Amid the holiday planning and celebrating that dominates November and December, I have an annual “to do” that is a critical part of my family life: managing our philanthropy for the year.
I’ve long believed in the power of philanthropy. Even when I was in my 20s, living in Boston with roommates, I made sure to donate to mission-driven organizations I believed in. I’d write a $25 check—back in the days when people wrote checks!—and mail it off, knowing that, despite my entry-level salary, I was dedicating myself to a lifelong habit that was benefiting not only me but my larger community. It’s been a habit I have continued throughout my working life.
Since my husband and I were married a decade ago, managing our charitable giving has lived squarely on my “to do” list (I left him with the mortgage to contend with—lucky guy). The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve are when I tally up the charitable giving we’ve made so far, and consider what else we can and want to do to contribute to and support our community before the ball drops and a new year is upon us. The holidays therefore become my family’s season of giving.
Charitable giving is a commitment my husband and I budget for each year. When we plan out our spending, we allocate funds for the must-haves; food, shelter, and expenses related to keeping us all healthy top the list. (My son would argue that Legos are a key area of spending, but he’s outvoted.) After saving for retirement and adding to the kids’ college fund, we factor in a certain amount of giving. The amount changes, as you would expect, after considering the economy and family and personal obligations. But it’s always part of what we do. It’s a non-negotiable for us—and a tangible way we can contribute to our world.
One of the ways we save for our charitable giving is by having small amounts of each of my paychecks transferred to a Capital One savings account. We’ve been doing this for years, so when I was approached by Capital One to share how my family makes philanthropy part of our lives here on Red Shutters, I was pleased to say yes. In the savings account, the money builds up throughout the year, and when I sit down to review our giving, I know we’ve put aside enough to support our goals. I appreciate working with companies who offer ways for my goals to be realized. Capital One believes in supporting its customers in the areas of life that are most meaningful to them—such as the philanthropic deeds Capital One customers are devoting to their communities, using their own everyday money, through the Everyday Money Boston program.
One of the most interesting aspects of making giving a priority is the conversation it encourages me to have with my husband. We’ll discuss the causes we should support and why they are important. We’ll consider how our values as a family can manifest in the organizations with which we align ourselves. It’s an eye-opening dialogue to have and it’s made me think more deeply about what matters to us, and how I want my family’s resources directed.
Two years ago, I expanded our commitment to philanthropy by joining a giving circle based in and focused on the Boston area.
Giving circles are communities of people who “pool” their money to support charitable organizations and causes. The idea is that, together, the group can have a deeper impact because of the breadth and depth of its financial resources. Instead of giving a series of individual donations, the members combine their giving into a few bigger grants that can change the direction of a nonprofit or service organization.
I joined all-female giving circle that has in its mission to educate its members about philanthropy and to offer its members opportunities to be part of the grant-making cycle. As a result, I’ve attended lectures by nonprofit leaders, evaluated grant applicants, and met dozens of smart, insightful women. The women in my giving circle all bring different backgrounds and life perspectives to the process of reviewing and selecting the applicants to receive our grants, and that has enriched the work we do. We span a 70-year age range, and hail from all over metro Boston. Our reasons for joining the giving circle, though, tend to surround the same idea: through philanthropy—through the act of giving back to our community—we can improve our world.
I have been thrilled with how much I have learned from my involvement—and how rewarding the experience has been. Both my giving circle and my family’s giving plans have reinvigorated my belief in the power of allocating resources—no matter how big or small—to boost up a cause or mission. Additionally, for me, creating a season of giving within my family brings satisfaction and offers valuable lessons about community and commitment that I hope to pass onto my children.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.