Make Your Charitable Giving Meaningful


When natural disasters hit hard or sudden tragedies strike, incredible gestures of thoughtfulness and humanity often follow. Most recently, Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have caused extensive damage to our neighbors in Florida and Texas, and have served as vivid reminders of the importance of helping others. However, charitable giving doesn’t always have to be a knee-jerk reaction in times of distress. You can give purposefully and meaningfully year round. If you are looking to establish more regular philanthropy, here are some ways to get started.

Consider your why

Give some thought to issues you genuinely care about. There are many worthy causes and organizations you could give to, but philanthropy will feel most fulfilling when you align your passions and your giving. Create a philanthropic mission statement to gain clarity about your values and goals, and to help you give to causes that align with that vision.

Look at how

When it comes to giving, you can think of the “how” in three parts: time, talent and treasure.

  • Time: Organizations often need volunteers to do tasks that may seem simple but make a big difference to their operations ─ like delivering supplies or driving people, preparing or serving food. Your time and your presence are valuable, you gain from the connections you make and you get to see the results of your contribution firsthand.
  • Talent: If you’re willing to offer more than your time and presence, consider sharing your unique gifts and talents. For instance, if you have business or professional experience, consider volunteering to share your knowledge with others. You could help an individual or organization develop a business plan, budget, or whatever you are passionate about and skilled in. It could turn your hobby or career into a helping hand. 
  • Treasure: Giving money, whether directly to a charity or through another approach, is likely the most commonly considered aspect of philanthropy. Yet, financial donations can be more complex than offers of your time and talent, so be sure to check with your financial and tax advisors about how your charitable giving fits into your overall financial plan.

Identify who

Doing your research before you make a charitable contribution is just as important as it is when considering a new investment.  You can gain valuable insight about an organization’s financial health and practices from its website, nonprofit financial reports, recent news or articles in the media, third-party evaluators like GuideStar or Charity Navigator, and philanthropic advisors. In combination with your “why,” investigating these tools can help you confidently decide where to invest your time, talent or treasure. 

Plan now

If you haven’t come up with your giving plan yet, October is a great time to do so, especially before holiday-gift spending starts in earnest. For some of your efforts, you may also be able to take a charitable contribution deduction against your income if you itemize and you make the donation before the end of the year.However, you should consult a tax professional for clarification on your situation.

However you decide to give, it’s the thoughtfulness behind your intentions that counts the most. Make your giving meaningful, and enjoy the process.

kristen-fricks-romanKristen Fricks-Roman CFP®, CRPS®, is a financial advisor and senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Atlanta. She can be reached at [email protected].

The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC and its Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Individuals should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.

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