Giving with Intention
It’s the time of year in which charities are sending out their end-of-the-year solicitations. You sort through the stacks that land in both of your inboxes: the good old-fashioned mailbox and your email. Now that you have sorted these requests, it’s time for the hard part: where to give?
Supporting causes near and dear to your heart can create tangible benefits for you, your family, and your community. Parents provide financial support to their children’s schools, alumni give to their alma mater, and congregations donate to their religious establishments. This type of values-based giving often makes donations more personal, and inspires you to sustain your charitable efforts.
It feels good to give, but can be difficult to get started. Taking the time to affirm your values and identify aligned organizations can help you make the entire experience of giving more intentional and meaningful.
To increase the impact and enjoyment of your giving, it is helpful to start by identifying your passions. What gets you excited? Think about what causes you feel proud to support. Or, for the activist in you, what causes get you fired up that you want to rally behind? Defining the values and motivations that drive your charitable giving can make it easier to select organizations from the stack of solicitations.
Personally, I have donated to Community Concern for Cats, the nonprofit where I adopted my cat, Pumpkin, in 2006. The organization is a grassroots charity staffed with volunteers that rescues abandoned and feral cats, provides them with medical care, and supports fostering and adoption. With experience adopting one of their rescues and being part of the amazing work that they do, I know that every dollar I give them is going to go directly toward rescuing more cats like Pumpkin. And that is a cause I can get behind.
If you need help to identify your values, a good first step is taking an inventory of causes you have supported in the past and reflect on why you gave. Ask yourself if you would give to those same organizations again and think about why or why not. By reviewing your past giving and volunteering, you can identify patterns and trends in your philanthropy. Insights you glean can help you decide how to focus your giving in the future.
Alternately, engaging in a conversation with a friend or family member can make the reflection process more communal. Our closest connections can assist in identifying and articulating what is important to us. If you are out hiking on the weekends, perhaps supporting your local park district would be of interest to you. Love music? There are organizations that financially support music programs in schools, such as Save the Music Foundation. Think about what activities you do together with your family and support those causes. Giving can even be a family activity, serving the dual purpose of supporting a cause that is important to your family and modeling the value of giving back to the next generation.
Turning Charitable Intentions into Donations
You’ve made a list of your passions and favorite causes and selected organizations doing great work in those areas. The next question to answer is how you want to give.
One simple, tax-efficient way to give is using a donor-advised fund (DAF). From a tax perspective, we recommend looking beyond cash donations to consider appreciated investments from your portfolio as a way to support the charities you choose. By donating appreciated assets without liquidating them, you get two tax benefits: you avoid capital gains tax by not selling the assets and you get a charitable deduction for the market value of the asset. Within the DAF, you can also allocate funds to socially responsible investments for further growth while you decide on which charities you want to support.
Two organizations that offer DAFs are East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) and Impact Assets. At EBCF, their mission is to partner with donors, social movements, and the community to eliminate structural barriers, advance racial equity, and transform political, social, and economic outcomes for all who call the East Bay home. At Impact Assets, the emphasis is ESG investment options along with private impact investments for donors looking for a more customized charitable experience. An example is an offering from Apis and Heritage Capital Partners, a private equity firm specializing in purchasing privately-held companies and transitioning them to 100% employee-owned businesses. Regardless of where the DAF is held, donors have the ability to support relief efforts for major catastrophes such as wildfires or the global pandemic as well as directly supporting economic opportunities of BIPOC communities.
For people over the age of 70 ½, you can also elect to donate directly from your annual required IRA distribution. This achieves two benefits: direct financial support for a cause you care about, and the funds you donate are excluded from your taxable income. This strategy is effective for many people who do not itemize on their tax returns by allowing them to still get a tax benefit from their charitable contributions.
Lastly, for folks who are concerned about preserving their current resources or want to create a charitable legacy, another popular giving strategy is to name your favorite nonprofits in your estate plan. Just as you can give during your life, you can give after you pass away. For example, I’ve named Pumpkin’s rescue organization as a beneficiary on my retirement accounts and life insurance policy. Naming charities as a beneficiary of trust assets or retirement accounts is a great way to invest in your values even after you are gone.
Personalizing Your Giving to Your Resources
One common concern is that it can be scary to give if you aren’t sure how much you can afford without impacting your own financial resiliency. This is where we come in. As financial planners, we support our clients in understanding how they can give most effectively while balancing charitable goals with the rest of their financial priorities. Whether determining how to maximize the tax benefit of a gift or how to create a charitable legacy plan that includes the next generation, we welcome these conversations.
Whether you give because it makes you feel good, you get a tax deduction, or you believe it is your duty and responsibility, it all helps charitable organizations further their efforts. When you are able to identify your passions, hobbies, and the causes you want to support each year it personalizes your giving and can help reduce choice overload as you make philanthropic decisions. Supporting a short list of aligned causes makes the act of charitable giving more rewarding and more impactful by concentrating your financial support on the causes that mean the most to you.
 For more info on Donor Advised Funds, see our blog post here: https://northberkeleywealth.com/articles/donor-advised-funds
 Four in 10 donors in a recent survey by Fidelity Charitable were conflicted about whether to hold on to money for personal needs or donate it to charity. Fidelity Charitable
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