How to Write Your Philanthropic Story

By guest blogger Debbie Davies, Women United Charter Member, Former CEO of the Arc of Atlantic County

How to Write Your Philanthropic Story
This past June I had the pleasure of speaking to United Way’s Women United members during their annual Power of the Purse luncheon. As a long-time member and former nonprofit leader, this opportunity to share my philanthropic story as a way to inspire others to give more passionately was very special to me. We all have the capacity to create change and give back to the communities in which we live and serve. By sharing these experiences and helping others to realize their full potential as a change-maker, we can collectively expand our ability to do good in this world. As you develop your own philanthropic story, here are three things to consider:

Shine a Light on Your Contributions
So often, we shy from acknowledging our monetary gifts to charitable organizations. This is true especially for women, who typically are more comfortable recognizing their volunteer contributions or in-kind donations. I know we tend not to discuss financial information – how much we earn, the status of our assets, etc. – but the more we share publically about where, why and even how much we give, the more our stories will help others think about the role of philanthropy in their lives and how they too can make a difference.

As an example, in my previous role as the CEO of The Arc of Atlantic County, I once had a board member who wanted to make an anonymous gift. He likely had valid reasons, but nonetheless I asked him to reconsider. I argued that being public about his gift would be an additional gesture of leadership and would encourage others to give. He agreed to my proposal and the gift did inspire others to donate – gifts that had an impact on the lives of those we served and might not have come into our organization otherwise.

Identify Your Giving Priorities
Making charitable gifts can be as simple as clicking a button or writing a check, but devoting time to thinking about how and why we give can be a worthwhile exercise. Getting to the motivation of our own philanthropy can open even more doors for ourselves and others. For instance, you might ask yourself “Do I want to give to one organization or many? Do I want to focus on organizations that serve locally or more broadly? Do I want my name on a plaque or a building or something less tangible such as the opportunity to interact with like-minded people?” All of these motivations are legitimate. By asking these questions, you can help define your intention and decide what is most important to you as well as the recipient(s) of your gift.

Consider the Benefits of Planned Giving
Planned giving provides you the opportunity to take ownership of your legacy. It allows you to consider what happens to your assets when you’re gone and what kind of impact you can make in the long-term. It’s a very personal decision and while your family might be your top priority, it’s important to consider giving options in advance. Of course it’s hard to predict the future, but conceptualizing how you’d like assets distributed now in the near term can be helpful to you and your family to avoid confusion and unnecessary stress. Then rethink those circumstances ever so often.

It can be helpful to think in terms of percentages rather than absolute numbers. For example, that $5,000 you planned to give to support your religious community might place a burden on your estate, or based on some financial planning, you may have an opportunity to be even more generous. Thinking about financial distribution proportionally instead of absolutely has more potential for impact to charitable institutions and less potential for harm to your heirs. It’s important to seek out professional advice about leaving bequests because the way they are structured could have significant tax consequences for your heirs.

The bottom line is that your giving matters and your story could serve as a valuable tool to help the causes that you care about. We invite you to share your philanthropic story with us, join the conversation @PhillySJUnited using the hashtag #TheMovementStartsWithMe on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

To learn more about Women United or Planned Giving at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, please visit UnitedforImpact.org.

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