April 25, 2016
The wealthy get blamed for many things. If you listen to political rhetoric it would seem that those with assets are the root of most social evils. Moreover the advocated solution by some is the redistribution of wealth. Ironically, though, the wealthy are already doing a pretty good job of redistribution through their philanthropy.
Charitable giving is at an all time high in America as the US continues to be one of the most generous nations in the world. Millions of Americans possess a willingness to give their money away. The list of causes seems endless, from health care issues, to education, to righting social wrongs. As a result, our lives are enriched every day by giving.
I recently attended a couple of fundraisers. At each event I scanned the crowd and started to wonder how each of the attendees viewed their personal role as a philanthropist.
The first event was a black tie affair with a hefty price tag for admission. I had been invited as a guest by one of the many patrons. The net worth of the well-heeled crowd at this tented affair was in the billions. During the live auction the money began to flow. The second event was in a college town where students participated in a charity boxing tournament for the benefit of underprivileged kids. This was a jeans and beer affair, and the participants were mainly students, many of whom likely had debt which exceeded their assets. Nonetheless the event was highly successful in supporting in a very worthy cause.
As you know, the list of needs in our society is great. Google search your hometown non-profits and you will be taken aback by the number and variety of causes. Most of us have been providing documents to CPAs for tax returns recently and we probably all have a list of groups to which we give. Many of these are likely $25-$50 donations to which we give out of habit or obligation. But there must be a better way to handle our willingness to give. With all the different needs, and opportunities, I wonder how many of us have thought of developing a formal “giving plan”.
I meet with a client at the end of each year to discuss a variety of planning issues. One of the main topics was how she wanted to allocate her charitable contributions for the following year. The client’s approach has changed over her life, and has resulted in a plan which has higher donations, but to fewer groups such that the impact of each gift is more meaningful. We annually review the list with a tremendous amount of discussion as to who, why, and how much and then the client makes her decisions.
This strikes me as a wonderful way to look at gifting with careful forethought and planning. Many of you may do the same, but I have not in the past. This process seems to me to be worthy of more discussion with my whole family.