll ever engage in. It can also become something you resent. All of the joys of sharing financial resources can be wiped away by feelings of guilt for all of the people and organizations that you are not able to assist financially. The constant pressure from requests can be overwhelming and can cause you to feel like people are more interested in your money than they are in you as a person.

Tips to restore your sense of fulfillment in giving back

Some families have adopted practices that can help alleviate these pressures and, in doing so, bring back the sense of fulfillment that charitable giving can provide. Here are three important keys to avoiding some of the awkwardness of saying “No” and feeling empowered to know that you’re giving is impactful.

  1. Saying “No” to many may mean that you can have a bigger impact on the organizations and causes to which you say “Yes”

    Many successful families take a strategic approach by establishing guidelines for their giving. Such guidelines create an expectation for the amount and timing of those gifts.

    For example, a family may have a passion for education while also having a desire to support the industry in which their business operates. For this example we will use construction. As part of a strategic plan, the family may determine that 80 percent of their giving will be to provide scholarships for students who are committed to studying construction management, with preference given to children of employees who have an interest in the field. The remaining 20 percent will be given to support local healthcare needs of low-income or homeless individuals within their community. To manage this process, the family meets twice a year to review scholarship applications, and they meet quarterly to review requests for the local healthcare giving in which they are engaged.

    Having a strategy for how they will give has taken the pressure off family members who are constantly asked for donations. The structure for how they administer the gifts also relieves stress because they now have a story and process for how their family gives.

  2. Establish a mechanism for people who are soliciting gifts

    One best practice that many families use to manage solicitations for gifts by organizations and individuals is to put in place a formal process, such as a grant application. The family may establish a website outlining the criteria and the formal application process. On this website, they might share how frequently grants/gifts are given and when the gifting committee meets to review applications.

    Establishing some formalities like these can take pressure off individuals in the family who may be constantly approached to donate money. When family members can point to a process, it makes these conversations easier, and it makes it possible to not have to say “No” directly and in the moment.

  3. Make giving personal

    One way for families to increase the impact of their gifts is to become personally involved. We suggest that families give their time as well as their financial resources to help make the greatest impact. This is an opportunity to teach your children what is important to you as you share your time and financial resources to support causes you care about. Commit to your giving being something that you do from the heart, not just the wallet. One way to accomplish this goal is to focus your giving on those organizations with which you can actively participate.

Developing an intentional giving strategy

When a person or family adopts these three practices, their giving can become more focused and more intentional. For a family that may be having difficulty in determining its intentional giving strategy, wealth planning and philanthropic specialists can help to tailor a plan based on a review of past gifts and an exploration of the family’s motivations and philanthropic values. The result is a written plan that helps clients focus their giving on causes they truly care about and ultimately to find more joy in their giving.

Gifts are a blessing to the receiver, but your gifts, if planned and executed properly can also enrich you and your family members’ lives. It is OK to say “No” to some requests so you can get more out of your giving.

Authors: David Specht, National Development Manager, Family Dynamics; Beth Renner, Managing Director, Philanthropic Services