Tis’ the season to connect with loved ones, make merry, and contend with multiple decisions related to spending and giving.
Over the years, we have encountered the following challenges faced by our clients who want to be less stressed, and more intentional, when it comes to their giving. We thought we would share these concerns along with quick tips for how to approach them effectively.
Gift Giving Dilemma: How Much is Enough
Whether or not your friends, acquaintances, and service providers know you have significant resources can have a major impact on how you choose to give.
If they are aware (and, quite honestly, if they know your real name and can google you, there’s a good chance they can easily find out where you live, the value of your home, and more), then you can feel a sense of inner pressure to give more than you may want to. This pressure often comes from a place of inner discomfort about having more than others, sometimes accompanied by guilt and even shame (especially for inheritors).
What we recommend:
1. Take some time to connect with your values and what it is you want to convey with your gifts.
2. Honestly consider the quality and level of true win/win reciprocity in each of the relationships you’re considering gifting to, and give according to those standards, not related to how much money you have compared to them.
3. If you find yourself over-extending and purchasing more than what someone with more modest means would, ask yourself: “What’s motivating me to keep spending on this person?”
4. Trust in the adage that “it’s the thought that counts” – when you show up as thoughtful and considering what you know that person will most enjoy, the amount you spend is far less relevant than you may think.
Charitable Giving and the Holidays
Philanthropic giving with intentionality is a wonderful way to bring purpose and passion together during the holidays. According to Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon, authors of The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan “…what you get in philanthropy is nourishment for that portion of the body that is so sacred it cannot be found in any book of anatomy: the soul, where all that is best in us resides.”
Unfortunately, there can be many overwhelming aspects to giving when there are so many choices that are all so worthy and good. And when some of those requests for support come from family members or friends, a sense of obligation can trigger additional emotions, such as guilt, embarrassment and resentment.
Some recommendations that clients have found to be helpful in minimizing those feelings while furthering their sense of empowerment and freedom with giving include:
1. Have a clear “giving strategy” that is aligned with your values and easy to articulate.
2. Have your response prepared in advance so you can say it with ease and confidence.
3. Determine with your financial advisor how much money to allot to charitable donations and track your giving throughout the year.
4. Consider creating an annual "slush fund", with a limited budget, to allow you to honor charitable requests from friends and family. For example, you may decide that 3% (or any amount that feels right to you) of your total giving budget will be designated for this fund. NOTE: The important things to decide with a slush fund are (1) who to give to the money from and (2) to say no to requests once the annual slush fund has been spent down.
With these four steps in place, you are positioned to be able to honor yourself while honoring others and to dramatically decrease the overwhelm and other negative emotions.
For example: Let’s say you are passionate about medical research and child welfare and you have defined these as your two strategic areas of giving.
Then, when your neighbor asks you to donate to veterans, you can respect her passion while sticking to yours – by deferring to your strategy.
If your sister asks you to make a donation to an animal rescue organization where she volunteers, you can use your prepared response to connect with her about what she loves about the shelter, and then share with her what you’re choosing to focus your resources towards and possibly make a gift, in her honor to the animal rescue organization, from your limited slush fund.
And, should the local hospital ask for a capital campaign contribution for a new wing for children, you can review your numbers and see what is realistic for you and not get swayed by the passion alone. This will allow you to keep giving for years to come, without creating undue stress or anxiety by over-extending.
Talking About Your Giving with Your Children
According to Ron Lieber, author of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, “…giving, like everything else that we do with money, shouldn’t simply happen without comment… and there are at least three ways to explain why giving money to help other people is a good thing to do.”
The three explanations about why we give that Lieber provides are:
1. Giving is part of the responsibilities that come with having money -- “families who have more than they need ought to give something so that families who have very little can have more of the things that they need but can’t afford.”
2. Giving is good for us – “research on happiness shows that the amount we give away is a great predictor of how happy we are.”
3. Giving is good for where we live -- “Communities are stronger when people know they can rely on one another.”
Whatever strategy you choose to take with your children and giving, be sure it is meaningful and includes some action on their part. The more you can engage them in the whole process, the more their souls will be fed.
May you discover the joys of receiving so much more than you give by giving from your values, with intentionality and confidence this year!
If you find yourself enjoying these tips, yet wanting more support to really take on a purposeful approach this holiday season, consider applying to participate in our workshop: "Money, Meaning, and Mindfulness" on December 2, 2015 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon
The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
The Power of Half by Hannah and Kevin Salwen