3 considerations for meaningful charitable giving

Woman meeting with an advisor.

Charitable giving considerations to help ensure your efforts are impactful and align with your values.

Stephanie Buckley
Stephanie Buckley
Head of Trust Philanthropic Services
Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a shift in philanthropy — both in how people give and in why they give. Today, philanthropy can be intentional and inspirational; it’s seen as an opportunity to help make a genuine difference. And more of us want to know that our charitable giving will address a real problem and help improve people’s lives.

So how can we make that happen when the world of charitable giving can seem so complex? Fortunately, there are a few simple concepts that can help you identify the causes you should support and see how you can help those causes succeed, both now and in the future. Here are three ideas to help you get started:

1. Identify your top causes

Giving more to fewer organizations could be more impactful than giving less to more organizations. Before you identify the organizations you want to support, consider focusing on the causes that really matter the most to you — and possibly to your entire family.

One way to narrow the list is to think of your family’s history. Can you recall moments where you or loved ones received support in a meaningful way? These pivotal turning points can signal a deeper connection that can further motivate your charitable giving and keep you involved beyond your initial donation. For example, I had a client who shared that her mother had once been homeless. After achieving a certain level of financial success, she felt compelled to support a local women’s shelter, which provided resources for women facing similar hardships.

If multiple family members are involved in philanthropic causes, you might consider creating a list of shared philanthropic values that are meaningful to everyone — like empowerment, social justice, or sustainability — to help guide the entire group toward your family’s top causes.

2. Choose charities that align with your causes

Once you’ve selected the cause or causes you want to support, investigate charities focused on those causes whose missions align with your family’s values. This can take time, as you want to carefully consider organizations based on how transparent they are about their goals, methods, and outcomes. Websites and services like CharityWatch.org and Give.org can help you explore a national charity’s background and management practices, which can be a good place to start. Local charities may require a more direct approach with your research and questions — meaning you may need to reach out to them to get the information you want.

3. Plan for ongoing connection

To create a meaningful philanthropic impact, you will likely need to develop an ongoing relationship with your chosen organization that goes beyond an occasional donation. Plan for periodic check-ins (at least yearly) to help ensure they’re still able to make progress or to help learn about possible roadblocks. If they’re falling short of the mission, talk with the organization to determine if there are additional ways to help (or if they’re still the right match for your goals). After all, donating your time or expertise can be valuable too.

Other ideas to consider on your philanthropic journey

Making a meaningful difference with your philanthropy may involve thorough research, planning, and commitment, which is why it’s important to focus on causes you love. However, it also requires being mindful of these important points:

  • Some issues may take years to resolve — or they may never be resolved. Your charitable mission should focus on making a long-term difference over short-term wins.
  • Any donation amount is helpful. Charities rely on contributions of varying sizes to do their important work. And your donation can involve more than money.
  • Manage your expectations. The amount you’re realistically able to contribute should be aligned with the impact you hope to make.
  • Cash isn’t always king. Donating long-term appreciated assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate can be a tax-efficient way to support an organization. You can also consider ways to donate your time or expertise — sometimes knowledge or an extra set of hands can make a big difference.
  • A philanthropic specialist can be a great resource. This individual’s expertise can help guide you through the steps above and help you determine an effective strategy for meaningful charitable giving.
Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo & Company and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. This communication cannot be relied upon to avoid tax penalties. Please consult your tax and legal advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your tax return is filed.