Develop a legacy of compassion around the holidays
My wife and I are blessed with three great kids, now ages 19-26. Something we’ve learned along the way is the importance of tradition to kids, so we’ve developed a family tradition of making charitable giving decisions together during the holidays. The compassion for others, through sharing of one’s resources, offers a recurring theme which a family can rally around in a fun and meaningful way, year after year. Such a bond can be a saving grace as cultural, personal and economic forces can fragment many families’ connectedness.
Here’s my recommended simple process to build this family bond:
- Consider your capacity to give, with money and/or time, and set a annual gifting budget for your family. Remember, as your family builds a strong financial position, it will be positioned to give more. As most charitable requests feel compelling, setting a budget assures your family’s broader needs are also honored.
- Throughout the year, place charitable marketing pieces, interesting articles, and ideas in a dedicated file for later review and reflection.
- Avoid spur of the moment decisions around commitments, instead allowing your family time to reflect on the many important causes and effects of your gifts.
- As the holidays approach, sort through various possibilities and select 5-10 which you feel are most worthy of family consideration. These may follow a family “theme”, such as helping youth in need, or be varied to engage family members to a greater degree as they may feel very differently from other family members about what is most important.
- Sit down as a family and review each charity and cause, providing the family with a brief overview to each organization, who it helps and how it helps.
- Get each family member’s input on what they feel strongly about, who they would most like to help and why they feel that way. This is an incredible opportunity to see how family members views differ, while offering them a platform to share their feelings in an open forum; encourage equitable participation.
- Decide together on the percentage of your funds or time which will be allocated to the chosen causes, assuring that each persons’ voice is heard and they feel the respect of the family in expressing their view and directing resources.
- Consider the tax benefit of making the gifts prior to year end, potentially offering a tax benefit within the present year versus the next.
- Share the impact. As you may receive letters of thanks from the charities, or have the opportunity to deliver something personally, engage the kids in these activities. This makes the concept real and deepens the pleasure of sharing, while humbling all involved through the recognition of their good fortune.
Regardless of the extent of your gifts, engaging the family in the process builds a tradition which the family will anticipate. Charity and compassion are incredibly personal topics, with a variety of opinions and approaches, yet, no one can argue with the great need in our society. The good feeling and common bond which comes from helping others can build a legacy which becomes the greatest asset on your family’s balance sheet. As our kids return home from college for the holidays, we eagerly anticipate the tradition of helping others … together. This is one of the best gifts we can give our kids.