As the holidays approach, requests for charitable giving seem to multiply in our mailboxes and inboxes. This year, I am preparing to be a more strategic giver and I would like to share with you what is being refined in my own life.
Because I am an estate planning attorney, I often discuss with clients their resources and opportunities for giving. At times I make the case that charitable giving will minimize estate and income taxes, make an impact during one’s lifetime, and teach children to see a world bigger than personal wants or needs. Some clients find immediate value in the counsel, and others consider or decline. I make no judgments because presenting options is part of my job, and I know that a good estate plan is not the litmus test for a generous heart. These conversations have often led to stories of good-hearted giving – stories that have become life lessons I share with others (anonymously, of course).
Knowing WHY I give is the precursor for deciding HOW to give. Do I give because it’s a worthy cause? Because I’m connected to the person who is asking? Because of an obligation to pay for nonmonetary benefits my family or others have received? Because it helps me on my taxes? Because I don’t have the “hands and feet” to physically get involved, and financial contributions are more feasible for me now?
Do I give out of love? Obedience? Fear? Excess? Difficulty? Gratitude? Guilt?
As I consider my answers to these questions, I conclude that why and how I give is a product of my life experiences and core beliefs. I recognize that my charitable giving is more about reflecting who I am and what I believe and less about dollar amounts and worthy causes.
Challenge #1, WHY: When reviewing the accounts, titles, deeds and businesses that bear my name (essentially a balance sheet review), I consider where I came from, where I am now, who I trust, and the real purpose of these earthly possessions.
WHY do I give? Because of duty, confidence, and gratitude for so much.
Challenge #2, HOW: Most of us know the familiar truth, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. As I ponder this concept, I am confident it is true. Income and assets moving off my balance sheet are making a bigger impact
elsewhere, and it makes me truly happy. HOW do I give? Cheerfully, humbly, hopefully and faithfully. We will save the tax planning lessons for later.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are rightly associated with charity toward those in need, but for me, giving is more than an annual tradition or tax plan. It is part of my DNA, supported and made possible by the trust I have in my Ultimate Provider.
May you too be filled with joy, faith, and trust as you follow your heart and mind and impact the world today, in whatever way you choose.
-Carolyn A. Thompson