A Meaningful Way to Give This Time of Year

Gift giving at holiday time to family members living far away can be a challenge. Do you find yourself asking about their needs, wants, sizes, best colors, etc.? We faced this challenge for many years and thought that our time and money was being wasted. We thought perhaps we could create a better gift-giving tradition that would at the same time express the real meaning of the holidays to the whole family.

During our 50th anniversary reunion, Tom and I proposed the following idea to our three adult children and gained unanimous approval: we would skip the shopping, wrapping and sending of gifts and would instead make a donation in their name to a charity of their choice. One catch– this would have to be a family decision that includes the children. Our hope was that this would spur thoughtful discussion about others’ needs and provide real-life experience for the grandchildren to learn our family values. They might also learn efficient ways of being charitable.

After a three-year trail, we have learned to make this work smoothly. In November each year, we send personal notes to our children reminding them that we will be asking for their family decision for the coming holiday season. Thanksgiving seems to prompt continued conversation at family get-togethers. Before the beginning of December, each of our children shares with us the name and address of their chosen charity.

Through the use of our on-line donor-advised fund, we follow through with their requests. This donor-advised fund was established years ago as a tax-efficient tool in our own financial planning. It is used to make donations with ease throughout the year to a number of charities as the need or desire arises.

You may be asking, “What are the benefits of this new family tradition?”

Although we spend as much time, and maybe more money, than we did in the past at holiday gift-giving time, we find blessing in hearing the stories that each child shares with us about how they came to this decision as a family.

One family member admitted this year‘s discussion included a nine-year-old asking the parents to explain why anyone would want to give money away. Discussions of charity ensued and continued until the family of five concluded that they wanted to support educational efforts in saving the environment. They did an online search for an organization and found one that satisfied their intent.

And in line with their wish to make an effort to protect the environment, I can add that by giving to charity, we are doing the same thing. No use of gas to the store, gift wrap, strings or boxes to be shipped.

In three years, we have given to eight charities that we may not have chosen ourselves, but we have enjoyed learning about them and delight in understanding our children’s interest in these good works. Why eight charities when, 3 families x 3 years equals 9? One year, two children gave to the same organization without knowing the other’s choice.

Tom and I are pleased this has become part of our family holiday tradition. Perhaps you will find joy from a similar family plan!

For more information about establishing a charitable gift plan contact us and read our blog Which Charitable Giving Strategy is Right for You?

For information about finding quality charities visit these web sites: Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, GuideStar.

Jeanne Gnuse

Jeanne is a co-founder of HTG Investment Advisors Inc. She oversees the firm’s client communications, marketing, and community relations functions. Jeanne is the mother of three children and grandmother to seven. She loves helping others learn money value lessons.

Jeanne received her BS from the University of Dayton and pursued graduate studies at Ohio State University.