Charitable giving is a holiday gift that never breaks, gets returned, or goes out of style. And the ripples of goodwill that giving sends out into your community can also bring your family closer together throughout the year.
Here are three ways to start a new tradition of family giving that could make the holidays brighter for generations to come.
- Discuss your family's charitable goals and values.
Even if you will be the primary donor, talking to your family about the causes that are important to each person can be immensely powerful. When your whole family feels like they've had input on your giving plan, they'll feel more connected to your new shared mission and, perhaps, more inspired to give or volunteer on their own. Hearing different perspectives on the world's problems and how your family might help could also open your eyes to issues you weren't aware of. And if you're worried about a goodhearted discussion turning into an argument, just take potentially divisive options like political or religious donations off the table.
If your family doesn't already have a personal connection to a particular cause, you might start by creating a family mission statement. Instead of talking about causes, talk about the values you share and the legacy you want your family to leave. Once you have a list, you can use it to explore causes and organizations that share your mission.
- Vet the cause.
An innovative new nonprofit might tug at your heartstrings with its slick social media posts. Crowdfunding campaigns might turn millions of clicks into donations. But what many of these smaller organizations and well-meaning individuals lack are oversight and accountability. Once you've authorized a payment, is there any way for you to verify how your money is spent? Will your generosity reach its intended recipient?
When it comes to giving, bigger can often be better. Well-established organizations like the Global Red Cross Network have an infrastructure for helping people in need. If you want to donate closer to home, consider charities with longstanding community roots that you know well. And if you're drawn to a new cause, check online with charitable watchdog groups to make sure the organization is legitimate.
- Find the best giving options to meet your goals.
During the holidays, many families enjoy making their giving as festive as possible, such as donating meals or presents to those in need. Cash donations don't always feel quite as merry, but there's a good reason many charities prefer money: it doesn't need to be packed, shipped, or physically distributed. Again, when you're contributing to an established charitable organization, your money is often an accelerant that helps people get help faster.
Families that prefer a more hands-on approach to philanthropy could make volunteering a part of the family mission. Add a couple shifts at the local food pantry or homeless shelter to your holiday schedule. Or follow a value from your family's mission statement to a regular volunteer position in the New Year.
Finally, there are some giving and financial strategies that can help families achieve larger philanthropic goals over a longer period of time. Making sustained giving pledges, creating a donor-advised fund, and establishing a family foundation can all further your family's mission and burnish your family's legacy. But these are also more formal vehicles with unique advantages and challenges to consider, especially when it comes to administration and tax planning.