Giving provides deep personal satisfaction, helps to make the world a better place, shows your gratitude for the communities that shaped you, and shares your values with your family for generations.
But fulfillment in giving isn’t always as simple as writing a check. When you give, you want to ensure your efforts are meaningful.
One way to do this is through a giving plan. “A giving plan strives to help you do three things,” says Dan Harris, senior vice president and national director of Philanthropic Services from U.S. Bank. “Align your giving with your values, have meaningful experiences through your giving, and create lasting impact for your families and communities — whether you define community as your immediate neighborhood or the globe.”
Here are three steps to take when creating a giving plan.
1. Integrate giving into your wealth plan
While many people donate generously, they don’t always look at the larger picture. Harris recommends assessing your giving in the context of your overall wealth planning. “People often don’t think of philanthropy as part of wealth planning but giving can be an integral segment of a family’s overall financial strategy,” he says.
Factoring giving into your wealth planning can ensure you address any questions about the tax implications of your philanthropy, or if charitable giving can be incorporated into other big financial events to help lessen your tax burden.
2. Have a conversation to understand why you’re giving
Harris recommends talking about giving as a family, beginning with which charitable gifts over the past few years are most memorable. This can help you define the values and goals that drive your philanthropy.
“I often hear from clients that they give to a lot of good causes. But the question is, might they feel better about their giving if they gave in a more focused way? The answer is almost always yes,” Harris says.
Take some time for introspection and discussion to help you prioritize your charitable objectives. Here are some key questions to consider that may help you fine-tune your charitable focus.
- What non-profits have you typically supported and why?
- Which recent gifts have been most closely aligned to your values?
- Do your values influence your charitable giving priorities?
- How have your life experiences inspired your charitable giving decisions?
- Have you had meaningful experiences through your giving?
- What results are you seeking when you give?
- Which gifts do you feel have had the most lasting impact?
- Have you made contributions that have given you great satisfaction?
- Would collaborating with others increase your impact?
A look back at your giving history can help you better align your giving with your stated values — in other words, create a giving strategy.
3. Determine your strategy
Every individual and family has unique philanthropic values and goals. Here are a few options to consider:
- Donor-advised funds. These simple funds are the fastest-growing philanthropic strategy, but not all are created equal. And how one is structured depends on your family’s philanthropic goals and your approach to giving with options to give both locally and globally.
- Private foundations. These offer a great deal of control, making them an increasingly popular strategy for high net worth families. However, you’ll need to work with your tax and legal advisors to help you establish and manage a foundation. Learn more about donor-advised funds and private foundations.
- Charitable trusts and estate plan gifts. You can support your preferred charities through an irrevocable trust. You may also want to consider making a bequest to a charity through your estate plan. This would ensure your philanthropic goals are carried out even after you’re gone.
- Impact investing. If you want to support certain causes beyond just donating funds, consider impact investing, which involves investing for both financial gains and for social good.
Giving is about doing good in the world. But it’s also important to feel good about the impact you’re having. That starts with making sure you’re giving efficiently and meaningfully.
U.S. Bank and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Your tax and financial situation is unique. You should consult your tax and/or legal advisor for advice and information concerning your particular situation.