Tzedakah, Sadaka, Dāna, Charity: Traditions in Giving

Tzedakah, Sadaka, Dāna, Charity: Traditions in Giving

Over the past 10 days Jews around the world, myself included, observed the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During these days, I along with countless others, turned our thoughts towards Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Tzedakah (charity). Between the trio of powerful hurricanes that ripped through the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, powerful earthquakes devastating neighboring Mexico, and the ongoing struggles of poverty, poaching, and refugees in central Africa, there is no shortage of need around the world. As I reflected on my own faith traditions of helping those in need, I was prompted to think about what other faith traditions say about charitable giving, especially during their highest holy days. Uniting Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism (amongst other things) is charitable giving. Here are some thoughts on charitable giving from these traditions: For Christians, the role of charity is first built on teachings in the Hebrew Bible. However, in addition to Hebrew teachings of performing mitzvahs are lessons in the New Testament. Jesus’s parables and actions also speak to the morality of charitable sentiments. The Gospel of Luke, for example, notes “love thy neighbor as thyself” and asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The lesson is that we are interconnected, everyone is my neighbor and thus all should be considered.    Buddhists also see the interdependence of all things and have an awareness of the helplessness of those less fortunate. Practicing selflessness in this way is thought to increase one’s own merit and is also seen as an antidote to greed. Giving is an expression of the natural qualities of kindness and compassion....
Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving

Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving

In our ongoing effort to help make planned giving more accessible, collaborative and beneficial for charities, we hosted a workshop led by fundraising expert Laura Kaufman. The fourth in our series of free seminars and workshops, Engaging Your Donors for Life-Long Giving, invited Chicago-area nonprofits to learn about strategies and tactics for engaging donors over a long time horizon. Laura covered three major areas with us: The Individual Donor (ID) Marketplace. What is Engagement and Why Does It Matter? Driving Donor Engagement. State of Giving: National and Chicago Area Trends Nonprofits are experiencing more giving than ever before. In each category, numbers are on the rise, year over year. According to Giving USA’s report, giving by bequest is up 2.1%, giving my individuals is up 3.8% and total giving has increased 4.4%. The next question is, where is the money going?  This chart from Giving USA breaks it down nicely. Drilling down to the specific Chicago area market, the Chicago Community Trust shared some interesting data. Compared to a national average of 59%, 73% of Chicagoans give to charity. 49% of Chicago households volunteer and 78% of dollars donated by Chicagoans stay in the region. What is Engagement: Often overlooked, donor engagement is absolutely critical for the long-term health of an organization. While nonprofit fundraisers are busy managing many initiatives for their organization, donor engagement must be the core of their day-to-day. Research shows doing so will make capital and annual giving campaigns go more smoothly, netting better results. The donor engagement cycle can be broken down into these simple components: Recruit/Inspire, Learn, Engage, Ask, Thank, Repeat, Upgrade and...
On Capital Hill: Talking About the Fate of the Charitable Deduction

On Capital Hill: Talking About the Fate of the Charitable Deduction

On May 30, 1985, I skipped high school.  No, it was not senior skip day, nor did I really desire a break from school.  I wanted to travel from Appleton to Oshkosh to see President Reagan speak.  He had just introduced his plan on what would eventually become the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and first went to Wisconsin to sell it to the American people.  Contrary to my parents wishes, I did hear the speech in person and watched the ensuing process that produced the new tax code.  It was something that sparked my interest in learning about taxes and how (and why) they work the way they do. In law school, my intellectual curiosity about taxes turned towards the charitable deduction and was one of the major factors that drove me to pursue a career in charitable gift planning.  I fell in love with the fact that our country effectively allowed citizens to choose where their tax dollars could make a difference.  Over the years, my admiration has grown into awe as I have participated in conversations about the deduction that sparked amazing charitable gifts changing the course, and even saving, countless lives. My awe of and now concern about the charitable deduction led me to go to Capital Hill on February 16th where I joined nearly 200 nonprofit leaders in a whirlwind day of meetings hosted by the Charitable Giving Coalition (@ProtectGiving). We visited 130 House of Representatives and Senate offices, including 23 members of the Senate Finance Committee and 26 members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The goal of these meetings was to...
Why Giving Tuesday Should Be Part of Your Giving Plan

Why Giving Tuesday Should Be Part of Your Giving Plan

Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 in a partnership by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation to create an international day of giving during the busy holiday shopping season. Since 2012, Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) has become a powerful movement supporting giving and creating a culture of philanthropy.   Since its inception, charities have seen large increases in both donor participation and dollars given per-donation. In 2015, charities saw a 155% increase in donations over 2014, bringing in over $117 million dollars. While that represents only a fraction of annual giving to charities, it does represent the largest single day of online giving. Giving Tuesday is helping charities increase the number of donors and reach the increasingly important millennial generation. The social nature of giving on Giving Tuesday makes it a great way to introduce charitable giving to children and teens.   So, this coming Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2016, take a moment to give to your favorite charities. If you have the money to spare, start up a donor-advised fund. It makes giving easy, it makes doing your taxes easier without the need to keep track of various tax receipt letters, and it forces you to think about how much you want to give in total, rather than to any given recipient. The Advise Us Fund is itself a 501(c)3 non-profit and you can donate to us here or contact our...
Estate Planning Procrastination Stopped by a Smartphone

Estate Planning Procrastination Stopped by a Smartphone

Being a middle-aged man with a family, my wife and I have been reviewing our estate plans with the intention of revising them.  15 years ago, our attorney-led us through a relatively simple process.  This time, I am searching for an app to help me manage the process.  An app that will give us what we need to do if we plug in answers to a few multiple choice questions.  Unfortunately, this app does not exist and I was stuck for a while trying to find out the status of our plans.  In lieu a magical app, I have found the following helped me to break the cycle of procrastination in estate planning: Review and Assemble Current Documents – This may seem simple but this can be complex with wills, trusts, retirement plans and life insurance.  Make sure you know where everything is and what is in it.  A good summary can be found on RetiredBrains.com. Take a Current Inventory of All Assets – Simply put, in the worst case scenario, it is important to let people know where things are.   The inventory should also be a part of your documents.  RetiredBrains.com also has a great checklist for items to include. Think of The Important People – We live our lives with and, in many ways, for our loved ones.  If you look at the wallpaper of my smartphone, you will see a picture of my loved ones.  I’m sure your loved ones occupy similar spaces and you may want them to occupy similar spaces in your estate plans. Think of The Values You Want to Pass On—We donate...