By this time you’ve seen Christmas slowly creeping around the corner. You can see it on the displays at the end of grocery store aisles, Christmas trees planted in the center of an office building’s lobby, or your local waving mall Santa, Christmas season has arrived. However, Christmas was not always the event it is today. It would not be until 1843 in England when a very famous story by Charles Dickens would spark the beginnings of holiday cheer.
If you haven’t heard of the story yet, here is a brief summary: a miserly man by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge hoards his wealth while impoverishing his clerk. He is warned by his former business partner that he will be visited by three spirits who will show him the error of his ways. After Scrooge is visited by three ghosts of Christmas’ past, present, and future; he is taught the valuable lesson of generosity and kindness.
We don’t have to be visited by ghosts to appreciate the values of generosity and kindness. This Thanksgiving season is about kicking off the spirit of the holidays by appreciating how fortunate we are to have so much while understanding that others are less fortunate. We can all look into ourselves and see a reflection of Scrooge staring back.
As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving, you may want to consider what it means to give and the values you and your family hold dear. If done right, giving can be a core principle that binds your family together. Rather than merely dropping spare change in front of bell ringers, why not be more strategic with your giving and make it a family event?
There are three components to giving when it comes to the spiritual tradition of stewardship:
Your family should consider a blend of all three during this holiday season and see what makes sense.
Do you want to spend more time with your family? Why not volunteer for a cause you all believe in? Are you an amazing chef? Why not prepare meals for those less fortunate? Have you been given a great windfall? Is there a way where you can share that happiness with others?
Let’s focus on the last way to give as it is the most confusing and the least understood part of giving. Many faiths mandate steady contributions known as tithing. If you belong to a religious organization that enforces this principle, it may be considered your fulfillment of giving treasure. The tithing method of giving ensures a steady stream of gifts and leverages a percentage of a finite and fixed resource, i.e., your income.
Beyond mandated giving, your family can look at strategic giving. Giving in this sense goes beyond giving as a requirement or an obligation. Strategic giving focuses on the resources that you have and how best to create fundamental change or preservation of the past. Rather than giving wide and differing amounts to multiple charities overtime or giving large and generous gifts to specific charities at random, strategic giving looks at a problem and tries to create an institutional infrastructure to create lasting change in the area that matters to you.
Before you engage in strategic giving, think hard about what your family truly cares about and what areas matter to your family. This form of giving is not for someone who gives to feel good. This is a form of giving where you give to see change or preservation. You are not giving away fish, you are creating fish farms.
As with most giving, there are many vehicles to give through. You can give cash donations, give in trust formats, and there is the newly created donor-advised fund vehicle. The format is less important than the intent and the core conviction for change or preservation. Focus on the need first and worry about the vehicles next.
When you are prepared to focus on giving, we recommend that you work with a few different professionals to create an effective giving plan. First and foremost, contact the charity or the director of giving who you would like to use to effectuate your giving. Next, it may be helpful to have a professional who can help you identify the best vehicles for your charitable contributions. Ideally, these individuals have had some interdisciplinary training in charitable giving and often carry the CAP® designation.
Need help getting started? At My Financial Coach, we can provide comprehensive financial planning with your estate planning and charitable gifting needs at the forefront of your planning process. Our Financial Coaches can also connect with you with our Subject Matter Experts who may specialize in the type of gifting you are looking for.
When you gather around the Thanksgiving table this season, remember all you and your family have to be thankful for. Also, keep in mind that many families would be grateful for what you could provide. Let’s all look forward to a wonderful and happy season of giving!