Good Deeds & Awards Articles

The Gift of Giving: Make Charity a Family Affair

My father was a leader by example.  He wasn’t always vocal about teaching us the value of service, but he showed it often in small ways.  I distinctly remember being on a road trip as a child when our family stopped for gas.  I’m not sure how my father came to understand the circumstances, but he paid for another man’s gas and bought him a cup of coffee before we left the station.  He didn’t say a word about it when he got back in the car, but it left an impression on me nonetheless.

By Ryan Blair | Contributor

Among the lessons parents hope to pass along to their children, charitable giving—of time, of service and of money—is one best learned through doing.  Having worked with families for over a decade and now with my own kids, I’ve seen how charitable giving can be beneficial to everyone involved.  Here are some steps to get the whole family involved:

Step 1:  Determine your family’s giving goals

Ask your family: What do we want to positively impact?  Education?  Faith-based organizations?  Health-related nonprofits?  Perhaps your family has had a personal experience with a cause like a family member with an illness or a friend who recently went through a natural disaster.  It’s easier to get passionate about giving when it’s an issue that speaks to you.

Step 2:  Write a family mission statement

Author and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey, described a family mission statement as “a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about—what it is you really want to do and be—and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” Strong families are successful because there’s a strong family identity.  When choosing a giving goal, make sure the cause aligns with your family priorities.

Step 3:  Choose a Charity

Where and who are you giving to?  Research local, national and global organizations to determine which ones are making a difference for the cause you’ve identified.  Websites like guidestar.org or givewell.org can help you identify a nonprofit and give you information on how much of your donation goes toward administrative costs.  Local volunteer centers are good resources to identify causes closer to home.

Step 4:  Determine how much to give and choose a funding vehicle

You may want to meet with a financial professional to determine what is an appropriate amount of your income to donate to charitable causes.  Balancing the tax benefits of donating while meeting your family’s financial goals is something I help clients with all the time.  It can be a good lesson for your children as well to see that their own allowance can be separated into spending, saving and giving accounts.  Some of my clients have given their children and teens an allowance where they can donate as they choose or they have matched their children’s donations to encourage the idea of giving.

For larger donations, consider a donor-advised fund (DAF).  These are a great option for legacy giving to accumulate funds over time through a foundation that directs funds to charities of your choice.  These are often ideal for families looking for a multi-generational long-term tool for giving since you can designate your child(ren) as successors on the fund.

Step 5:  Review your charitable giving over time

As your financial situation changes and as your priorities change, take time to review what you are giving.  You may be able to give more, or your family may have identified a new cause you are passionate about.  There’s always room to make an impact.

Charitable giving teaches your children compassion, and doing it as a family helps them to see that you value giving back.  Donating your money is important, but donating your time is equally valuable.  A family volunteer day is a great way to spend time together.  Ultimately, making a difference in the world as a family is priceless.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Blair is a tenured wealth manager and financial strategist with SFMG Wealth Management. Reach him at ryan@sfmg.com or 972.960.6460.  

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