Focusing Your Charitable Activities for a Lasting Impact
For many wealthy individuals, charitable donations and philanthropic activity serve as meaningful ways to support causes you are passionate about. It is also common for philanthropy to increase in importance either after a liquidity event or retirement. While contributing monetarily to non-profit organizations is an effective way to earn tax deductions and reduce the size of your taxable estate, the most important reason most people give for their charitable inclinations is a desire to effect real change in an issue about which you feel strongly.
Philanthropy can be overwhelming. Donors are bombarded with charitable requests and solicitations for funds, and donors often want to be “good” philanthropists. They have good intentions and want to effect change through their philanthropy, but too often donations are not focused – either inconsistent over time or spread too thin over many organizations. To maximize the charitable effectiveness of your activities, it is important to establish a vision and a personal or family philanthropic mission statement to guide a lifetime of philanthropic donations and activities. Creating a personal Charitable Mission Statement will help focus your time and financial efforts to make a greater impact for your donation and your legacy, and also produce a lasting sense of personal fulfillment.
Determine Your Goals for Charitable Giving
Whether working with your wealth advisor, a philanthropic advisor, or on your own, the process of crafting a personal/family philanthropic mission statement should begin with your values. Do you value community, compassion, courage, innovation, justice, leadership, recognition, etc.? What about your values do you wish to carry through to your philanthropy? Are the causes you value ones that innovate to solve problems? Or do they strengthen and expand your community? Write down your values, and if working with family members, work as a group to discuss your shared values. Having conversations about your values and how you define them can be illuminating in aligning values and causes!
During this discussion, the logistics of causes you value should come into play as well. What problems would you like to solve? Is your focus local, national, and/or global? Do you want to focus on just one charitable organization, or involve many? Does your family want to be involved?
Identify What Inspires You in The World
A Charitable Mission Statement outlines your lasting vision of philanthropy. Maintaining the motivation to support an organization or a cause over a long period of time will require that you are inspired by the work you support. Give thought to what you see around you that inspires you the most, beginning with a review of your past charitable activity. The process of reflecting on your past charitable activity and identifying what inspires you will help inform the content of your Charitable Mission Statement.
The process of identifying what inspires you in the world may uncover new goals or motivations that extend beyond the giving practices of your past. Be open to new opportunities if you feel strongly about them.
Constructing Your Charitable Mission Statement
Just as organizations create mission statements in order to focus their operations and communicate their intentions to the public, a personal charitable mission statement will communicate the values, goals, and expectations of your charitable mission – not only to others, but to yourself. Your mission statement will maximize your impact for the organizations you support and keep your activities focused, permitting you to say “no” to charitable appeals that are not aligned with your mission. Be sure to incorporate these three elements into your mission statement:
- A core vision that guides your giving
- The causes and types of organizations you wish to support
- A methodology for selecting recipient organizations and a measurement of success
Here is an example of a Charitable Mission Statement for an individual who wishes to support educational advancement within their state:
“I believe in the power of education to create opportunities for social equality and economic advancement, especially for young people who are born into low-income areas with poor school quality. It is my mission to support state and local organizations that run free after-school education programs in disadvantaged school districts in order to raise the educational achievement of young people in my state.”
You’ll also need to consider a charitable budget as well as grant-making process. Make sure to incorporate charitable giving into your financial plan as well as to share the information with your accountant. What’s the right amount to give in total, as well as to any one individual organization? At what funding level should you require a grant proposal from a charitable organization? When evaluating a grant proposal, look at it through the lens of your charitable mission statement. Are the values and causes aligned?
As you choose to become involved with specific organizations, you will also want to think through how active you will want to be as a donor. Will you want to go on site visits or perform your own due diligence? Will you consider a seat on the Board of Directors? Will you require reporting from the organizations to show impact and/or effectiveness?
There are so many aspects to being a philanthropist, and there are great resources available to help you through this journey. In addition to the guidance a financial advisor can provide you, custodians like Charles Schwab have some great online resources like this one to get you started considering your goals, developing your charitable mission statement, and selecting suitable charities.
A personal Charitable Mission Statement is an important document for anyone serious about establishing a lasting impact of philanthropic activity – both financially and with your time. Putting your mission into words will strengthen your connection to your work, provide personal fulfillment when you see the impact of your giving, and set actionable goals for long-term charitable giving.