Charitable giving should bring great joy and fulfilment.
It should make you feel empowered and excited about the good you can do in the world.
Many of us donate to charity, but do we do it intentionally?
Lauren’s journey towards understanding the charitable landscape
Lauren janus had worked in the charitable sector for 15 years, but found herself becoming a little bit disillusioned.
She was spending all of her time telling donors why they should give all of this money to this one cause, like this charity is absolutely the best. She wasn’t explaining to them how social change happens and how it’s usually a whole bunch of different factors that go into saving the polar bears or curing cancer or whatever it is.
Lauren wanted to be explaining to a donor how they can navigate the charitable landscape and give in a way that means most to them, so that they can really understand how their money is impacting the issue that they want to change and what their effort is accumulating.
Being intentional with your giving
Lauren founded Thoughtful Philanthropy to help you really understand the strategy charities you’re interested in are adopting and how they’re spending your money.
She works both with people wishing to give directly, as well as with financial planners to help their clients incorporate charitable giving into their financial plan.
Mostly, these conversations occur around retirement, because that’s the time when people’s finances are a little bit more certain. They have some time coming up perhaps and they want to think about a lasting legacy.
How the process works
Lauren will have a series of conversations usually with the financial planner about what the clients’ interests are.
She then does a bunch of research and puts together a very tidy, clear report on the different charities working on the issues of importance to the client. She considers:
- What are the different opportunities for giving?
- What are the different levels of giving?
- What are some opportunities for volunteering and skills-based giving?
The adviser will then discuss the report with the donor, or client, to determine what would make the most sense given the overall financial plan for the individual or couple.
Meet 80 year old Nora
“I’m working right now with a woman who’s approaching 80. She’s a widower and she is thinking about her legacy.
She is a retired social worker and she is currently involved in an organisation where she works one day a week. They help families with mental health challenges and other issues that they’re going through. She helps the young mothers, as well as the children navigate the social care system, and helps with the care that this organisation is giving to them directly.
Nora is wanting to think about how she’s becoming less able to give her time, how she could dedicate a portion of her assets to this organisation, but also to the wider issue of mental health care.
She has a granddaughter who struggled with her own mental health. She wants to give in a very intentional way to two or three organisations that are working on this issue very directly in a way that makes sense to her.”
Charities are not Tesco – the transparency issue
The million-pound question for charities is “Is my donation being well spent?”
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer because the real challenge is that a charity is not a Tesco.
If you look at the financials of Tesco, you can find out what are they paying in, what are they paying out, and see that they’re making a profit. They’re delivering on shareholder value.
You look at a charity and their goal is social change, which does not come out on a balance sheet. It’s very, very difficult to evaluate.
There is a movement to do more evaluation of charity work, which is really welcome, but it is really difficult.
At the end of the day, it can be very subjective. Does a charity spend, that is working on homelessness, do they spend all of their money on beds for homeless people or do they put their money into mental health and substance abuse support?
The benefits of working with a philanthropic adviser
It really comes down to the individuals running a particular charity and trusting them to use their experience and their knowledge of the field to use your donations in the most effective way.
That’s where it’s sensible to work with a philanthropic adviser because they help you understand the strategy that these organisations are using and make sure that it makes sense to you.
You can listen to my interview with Lauren Janus on The Retirement Café Podcast from 4th June 2019.