Intentionally Planning a Year of Generosity
There are currently four generations and more than fifteen family members engaged in the Nist Family’s philanthropy. Thanks to a well-defined giving strategy, one of the family’s youngest members guided the family’s annual giving.
“In the end, he helped us all recognize the organization that was most closely aligned with our mission.”
“We want to support so many different organizations,” Jeannie Nist identified the challenge the family faced to keep everyone united, on track, working, and moving in the same direction. To guide their philanthropy, the Nist family developed a mission statement: ‘To support and sustain vibrant and healthy communities in the greater Puget Sound region. To accomplish its purpose, the fund invests in strong, community-based organizations that provide resources and services to families in our community that enhance their quality of life.’
“Creating our mission statement has helped us to be intentional about narrowing down a very broad list,” Jeannie said. “It has been helpful to have something to be our north star in terms of what we’re trying to support. This strategy led us to invite our youngest family members to participate in our site visits.”
On a site visit to The Wishing Well Foundation, Jeannie Nist’s then 10-year-old son recognized the organization understood what kids want and need. He saw they offered foster kids the kind of clothing that matters to kids – things like Seahawks gear for Blue Fridays and Halloween costumes. Jeannie remembered, “In the end, he helped us all recognize the organization that was most closely aligned with our mission.”
The Nist family’s intentional planning is not common. Brad Berger, Financial Advisor and Chief Executive Officer at Cornerstone Financial Strategies, has noticed the decision to give to a nonprofit is often made hurriedly at the end of the year as people combine their impulse to give with a desire to generate a tax benefit. After thirty years as an advisor, Brad recommends that giving decisions be given careful consideration, ideally long before a nonprofit makes an ask for a contribution.
“Often the gifts that have the greatest impact, regardless of size, are the ones that funders thoughtfully plan in partnership with us.”
Maureen Sorenson, Amara’s Chief Community Officer, agreed with Brad, sharing this perspective on the power of a well-timed gift, “The trauma experienced by a child entering foster care is often unanticipated and unplanned. At Amara, well-timed gifts provide our emergency sanctuary staff with the flexibility to be present in the moment and meet each child’s unique needs.”
Maureen has noticed the most transformational investments in Amara’s work are not always the largest, “Often the gifts that have the greatest impact, regardless of size, are the ones that funders thoughtfully plan in partnership with us, keeping the childrens’ needs at the center of the relationship.”
Although planning charitable giving is not always a common practice, Jeannie’s cousin, Sylvia, encourages people to dedicate time and energy early in the year to think about making focused gifts that align their goals and their values. The Nist family was motivated to teach their next generation that giving back to the community goes hand in hand with a successful family business. The compelling advocacy of Jeannie’s 10-year old son shows how intentional planning can pay off for family and the community.
Here are a few ways to intentionally plan a year of generosity:
- Engage in a value exercise
- Develop a mission statement
- Talk to other individuals, families and foundations already doing good work
- Be clear about how you’re going to make decisions
- Set an annual budget for charitable giving
- Identify the organizations that best align with your mission
- Make a giving plan
- Make gifts early in the year to give nonprofits more flexibility in planning and achieving their mission throughout the year
The Philanthropic Initiative Blog, Want to Give with Greater Purpose? Five Questions to Guide You in 2020
Successful Generations Podcast, episode 62: Effective Philanthropy with Phil Buchanan
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 10 Ways to be a Better Donor