The gift-giving season is upon us, and with it comes Christmas shopping for our loved ones. We all know people who will be running around the mall five minutes before closing time on Dec. 24, looking for that spontaneous token to tuck under the tree. Then there are those meticulous planners who have every gift listed in a spreadsheet and finished their shopping way back in October. While this kind of careful preparation is great for holiday shopping, it can present a unique challenge when it comes to charitable giving.
From yearly fundraising campaigns to bell-ringers in the mall, the Christmas season provides ample opportunities for us to be generous. However, meticulous planners often find this array of options difficult to navigate. Unlike their more spontaneous counterparts, they need every detail of a project planned out before they begin. Planners cannot imagine choosing a charity without a clear, step-by-step blueprint and a long-term strategy in place to guide their efforts. As a result, the joy of giving becomes mired in stress.
It’s certainly important to consider the big questions of how much to give, to whom, when, for how long and why, along with the factor of whether we want to be identified or to donate anonymously. However, if we get too wrapped up in having all the answers, it can prevent us from ever giving in the first place. Sometimes we just need to give what we can, then build from there. That is not to say we should proceed with no plan at all, but some flexibility allows us to meet new challenges and opportunities as they come along. After all, the most joyful generosity journey begins with the first gift.
Charlotte and Matt (pseudonyms) were meticulous planners. The year they sold their farm, they wanted to make a sizeable gift to charity. However, they were unsure about the specific charities or the amount they ultimately wanted to contribute to specific projects. This made it hard for them to start giving. However, by opening a flexible gifting account, they were able to make their gift to charity, addressing the specific year’s tax situation in the process. Afterwards, they enjoyed seeking God’s direction and working out the exact details and plans for specific distributions over time.
One of the most exciting parts of working with my Abundance Canada clients is helping them take those first steps in their generosity journeys. They’re often surprised to learn that they don’t need to have all the details worked out immediately. They don’t even need to know exactly where they will make their charitable distributions over the long term. It may seem disconcerting at first, but soon they realize that half the fun of their generosity journey is getting there. The most important thing is to get started. After that, we can work together to develop a strategic plan to help guide their decisions and set goals, while leaving a lot of room for flexibility and to test things in the short term.
My clients who are planners often find a flexible gifting account combines the kickstart of an immediate gift with the security of future planning. They get the momentum of giving right away, gain the charitable donation receipt for their initial transfer to Abundance Canada, then have the joy of planning their distributions in as much detail as they want. Abundance Canada offers a variety of donor-advised funds, some with longer-term and others with shorter-term distribution options.
So how do you approach your charitable giving? Do you need it all planned out before you start? If so, a donor-advised fund might help put the joy back into your giving. There are so many opportunities to give this Christmas, so why not get started today?
Marlow Gingerich is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada. Learn more by visiting abundance.ca or by calling toll-free 1-800-772 -3257.