Only having just come out of the longest recession since 1929 and now in the midst of another bout of stock market volatility, we’re all probably feeling a little on edge. Indeed, this may not be the greatest environment to promote philanthropy—where we give our money away—or is it? Actually, it could be. Even if our resources for charitable giving are now more limited in the aftermath of the Great Recession, it is still just as important to give. Some organizations that have struggled to make ends meet in past years are now going under. Individual philanthropists (that means you and me) will determine the survivors. Given this obvious urgency, some of us feel guilty for not doing more. In spite of this, an impacted portfolio raises the natural question of whether it makes good fiscal sense to continue or increase giving. So, how can you be philanthropic and not feel like you are burning your financial candle at both ends? My answer is relatively simple, be intentional. So what does ‘intentional’ mean exactly?
Being intentional is realizing that philanthropy is an activity that has real rewards either now or later. Some people take pleasure in knowing that good was accomplished with their dollars today. This ‘immediate’ breed of giver is more likely to support established charitable organizations with clearly defined and measurable objectives. However, others might feel more rewarded when their dollars make a contribution to a better tomorrow. This ‘entrepreneurial’ breed of giver tends to support start-up organizations or new directions for existing nonprofits. In philanthropic speak, these two charitable paths are often referred to as “revenue and investment” from the nonprofit’s point of view; and “buy and build” from the giver’s perspective. Carefully thinking over these two paths of reward and charting a course that aligns with our values can help all of us become more intentional in our giving. There’s no ‘right’ direction to take other than the one that feels right to you.