Posts Tagged ‘family giving’


Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Giving is what women do, of course.

We nurture kids and relatives. We drop everything for friends in need. We form neighborhood associations, join walkathons, sit on school boards and give to clothing drives. Often as not, we also write charitable checks.

So what’s this all about?

Something of a revolution, really. Increasingly, women are contributing time, talent, treasure and technology at levels that move well beyond family and community. More and more women are taking center stage and asking, “What can we do?”
In the process, women are changing the face of philanthropy.They’re infusing new excitement, accountability and serious money into charitable goals and plans

They’re also learning how to collaborate and leverage their efforts in order to have greater impact. Women now require a higher level of stimulation and satisfaction than they once got from volunteering or organizing a charity event. They’re reading P&L sheets. They’re working to make the world a better place.

If you think of society as a three-legged stool supported by the business, government and nonprofit sectors, then women have gone a long way in redefining their roles in the first two. It’s now the turn of the so-called third sector.

How did we get here?

First, across the country, the extraordinary growth in women’s wealth, professional skills, confidence and financial decision-making has been rewriting rules about money and power. Women control a staggering 48% of estates worth more than $5 million and will soon direct 60% of the nation’s wealth. In addition, women have become comfortable with their rights of ownership, in business, in power, in leadership. This tilt toward women-directed wealth is propelling women’s involvement in philanthropy.

With deepening experience and resources, women are increasingly choosing a larger, more strategic stage. Women want their money to be working for change. They’re exploring different philanthropic structures, such as impact investing. They’re defining focus and figuring out what they can give that won’t deplete their longer-term growth or potential assets.

Paralleling women’s focus on philanthropy is the unprecedented rise of women-owned businesses, which are growing twice as fast as all other privately held companies in the country. A whopping 68% of women owners volunteer at least once a month, often in leadership roles. Nine out of ten women business owners (92%) contribute money to charities, compared to 88% of male owners and roughly 70% of U.S. households. Such changes have also led foundations and nonprofit institutions to launch woman-oriented fundraising efforts and to recruit women for their boards and staff.

From Maine to Miami to Malibu, women of all ages, colors and stations are developing giving plans and, typically, also contributing hands-on help. Their charitable work has come a long way from baking cakes and organizing church picnics. It’s all about funding social change.

Unlike the spontaneous impulse toward charity, the work of philanthropy does require some homework, but it is also consistently joyful and empowering. Go ahead. Take the leap. Give a little. There’s no doubt that, in return, you will get a lot.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Stories about women working toward a bigger purpose, building something that will outlive them, are surfacing frequently. These are altogether contemporary legacies, on a scale without precedent or model. The stories are ongoing and evolving, so the full impact is still largely under the radar. Here are snapshots of four women who put their commitments to work and found the rich fulfillment that yields.

Pushing boundaries. In the early 1990s, at age 36, Mae C. Jemison, who had already earned both chemical engineering and medical degrees, was the first black woman astronaut to blast into space. She served as the Endeavour team’s science specialist. Today, Jemison runs her own medical technology research firms, based in Dallas. Her heart and the private foundation she named for her mother, remain committed to scientific literacy. Among other projects, for more than a decade, Jemison has organized and largely funded The Earth We Share, an annual science camp for youngsters 12 to 16. The kids come from Bermuda, Hong Kong, Ghana, worldwide, to work on solutions to global problems in teams led by noted scientists. “We sent air tickets to a mother and her daughter in rural India,” says Jemison. “No one in her village could believe that she was coming to meet Nobel scientists.”

Her view: “You can live on less money and probably get more, but you can’t manufacture time. I try to make choices by thinking that if this were the last day I were alive, would I be happy about what I did that day.”

Being heard. Faith Ralston runs an executive coaching consultancy in Minneapolis, and has developed a leadership training program for women called “Play to Your Strengths.” The idea surfaced in a networking group with five other women when Ralston stumbled upon a technique that seemed to unleash energy and women’s inner voices. Basically, the group threw topics at each other and asked each to speak to those. “Our eyes lit up whenever something was important to us,” says Ralston. “It’s a way to trick the brain.” She began leading these workshops for free for various women’s groups, encouraging the participants to form their own “Circles” to maintain the support. With a few partners, Ralston launched the nonprofit Awesome Women, which offers workshop dinners that help women “to speak up and move toward what they want in life, home or work.” The event also provides a network for joining Circles that will maintain the support.

“Saying it out loud and hearing what you said back from other people, reinforces the belief that you can actually do it,” says Ralston.

Breaking silence. It began quietly. A friend sent Heidi Reavis a New York Times piece about a childbirth injury suffered by millions of girls in Africa. The girls are married and pregnant at very young ages and, because their bodies are still too small to deliver full-term babies, their insides are ripped out during labor. They end up with a condition known as obstetric fistula, irreparably damaged and usually abandoned by their families. “It was a moment in our lives,” says Reavis, an employment lawyer. She and filmmaker husband Steve Engel, “had the money and felt a moral imperative.” After four years of production and a personal investment of nearly $1 million, the couple produced A Walk To Beautiful, a feature-length documentary about three girls who find their way to the Ethiopian clinic and the only doctor that can heal them with surgery. “The time and attention and funding of the film has required more personal sacrifice than we expected,” says Reavis. “But when I look back, I know the money was used for something enduring. It gives the girls a voice.”

“A Walk To Beautiful” won top honors as a Best Feature Documentary from the International Documentary Association.

Honoring the forgotten. “I have to say it took me several years not to be embarrassed by my wealth,” says Elizabeth Colton, who inherited money from a family business. She echoes the journey many women of wealth take before taking charge of the money. Today, based in San Francisco, Colton founded the International Museum of Women, an online and expanding project that offers events, exhibitions and seminars about women’s contributions and history.

“I was inspired to launch the museum because of my daughter,” says Colton. “I wanted her to have a place where she could see the value of women.”


Monday, June 11th, 2012

Getting young kids to give or volunteer is a great idea, of course. We all want our kids to develop compassion and the habit of helping others.

Plus, starting early instills two powerful lessons. First, even though kids are small and lack influence or money, they learn they can make a big difference. That’s an enduring lesson. Second, when the joy of giving and its personal gratification starts early, it becomes a lifelong habit.

The best way to successfully develop a kid’s interest in giving is to move slowly. Most importantly, let your kid be your guide.

Start by talking, not by doing. Then, use these five tips to engage young children in giving.

1. Look for teachable moments.
These crop up any time and anywhere, and often when least expected. For instance, when kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up, ask them how people with that job can help others.

2. Be the role model you want to see.
Young kids learn by experimenting and watching others, particularly their parents. They often try on the values they hear about. To encourage that behavior, talk about why you give and the rewards you get back.

Show your interest in philanthropic activities and compliment charitable ideas and behavior when you talk to kids.

Include giving as year-round interests and activities in the family, not only a holiday event.

3. Let the child find the cause that speaks to him or her.

A good way to engage a child’s interest is to ask what makes him or her get mad. When kids feel they can turn their indignation into action by righting an injustice, or making a difference in something they feel strongly about, it offers immediate reinforcement. It’s empowering.

Don’t commit to anything too quickly. Audition activities/causes to find what’s right for your family and child. Don’t be afraid to drop what doesn’t feel comfortable or rewarding.

4. Explain the world of giving.

Kids don’t necessarily understand philanthropy and its options.

With older kids, talk about what’s entailed in volunteering, fundraising, charitable events, choosing a cause, evaluating an organization or managing a family foundation and, perhaps most important, how to measure success or impact.

Little ones also need clear explanations about the differences between giving and buying and between the nonprofit world and the for profit marketplace.

5. Set the bar.
Parents expect kids to share, to complete homework, to exhibit manners and so on. Add giving to the list. Expect kids to give and serve rather than making it a special event or a big deal. Giving then becomes part of everyday thinking and not an extracurricular event.

When you instill ownership for giving in kids and an appreciation for how much they have to contribute, they will give out of compassion, not obligation.


Thursday, May 10th, 2012

For some years now, I’ve been delving into women’s mixed emotions about money and power, including anxiety, pride, envy, anger and guilt.

I’ve been reporting on and investigating sex-based elements of leadership and entrepreneurship, looking at women’s social and political accomplishments and setbacks.

And during that time, whether among women with inherited wealth, women who have earned their wealth or women who live paycheck to paycheck, I’ve repeatedly seen that only after arriving at a clear understanding of your emotions about money can you attain the freedom to pursue power.

Coming to terms with money fears and feelings, owning and accepting and, yes, sometimes changing, your money personality, will lead to more authentic and effective choices, especially when it comes to giving and philanthropy. It will free you from denial, from running away, from giving over to a pro or a relative, from decisions by default.

By looking into what drives your financial habits and choices, and tracing these back to family experiences as a child, you’ll be able to take charge and express your true values and beliefs. You will experience your power.

I often financial services pros and experts organize what now are rather trendy conferences and courses designed to teach women about money matters. Invariably, the focus of these convocations is on transactions, not on transcendence. On spreadsheets, not spreading your wings.

Little of such approaches typically hits women’s screens and that’s because of both nature and nurture. Until and unless women explore and accept their emotional engagement with money, they tend to avoid money management and the transactional side of finances.

What’s missing from all the convocations and conferences about financial empowerment are how to address these complicated feelings about money, and that goes for men as well as women.

What after all is money for? Why don’t the seminars ever speak to the values we bring to money management?

Let’s think about building a bridge from the constant striving to get more to the blissful freedom of feeling like you have enough.


Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Decades from now, what would you like to say about your family and dreams?

If you want your family close, productive, open to experience, making a difference in the world, then what are you going to do now to get you there?

People often avoid financial planning because they think talking about far-reaching decisions will lock them in. But it’s usually just the reverse. Planning and managing your money lets you fund your beliefs, passions and legacy.

Stories about women who are committing to a bigger purpose, to building something that will outlive them, are surfacing frequently, especially as boomer women consider what’s next. These are altogether contemporary legacies, on a scale without precedent. Many such examples are ongoing and under the radar, since few media outlets are reporting on women’s local or individual philanthropy.

Where can we look to find women’s evolving stories?


Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Let me tell you the real story of the woman who married Prince Charming.

During their forty years together, he enjoyed a lucrative and secure career. She never asked about their assets or how much they spent or saved. They had kids and lived well.

You can see where this is headed.

The prince died. A huge chunk of his money went to pay various taxes, most of which could have been avoided if he had only managed some basic financial planning. The kids got nothing. The wife had to sell the house. The fairy tale ended.

This isn’t an old wives’ tale, either. Women need to have money in their own name.

While younger working women are moving, inch by inch, toward a tripod model—his money, our money, my money—thousands of women are still leaving their checkbooks at the altar, even when they bring home big salaries.

One nationwide survey found that when couples argue about money, men see it as an issue of “trust.” By contrast, women cite issues of “power and control.” Presumably, lots of women would rather not press that marital hot button. Yet when they do assert their financial independence, women are often surprised by the positive changes in their sense of self and the marriage’s dynamics.

If everything you own and all family bank accounts are jointly held (or worse, in his name alone), consider these commonplace scenarios. Then think about getting your own accounts.

• You ought to be able to buy a gift without it being obvious how much you spent.

• You may need access to cash fast for many reasons, including the tragic ones, when joint accounts can be frozen for a good, long while. Typically, you should have three months’ worth of household and living expenses in an emergency bank account of your own.

• When loans and credit cards are all in your spouse’s name, credit agencies will likely score his record while yours turns inactive. Even if you established a good credit history in your own name before marriage, that rating can lapse in less than a year. That means you’ll have difficulty getting credit in your name because there’s no current track record. In addition, if he has a habit of late payments or defaults entirely, it’s your credit rating that will also suffer.

• It can take several years for bad credit info to disappear from the records.

• Sometimes you just want to make your own decisions. You should be able to spend money on what you want without asking for permission or forgiveness.

• And one more critical byte of advice: Make sure you always know current computer passwords for joint investment and bank accounts.


Friday, June 10th, 2011

There are lots of options for giving besides writing a check or giving time. Here’s a roundup of suggestions. Before taking action, of course, check with your tax and financial advisers.

Give your house. Gifts of real estate cover a house, apartment building, farm, vacation home, commercial buildings and land. If you cede a fully paid mortgage to, say, your local community foundation, you can continue to live in the home for the rest of your life. Upon your death, the house passes to any charity you select. The nonprofit can then sell it and use the proceeds. Such gifts raise complex tax and legal issues, but planned giving experts at public foundations or charities would be delighted to help you work through the process.

Give by the dozen.
The vast majority of people who give to charity wait until December to make donations, partly because of the holiday spirit and to qualify for that year’s tax deduction. But you rate the same tax break by giving in January or June. And with monthly donations, you create a habit and ease the cash flow.

Give the rewards of intellectual property. If you’ve written a book or screenplay, own a patent, license a service or the like, set up a plan to donate a percentage of incoming royalties or fees.

Give collaboratively. Set up a giving circle with friends, family or colleagues to learn about philanthropy and leverage your dollars and impact. These easygoing groups forge their own rules and grant choices, often with back-office help from a community or public foundation. To learn more, check out advice from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. If your pals live across town or around the world, consider a virtual circle using electronic tools (like Skype) to electronically collaborate in real-time.

Give art, antiques or collectibles. Like bequeathing a home, these gifts can be donated to a qualified charity and still remain in your possession during your lifetime. The gift goes to the nonprofit after you die. Check with financial pros beforehand. Congress changed the rules on such gifts in 2006 and now it’s less of tax break than it used to be.

Give with a legacy. By setting up a charitable remainder trust, with cash assets or, better yet, stock that keeps appreciating, you live on the trust’s income during your lifetime while the principal passes to a qualified charity after you die. CRTs are irrevocable, so you can’t change one after it’s established.

Give technology. More and more groups, online and off, are offering recycling outlets to donate used mobile phones, computers, peripherals, software (when you upgrade) and more. Check with your company’s human resources department, local community foundation, public schools, small-business training centers for opportunities. Or check out Secure the Call Foundation . These can be converted into 911 emergency-use mobiles and given free to, say, battered women and kids at risk.

Give mutual fund shares or appreciated securities. Besides netting a tax savings and an immediate charitable deduction for the market value of the donated assets, giving mutual fund shares that transfer to a qualified charity after you die will exempt you from any capital gains tax on the appreciation. Once again, check with advisers before proceeding.

Give part of your business. If you own limited partnership interests (rather than stock in a private family business), you can contribute them to a qualifying charity.

Give to a social venture investment fund. Dozens of nonprofit investment companies around the country work for change by lending money at very low interest rates. When you invest money, you get a return, which will vary by project and firm. For example, Boston Community Capital , a social venture capital fund, has built charter schools, health clinics, affordable housing, childcare facilities and more.

Give your life insurance policy. When you no longer need the life insurance you purchased years ago, consider assigning the policy to a charity (while still covering the annual premiums) and make the charity the beneficiary. If the policy is paid up, you receive an immediate tax deduction equal to the policy’s cash value at the time.

Everyone has something to give.


Friday, May 13th, 2011

If you are committed to involving the next generation in philanthropy and developing the emotional satisfaction of giving, check out this advice:

• Involve kids early. Youngsters can volunteer to gather food, clothing or toys for needy groups. They can also learn to save a share of their allowance or other money to donate at the end of each year. Putting coins in a glass jar is a tangible way for youngsters to see results.

• Ask kids for help to research your own contributions, whether online, at a library or by calling organizations to request information.

• If they are to donate money wisely in the future, you must give kids real authority. Avoid putting strings on their choices. Let them make their own decisions, and if necessary, their own mistakes. Keep listening.

• Don’t hover or nag. Let them go about the process in their own way. If it seems a tad out of control, pull in a third party who can be knowledgeable and objective.

• Depending on their age, require the real deal—research, site visits, financial reviews, conversations with the nonprofit’s staff and grantees, oversight for results and impact.


Friday, March 18th, 2011

The changing status of women is fueling and informing philanthropy.

With growing earning power, expanding professional skills, profitable businesses of their own, and deepening control over family trusts and inheritances, women now have the means and the will to invest in philanthropic change.

In fact, over the past few decades, women have been making more decisions about greater wealth every year.

Consider: The latest IRS figures, from August 2008, report that 43% of the nation’s top 2.7 million wealth holders are women (top wealth is defined as $1.5 million in assets).

Assets of those nearly 1.2 million women were valued at $4.6 trillion, or about 42% of the total $11 trillion of top wealth holders.

In addition, women control nearly half — or 48% — of estates worth more than $5 million.

They account for more than an astonishing 80% of consumer spending, to the tune of $3.7 trillion.

And over 10 million firms are owned 75% or more by women, employing nearly 23 million people and generating $3 trillion in revenue, as of 2009.

Then there’s women’s longevity compared to men. On average, women live about five years longer than men. Since women tend to marry men older than themselves and they also remarry less frequently after a spouse dies, women aged 65 and older are now three times more likely to be widowed than their male counterparts.

All of this puts women in line to control inherited money from husbands and families and, of course, with more education and leadership positions in the society, increasingly likely to earn significant income themselves.
As a result, over the past several years, significant numbers of women donors and advisors have joined philanthropy’s ranks. Women have moved into the mainstream of philanthropic endeavor.

Across the board, women’s deepening engagement in philanthropy is having an impact on social policy, the choice of grant awards, program development, nonprofit management, fundraising, and even grantor-grantee relationships.

That adds up to unparalleled potential as more and more women eye their legacies.

Has your organization talked to a woman donor in the last month?


Monday, January 17th, 2011

As philanthropy and the nonprofit sector adjust to the new world of need and the new age of social activism, philanthropists are no longer defined by the depth of their pocketbook.

Rather, you become one by examining your values and finding the cause that moves you enough to dedicate money, time and skills to it.

And, in addition to being democratized by technology and first-generation wealth, philanthropy also is being transformed by the sobering realization that we’re all in this together. The divide between rich and poor is widening. Social ills are systemic and thorny. Community now is across the ocean as well as down the block.

The need for charity has never been more apparent.

To engage her kids, one philanthropist asks them to think about what makes them indignant, to think about giving to the things they get a little mad about. The individual moment that triggers long-term commitment can be just that direct.

Somewhere along the way, you decide to step forward, whether to soothe the pain of people in need, to work toward righting wrongs that make you indignant, to build an organization you deem worthy or to help fulfill a mission that presses your buttons.

Certainly, homework and planning must kick in later, when you’re figuring out how much to give and choosing among the many ways to give. But for starters, for right now, the impulse to engage, the desire to give, comes simply from the head and the heart, not from any bank account.