Feature Articles: Miscellaneous
Giving wisely is hard work
Cereal company founder W.K. Kellogg famously noted years ago that it is easier to make money than it is to spend money wisely. It’s still true — spending is easy, but spending wisely takes a lot more effort. One aspect of your spending may be giving to charities and causes in which you’re interested. Try to make that giving deliberate instead of impulsive in 2017, recommends Cynthia Crawford and Andrew Zumwalt, professors in personal financial planning for University of Missouri Extension, and James Preston, MU assistant executive director for gift planning and endowments.
“We believe that people, when their finances permit, want to be generous,” Crawford said. “As with all spending, as Kellogg suggested, giving wisely takes some effort.”
As you think about your financial plan for 2017, consider the ideas below to help you carefully incorporate giving into your plans.
- Think about
getting your hands dirty, first. Giving doesn’t always have to
involve money. It can be volunteering your time and wisdom. They
count, too. Many times people choose to volunteer as workers and
serve on committees or boards before deciding to give. They want to
see the charity in action and see results firsthand so they can be
confident their financial gifts are well invested in the effort.
- Set a dollar
amount early in the year for 2017’s charitable giving. While that
amount may need to be flexible — to accommodate, for example, giving
to memorials at the passing of a family member or friends, or giving
when there are tragic natural disasters — having a target figure for
planning purposes is a healthy start.
- Concentrate. Say
no to most, yes to a few. Pick a small number of charities (most of
us can count them on one hand) to support in 2017. Giving a
meaningful amount that will make a difference to those selected
charities means saying no to most others.
- While it may seem
on the surface that supporting a number of charities with small
gifts (less than $20) helps spread the money around, realize that it
may cost the charity more than your $5 or $10 donation to process
your gift, send a thank-you message and enter information into a
- What is a
meaningful amount? You decide. If it is meaningful to you, it should
be meaningful to the charity. Make it enough to be meaningful to
- Realize that your
priorities for giving may change over time as your focus changes or
charity missions change. Re-evaluate your selection of charities
- Don’t give based
only on the charity’s name. There are less-than-honorable charities
that deliberately make their names sound similar to great
- It’s easy to learn
more about a charity that you’re considering supporting. First take
a look at the charity’s website, particularly focusing on its
mission and goals. While you are online, look the charity up in
charitywatch.org. Each site rates major
charities on financial health, transparency and accountability. Can
you deduct your gift at tax time? Check
- Maximize your
gift’s impact. “I don’t want the frozen pizzas, holiday wreaths or
spaghetti dinners,” says Crawford. “That takes time and money away
from the organization’s work. If the charity is in my giving plan
for the year, my gift is 100 percent for the work they are doing.”
- Involve your
children and grandchildren in the process of giving. What
organizations have been meaningful to them or helped their friends?
Can they volunteer alongside you? Can they go with you to deliver
the gift or help you write the check and put it in the mail? Sharing
by example the value you place on generosity is powerful.
- Not only is what
you give your choice, when you give is your choice, as well.
Planning to give in the future or at your passing is only a wish
unless there is a written plan in place and the appropriate papers
are signed. Don’t keep your planned gift a secret. The charity may
need to ask questions in order to be certain it can use your gift in
the manner you desire. And whether publicly or quietly, the charity
wants the opportunity to thank you in advance.
- “Once you give once, it is inevitable that the charity will be back asking for additional gifts. That’s the perfect time to ask what your first gift accomplished,” says Crawford. Make sure you know your gift has made a difference before giving again.
Making your gift a deliberate and carefully thought-out part of your financial plan can help your generosity make a greater difference, and give you even greater satisfaction in the coming years.
This information is part of the online course How to get an “A” in retirement. This course is written specifically for University of Missouri faculty and staff (UM faculty or staff can get registration information here). An online retirement planning education course will be available to the public later in 2017. Please email Cynthia Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org to request that details be sent once they are available.
Last update: Friday, February 03, 2017