Charitable Giving

Charitable "Planning"

Having a personal giving plan that maximizes your charitable potential is a powerful way to assure that your dollars are truly having the impact that is most meaningful for you –today as well as beyond your lifetime.

We help clients maximize their charitable giving efforts and create a legacy plan for the future – a plan that includes intentional giving and overall alignment between your values, your savings, investments, your charitable giving & philanthropy, and your community and lifestyle.

The Charitable Planning Process

Discovery. The ability to give comes down to individual motivation and your financial ability to give within the context of achieving a successful retirement and wealth transfer to the next generation. Through our overall planning process we will assure that you have adequate savings and income through all sources to meet your lifetime living expense needs. We will consider future purchases and expected capital expenses, any anticipated expenses or costs for health care, and plan for the unknown to assure that all of your expected or anticipated future needs are able to be met. Once you know what’s needed to meet all of your lifetime needs, then we will help you determine how much of your resources can reasonably be devoted to family giving and philanthropy.

Clarify your motivations and values. Articulating your motivations and values allows you to develop a proactive, effective giving plan rather than giving reactively to charitable giving requests. Your motivations and values provide the anchor for decision making at each step of the philanthropic process.

  • What motivates you to give?
  • What do you hope to gain from your giving?
  • What do you want to change in the world?
  • What values underpin your giving?
  • What issues feel most pressing to you and why?
  • What life experiences have shaped you and your giving?

Make a list of your five most important values. We can guide you through activities to help you reflect on and clarify your motivations and identify core values that will inform your giving. 

Narrow your focus. The simplest way to organize your giving is to focus on several specific causes or issues, rather than giving across many. While your giving budget can allow room for emergency needs or reactive concerns, narrowing your focus areas for proactive, organized giving helps prioritize your resources.

  • Which cause areas have you given to in the past?
  • Which issues do you feel best reflect your values?
  • What areas are you most passionate about? 

We can help you examine your giving history and clarify your areas of focus for future giving.

Craft a giving statement. With an understanding of your motivations and values, and clarity around your focus issues for giving, you can create a giving statement that articulates the What, Who, Where and Why’s of your giving plan. Your statement will include:

  • The causes you want to address with your giving (eg., poverty in Vermont, environment, education, animal issues, etc.).
  • Who will benefit from your giving (eg., low-income children in Vermont, abused animals, etc.)?
  • Where, geographically, will you focus your giving?
  • Which of your values are driving your goals?

We can help you explore and clarify these issues and articulate your family giving statement. 

Involve Family. Philanthropy presents a unique opportunity to include family (however you define it) and create a family legacy. This could mean including family members to develop philanthropic goals, providing feedback, or carrying out your giving mission today and in the future. Sometimes involving family can be a way to embrace and express shared family values and create a meaningful legacy.

  • Are there family dynamics that need to be carefully navigated?
  • Are there opportunities to engage the next generation (children and grandchildren) in your giving today or as part of a legacy plan? 

Structuring your giving. With a clear understanding of your motivations, values and focus areas, and a plan for engaging others in your plan, you can now develop a concrete structure for you giving.

Determine your giving budget. At this point we integrate your giving plan with your overall financial plan. At a high level we want to determine how much you wish to give over a broad time-frame. If we look at the next ten plus years, how much do you wish to allocate to your charitable giving? Then, we consider the next three to five years.

  • What’s your giving budget for the next year?
  • What are the potential tax consideration for these different time horizons?
  • What future developments might affect how much you give?
  • Are you in a position to consider giving appreciated assets, now or in the future, as part of your giving plan?
  • How might required distributions from IRAs or retirement plans factor into your giving budget?

Allocate your giving budget. Consider creating three segments or buckets to help you categorize and distribute your giving.

  1. Proactive giving, which includes contributions to organizations working in our identified focus areas.
  2. Reactive giving, which includes contributions in response to personal requests from family or friends to support important cause areas or issues.
  3. Emergency giving, which includes giving to support disaster and emergency relief, or giving to support dire situations that result from unexpected policy changes.

Now you can begin to allocate your total giving budget to your cause areas, and then within each cause area determine what percentage to allocate to Proactive, Reactive and Emergency giving. We can help you with each step of this process so that you have a clear and effective giving budget.   

Select giving vehicles. The vehicles you use will provide a structure to help you carry out your giving plan. There are many vehicles to choose from and our goal is to help ensure that the best combination of vehicles are selected to align with your broader goals.  Issues to consider during the selection of giving vehicles include administrative support, anonymity, asset growth potential, control over giving, distribution requirements, family involvement, impact investments and perpetuity. 

Some of the vehicles we will consider are: 

Finding and Vetting. Now that you have a clear structure in place you can determine which organizations align with your giving goals and add them to your plan. You may already have organizations in mind, but we encourage you to take the time to learn about other organizations working in your focus areas to assure that your giving is as effective as possible.

Using your personal and community networks, ask for recommendations and inquire about experiences with organizations within your focus areas. Create a list of organizations within each focus area and speak with them, consider volunteering, look at their websites, and search online databases like GiveWell, GuideStar or Charity Navigator. Get to know how they work to achieve their intended outcomes and reflect on how these approaches align with your philanthropic goals and mission. Narrow your focus and create a shortlist of organizations in each of your areas of focus.

  • Who does the organization serve?
  • Where does the organization focus its work?
  • How does the organization align with your giving goals?

Vetting is a due diligence process of assessing the organization’s legal status, overall health, leadership and direction, and program impact. Due diligence and vetting will enable you to be confident in your funding decisions.  

Making & tracking gifts. Once you’ve created your list of organizations, the next step is to decide how to allocate your giving budget. Refer to your budget worksheet and how much you’ve assigned to each focus area and each organization listed.

Keep in mind that you may also want to consider volunteering with organizations you’ve selected, including serving on the organization’s board to gain firsthand experience within your cause area. When you make a gift to a nonprofit you can designate it as either unrestricted or restricted. We generally recommend making unrestricted gifts since you will have already determined that the organization will make good use of your funds to achieve outcomes aligned with your goals. Sometimes a special purpose may be appropriate, so check with the organization’s leadership if you are inclined to earmark your gift as restricted in any way.

Tracking your giving involves establishing a system for recording your gifts. Whether you use a notebook, a spreadsheet or a database, it’s important to keep track of your giving. For tax purposes, make sure that the organization provides you with a written receipt listing the date and amount and description of the gift (unless you’re giving through a vehicle like a Donor Advised Fund (DAF), or foundation).  

Understanding impact. Keep up with the organizations you support by reading their annual reports, which usually include their budgets and financial reporting, along with listing accomplishments and future plans. Follow your focus organizations on social media, and read the “news” sections of their websites. Sign up for newsletters and attend events that they host. If you make larger gifts or bequests, consider meeting with the organization and getting to know senior staff. Participate in tours or webinars offered for donors or friends of the organization and ask questions about the organization’s impact on the causes you care most about. 

Review. With a solid plan and tracking process in place, it is important to review and refine your plan periodically. Review your budget annually and determine if you want to increase, decrease or keep your giving amount the same for the upcoming year. Review the organizations and determine if you want to maintain the same giving level or if you want to make adjustments.

For greater impact you might consider setting up recurring or multi-year gifts. If you’ve increased your total giving budget, determine which donations you would like to increase for the upcoming cycle. As you reflect on your past years giving, ask yourself if the issues you prioritized are still aligned with your giving goals and values.

  • Are you satisfied with your overall philanthropic budget?
  • Did your reactive, proactive and emergency giving align with your original allocations?
  • Are you satisfied with your family’s involvement?
  • Do you want to expand your philanthropic learning?
  • Are you satisfied with the giving vehicles you’ve chosen? 
  • Do you need help updating your plan or learning more? 

Schedule a time for a free consultation and find out how purposeful giving can fit into your financial and legacy plans.


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