Tis the Season for Strategic Giving

Mary Ellen Garrett

Monday, December 15th, 2014

With the holidays just around the corner many are focused on giving back, especially in Atlanta, the fourth most charitable large metro in the United States. Forty-three percent of wealthy donors said that they make more charitable contributions during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year, according to the recent Bank of America Study on High Net Worth Philanthropy. 

Giving can go beyond donating change outside a store and without affecting your overall financial approach when planned properly. By creating a philanthropic strategy you can maximize your gift so that it’s meaningful to you and impactful to the organization. 

First, identify your personal giving values and interests to determine what organizations you are most interested in supporting. Whether you are passionate about your local community, education or family use your values to guide which organizations are most aligned with what issue you hope to address. As you’re choosing organizations look into their history, mission statement, programs and their financial history. 

Evaluate your personal financial situation by looking into your investment portfolio and current cash flow. As the economy rebounds, many are looking to re-engage their philanthropic efforts as they accumulate additional assets. 

Engage your financial advisor. By working with a financial professional, you can analyze your current assets and goals to identify the right donation amount that has a positive impact on the organization and your personal financial goals. While many advisors discuss philanthropy with at least some of their clients they are more likely to bring up the subject of philanthropy once they have greater knowledge of a client’s personal or financial goals, or when they are aware that a client volunteers or is active in the community. Make sure you are including your philanthropic goals as part of your overall financial plan.

Consider choosing a financial team with a background in philanthropy so he or she can help you identify the best vehicle for giving. Vehicles for giving include foundations, funds and trusts. Look into all to determine the best option that fits your individual situation and preference of control. Additionally, consider donating through your estate plan. When planned appropriately, you can include an organization within your estate plan to have part or all of your estates go toward the charity. 

Involve your family when making estate planning or general philanthropic strategies to make giving a family affair. Sharing your values and incorporating the next generation into your charitable giving can ensure long-term support of the causes you currently invest in while building a legacy of strong values. 

Also involve the next generation by showing that giving back is not just financial, but can involve your time as well. Consider taking the family on a volunteer effort this season or join an organization’s board.

This holiday season give back strategically by setting a goal and giving scenario to maximize your contributions to the organization while keeping your personal finances in check. Coordinate further with a financial professional to make the most of your philanthropic giving. 

Mary Ellen Garrett, Senior Vice President – Wealth Management, manages The Garrett Group. Within Merrill Lynch, The Garrett Group is a leader in the firm’s wealth management practice, offering exceptional capabilities in wealth planning and investment and financial management to high net worth individuals, families, family offices, corporations, charitable gift programs, endowments and foundations.