Your soul searching and due diligence have paid off! You have identified those organizations you feel called to support through your philanthropic giving.

But you’re not done just yet. Now you need to make some decisions about what, when, and how to give.

I highly recommend working with your financial advisor, accountant, and/or attorney to make the best decisions for your personal situation.

What to Give?

What level of engagement do you want to have? Giving can come in the form of time, talent, and/or treasure.

Time = Volunteer

A great way to get to know an organization is to volunteer. Locate a non-profit in your area so it’s convenient for you to make a commitment. Then, ask how you can help. A good organization will welcome your assistance and provide many ways for you to contribute.

Talent = High Engagement

Once you’ve identified an organization that you believe is effectively addressing a cause you are passionate about, you may decide you want to become more involved. High engagement philanthropists realize that social change requires participation beyond donating money. This may include serving on a board, assisting with fund-raising, networking, advocacy, or other purposeful ways of sharing your gifts and talents to support the organization in their efforts to bring about change.

Treasure = $

A critical way to help an organization you trust is to provide funding that lets them carry out their mission effectively today and plan for the future. You are making an investment to address a social ill, so consider a multi-year donation to support the following:

  • Unrestricted/General Operating Funds – so they can budget appropriately and decide how best to use the funds
  • Infrastructure/Performance Measurement Investments – to support their growth and measure their impact
  • Capital Funding – to scale their operations

Donations can be made in a variety of ways:

  • Cash, Check, Credit Card
  • Appreciated assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  • Name the charity as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement plan
  • Set up a bequest payable upon your death
  • In-kind donations

When to Give?

You’ll also need to decide when to give, particularly if you have a substantial amount of wealth to share:

  • How much should you donate annually?
  • Do you want to give it all away while you’re alive to maintain maximum control?
  • Would you prefer to set up a foundation to carry on your legacy once you’re gone?

How to Give?

Aside from giving directly to an organization, there are a variety of giving vehicles that you may want to explore with your financial advisor.

Donor Advised Fund (DAF)

Allows you to set aside charitable funds whenever you choose and take the tax break immediately. You don’t have to decide where to donate the funds until you’re ready. The giving account is housed with a sponsoring public charity such as a community foundation, a university, or a financial institution. With a DAF, the donor makes an irrevocable charitable contribution to the sponsoring organization and loses all legal control over those funds.


An independent legal entity established for charitable purposes, which is governed by one or more individuals, a family, or a company. A private foundation gives donors complete control over granting and investment decisions.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)

A tax-exempt, irrevocable trust that first distributes income to the beneficiary of the trust (who you name) for a specified period of time, then donates the remainder to one or more charitable organizations. A CRT provides the beneficiary with cash flow while obtaining a current-year personal income tax deduction.

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT)

A tax-exempt irrevocable trust that first disburses income to one or more charitable organizations for a specified term, then transfers the remainder to an individual beneficiary (who you name). It is designed to result in tax-free gifts to the donor’s family.

Are you a Philanthropist?

What if you don’t have a lot to give, don’t use a financial advisor, have never heard of a DAF or CLT? You’re just hoping to have enough to get your kids through college and retire before you turn 80.

But you have a heart for giving and are passionate about your cause. Can you still be a philanthropist?

Heck, yes! Philanthropy is not reserved for the wealthy elite.  Anyone can be a philanthropist!

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you make, or how much you have in savings. Everyone has something to give.

You have something to give!

Sometimes we hear about people donating millions and even billions to philanthropy and we think our small donation means nothing. So does my $25, $100, $1,000, or even $10,000 make a difference?

You bet it does! The nonprofit community needs the support of donors at all giving levels. So never think what you give is not enough. It’s not about how much you give – it’s about why and how you give.

I suggest narrowing your focus of support to 1-3 organizations addressing the causes you are most passionate about. This way, you can consolidate your giving and have a greater impact.

It costs an organization to process your donation, so a gift of less than $25 is not making much of a difference. You’ll have more of an impact by making larger donations to fewer organizations.

If you don’t have a lot to give monetarily, you can give of your time and talent. Nonprofits can’t operate without a cadre of volunteers. Don’t discount the value you bring by sharing yourself.

We need you out there!

If you have a desire to give, you are a philanthropist. If you want to share yourself in service to the world, you are a philanthropist. If you want to make an authentic impact, you are a philanthropist.

We need you out there!  Be AWE-dacious!