Erin is finally making enough money to cover her living expenses and save for the future. She wants to start making charitable gifts; but, is overwhelmed by the choices. “All the organizations that contact me look worthy of my donation. But I can’t afford to give to all of them, so I end up making no decisions.”
Erin, like a lot of young professional women, are bombarded with charitable requests. The company she works for wants her to donate her time to their corporate cause. The university she graduated from solicits her as part of their alumni drive every year. And her home mailbox contains letters requesting her charitable dollars.
If you identify with Erin’s struggle, you are not alone. There are many global and local organizations that could use your financial support, and the need is great. The best way to gain clarity is to reflect on what is important to you. Then develop a giving plan that honors your values.
Here is how it works.
Step 1: Identify your core values. The things that you believe are important in the way you live and work are defined as your core values. When you spend, invest, or gift money in alignment with these values, you experience the most fulfillment.
Start by taking time to identify your core values and how you might honour those priorities through your charitable giving. For example, Erin loves travel and is passionate about education and mentorships of women. Using her core values as a guide, she decides to narrow her initial philanthropic giving to include only global organizations that educate and mentor young girls.
Step 2: Uncover your giving mindset. Your automatic thoughts and beliefs about giving of your time and money is called Your Giving Mindset. This mindset often resides in your unconscious mind and impacts when, where, and how you decide to donate. By uncovering this mindset, you can be more purposeful and impactful with your philanthropic work.
Start by completing the Giving Mindset Exercise. Then reflect on the attitudes it uncovers and use this information to further define your plan to give.
Your Giving Mindset
Complete the following statements with the first thought that comes to mind. Do not edit yourself as there is no right or wrong mindset, just your own beliefs about philanthropy.

  1. People who donate to charities are…
  2. My family taught me philanthropy was…
  3. When people ask me to donate money, I think…
  4. When people ask me to donate money, I feel…
  5. Saying no to a charitable request is…
  6. Saying yes to a charitable request is…
  7. I like to support charities by giving ….
  8. The best thing that can happen if I give is…
  9. The worst thing that can happen if I give is…
  10. The three values I want to honour with my giving are…

Upon completing the Giving Mindset Exercise, Erin realized that her parents taught her that philanthropy was only for affluent families and it was important to give of your time. She also identified that declining a charitable request was very uncomfortable and contributed to her past scattered approach to gifting. Upon reflection, Erin realized that she didn’t need to be affluent to give back and she would find it more satisfying to give both her time and money to an organization. She also made a commitment to work at increasing her comfort level when declining charitable requests that did not honour her core values.
Step 3: Develop a strategic giving plan. One of the biggest mistakes people make when gifting money is not having a plan to determine how, when, and where to engage in charitable activities. Giving small amounts to multiple organizations dilutes the power of your gift and therefore, it is essential to be strategic in your approach to philanthropy.
Start by deciding how much money and time, you want to gift during a specific time period. Next use your core values identified in Step 1 and the insights you attained from completing Your Giving Mindset Exercise in Step 2 to select three nonprofit organizations that you are interested in working with. Dedicate one day to research each of these three organizations. Pay attention to their mission statement, how they use their money and volunteers’ time, and how excited you  are to learn about their work. Then pick one to focus on for one year. Remember you can always do more philanthropic work later one. Now write down you strategic giving plan in one paragraph.
Here is the one-year strategic plan Erin devised.
This year I can give 2% of my salary and 40 hours of my time to a charity. The organization I plan to work with is Women’s Global Education Project as its mission honours my core values of educating and mentoring young girls globally and there may be an opportunity to travel and volunteer. This plan will be re-evaluated in one year.
Erin felt better after she completed this three-step process. She went from feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of charitable giving opportunities to being focused on giving back in a meaningful way. Erin still needs to work on saying no to requests that are not included in this plan but reports. “I think it will be easier for me to say no, now that I have a strategy in place.”
If you need help making philanthropic giving decisions, enlist support. Once Erin opened up about her unique situation, she discovered a solution that reduced her stress and offered her a way to give back that felt right. BMO is committed to empowering women financially and would be happy to help.
By Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, host of the Breaking Money Silence® podcast, and the author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women, How to Give Financial Advice to Couples, and Breaking Money Silence®. For more information,

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