We seem to spend a tremendous amount of time complaining about our financial plights in life: Are we getting the same returns on our portfolios that others are receiving? Is our car new enough? Is our house big enough? The fact is that we, in the U.S., enjoy a standard of living, which is second-to-none on the planet. The unfortunate reality is, even with all of our abundance, there are those among us, right here at home, that do not share in that wealth.
As recently as 2014, a United States Department of Agriculture report noted that there are over 48 million Americans (including 15 million children), who don’t even get adequate food each day. Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S., noted that there are almost 5 million seniors served by their network. Moreover, 20 percent of the households served by the Feeding America network have at least one member that has served in the military. Have you ever worried about going hungry?
Shame On Us
It’s time for us to “get over ourselves” and truly help those in need. Make this conversation a family affair. It will cut down on the times that you have to tell your children or grandchildren, “You don’t know how lucky you are.”
Family Philanthropy – Your Voice and Your Choice
As Betsy Brill, founder and president of Strategic Philanthropy, Ltd., noted in a Forbes.com article, “With baby boomers retiring after years of wealth accumulation and subsequent generations looking for ways to put their wealth to work for the greater good, now is an excellent time to begin thinking about how to involve the next generation in the charitable planning process.”
This family financial stewardship will help you to impart your family goals and values around giving. Don’t wait to do this when you die, only to leave your requests in your will; do it while you are alive, so you can really talk to and be involved with your future generations. You get to design this. You get to involve your children and grandchildren. You get enjoy how excited and committed they can be.
Lots Of Advice Out There
You can start this philanthropic process in a simple way with your family, then consider formalizing it with your lawyers and accountants. This should be an organic part of your financial planning and of your legacy. As the kids grow older, their philanthropic passions will evolve. Your five-year-old grandchild may be committed to putting coins into the container at the diner, which goes to helping stray dogs; however, when they get older, that desire to help animals may morph into donating to help raise guide dogs for the blind.
Start With The Informal
Hold a family meeting inviting your children and your grandchildren. It may not be easy to get the whole family in one room, so try to connect everyone in the family via Skype or Facetime as well. Explain that you want to engage them in giving and really get the younger ones involved, too. Have an idea of your passions, giving to your favorite religious groups, hospitals, UNWomen, Wounded Warriors? Also, ask each member of your family to come to this meeting with some idea of their passions around giving. They can research these groups prior to the meeting and come armed with some ideas. This makes the meeting more inclusive. Everyone gets to voice their ideas, so you are not just lecturing the family.
The Formal Route
It’s not really complicated to set up wills and trusts that reflect your giving. Your lawyers and accountants should be involved in this process. One great way to memorialize your desires is to set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. It is an irrevocable trust, which has two primary characteristics: 1) It distributes a fixed percentage of the value of the assets you put into it to the Trustee for the charity now, and; 2) When you die, the remaining balance of the assets in the trust are distributed to the charity. There are also lots of organizations and financial planners that will guide you through this process. The National Center for Family Philanthropy, for instance, is a nonprofit that provides families with tools and expertise to help them to set up structure around giving.
Higher Tech Giving
There are now lots of ways to get your kids involved with what I’ll call disruptive high-tech, low-touch giving. The Internet has made philanthropy more efficient. There was a 2015 M + R Benchmark Study that looked at 84 online nonprofits and results showed that they received over 6,400,000 gifts totaling over $412,800,000 in donations. The practice of crowdfunding has made this all possible. Crowdfunding is basically a way to raise contributions online from a large number of people. The key is just to check out the sites and make sure they and the cause are legitimate.
One Of My Favorites
We all get notices from different groups, who are looking for us to donate non-perishable food for foodbanks or other organizations. We sift through our pantries and that jar of pickled capers, which has been staring at us for long enough, may get put into the donation bag. Your heart is in the right place, but is that the best way to give?
AmpYourGood is an organization that will change the face of the food drive. “We developed crowd-feeding as a new food drive model so that people can donate healthy, fresh food to drives instead of what traditional food drives are limited to collecting – non-perishable canned goods. They have teamed with FoodDay.org to organize a Real Food Drive campaign, to do just that. The givers and receivers can now be matched together. In fact, your kids and grandkids can set their own community drive,” notes Patrick O’Neill, CEO of Amp Your Good, LLC.
The point here is to create your legacy as the gift of giving. World Hunger Day is October 16th. What a great time to start! Allow your kids and grandkids to experience the joy of making a difference. I love how Arthur Ashe put it, “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”