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Creating a Giving Plan

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit” – Nelson Henderson


Following are some suggestions for developing a giving plan.  Certain aspects will be elaborated in more detail in other sections of this website: 

Clarify your values 

People give for many reasons, including:  theology, gratitude, compassion, recognition, tax planning, legacy planning, social pressure, guilt, passing values to succeeding generations, etc. 

Considerations in determining your goals could include: 

  • What inspires you?
  • What causes do you believe in?
  • Do you want to impact the individual, organization or a community?
  • Do you prefer organizations serving local, state, national or international needs:
  • Do you want to be anonymous?
  • Do you want to be recognized?
  • Do you want to contribute in memory or honor of someone?

Determine how much you can give 

Once the importance of giving is recognized, it should be included and prioritized along with your other goals.  Incorporate giving in your financial plan and let your financial advisor know how important this is to you.  

Consider engaging family 

Discuss and involve family members.  Not only will this lead to meaningful discussions, but it passes along your values and helps to perpetuate a culture of giving to succeeding generations.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, discusses in his book, “Giving It All Away… and Getting It All Back Again”, how he involves his children and grandchildren in the giving planning process.  

Create a mission statement 

This can be a brief and concise statement to include:  

  • A core vision that guides your giving
  • The causes and types of organizations you want to support
  • A method for selecting organizations and how to measure successes 

Decide who to give to 

Now it’s time to do some research.  Find out who or which organizations seem to fit your values and satisfy the criteria of your mission statement.  You need to determine which organizations are truly effective in implementing programs that actually achieve their missions.  Before donating to a non-profit, research its effectiveness, financial sustainability, professional and volunteer leadership, how it responds to changing needs and circumstances, as well as the difference actually made. (See tab “Charity Research Organizations” for organizations that evaluate charities). 

In some instances, non-profits hold back and invest a substantial portion of donations they receive.  You will want to be sure that all of their capital is used to achieve your charitable goals.  

It is important that donors discuss their charitable giving plans with their financial, legal and tax advisors.  These professionals, at a minimum, can help determine which assets should be donated from a tax standpoint as well as suggesting gifting strategies that might have a greater impact upon the charities in both the short and long term.

Evaluate and make changes as needed 

Philanthropy that makes a real difference requires due diligence to ensure it is done well.  Follow up on the charities mission and effectiveness over time.  It may become necessary to make changes due to changing circumstances or unanticipated events.