Thanksgiving is behind us with Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching. With so many people needing help right now, you may feel like this is a unique opportunity to give back. Seeing your generosity in action could motivate your loved ones to include philanthropy in their own personal and financial goals.
Here are three ways to make giving an activity that makes a real impact on the world.
1. Volunteer even if things are different now.
Resources are getting stretched thin at charitable groups around the country right now. Perhaps the most in-demand resource is volunteers. Social distancing recommendations have made it very difficult for some organizations to open their doors. Many would-be volunteers are reluctant to step outside their household bubbles.
However, moving some critical operations online has created new kinds of virtual volunteering opportunities. If your family is still spending most its time at home, you could all take a turn at the computer donating your unique talents. You could volunteer as reading tutors or help with basic remote administrative tasks. For those who are design savvy, photo editing skills could come in handy with an organization’s website or graphic design needs. There may even be an innovative idea you’ve been mulling over for spreading the word about an important campaign on social media.
Whether in-person or online, volunteering together can be a powerful family bonding experience. It can also help reinforce giving back as a family value that children will want to carry on.
2. Design a donation strategy.
For many people, charitable giving isn’t just a matter of doing good — it’s an important part of their financial plan. If you have children or grandchildren, you can give them a voice in how and where you donate as an important lesson in both budgeting and the true value of money.
You could also use this discussion as an opportunity to share some family history. Explain to your children what your own parents and grandparents taught you about giving. Tell stories that inspired you to start giving and explain why you’ve chosen particular causes or organizations.
Another important topic you might touch on is how you’ve vetted charitable recipients. For those on social media, we’ve been bombarded with crowdfunding campaigns and well-produced pleas for help. It’s all too easy for us to click SEND.
Remind yourself and others to be cautious to ensure their dollars don’t end up in the hands of someone with less than honorable intentions. Established organizations have pipelines and oversight that ensure their money reaches people who truly need it.
3. Start your foundation.
You may have established charitable trusts or sustained giving through your estate plan. But if you have long-term philanthropic goals, why wait?
Family foundations, trusts, and nonprofit organizations come in all shapes and sizes. An annual golf tournament or food drive could grow into a meaningful event that draws big community involvement. If you want to establish a larger foundation, you could include smaller discretionary or donor-advised funds that heirs can use to spearhead their own initiatives under the family banner.
Whether you decide to give back through volunteering, philanthropy, or some combination, any charitable plans should be incorporated into your financial plan. Careful budgeting of your time and your assets could impact when you decide to retire and the things you want to accomplish once you do. Giving back and retiring on your time is not an either/or decision.
There is always something you can do to help others.
With most of us isolated from others or confined to interacting with only those in our bubble, giving back is a great way to reinforce your community ties and remind you that we’re all working towards a common goal. Finding ways to give back can give you a sense of purpose during this difficult time.