Do No Harm

There is certainly an art to designing the distribution of your assets

Everyone knows that America and Americans have been entrusted with much wealth.  Such wealth requires much thought and responsibility.  

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Americans own $72 trillion which PWC estimates will grow to $120 trillion in the next 10 years.  The Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945) and the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) own $60 trillion of the total.

The youngest Baby Boomer born in 1964 has an actuarial life expectancy of 30 years which means that if everyone born beforehand passes according to actuarial statistics, $60 trillion will be transferred from these generations to the next within the next 30 years.

To demonstrate how much money $60 trillion represents, if you gave away $10 million each day (assuming no interest earnings) it would take you 16,438 years to distribute all $60 trillion!

In many respects, there is a disconnect today between the financial reality of our everyday living and the amount of funds that will be transferred to heirs in the coming years.  We may not realize the amount of assets that we really own and the value it represents for the beneficiaries of our estates.

When it comes to the subject of distributing one’s estate, a number of questions can surface such as how much is enough to leave our children, should we talk to our children about the estate and if so, how and when? 

Addressing the question of how much is enough, businessman Warren Buffett said "the perfect amount to leave children and grandchildren is enough so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing. "

Should you talk to your children about your estate?  Many people find talking to children about their estate is often awkward to discuss. To the children’s credit, I hear many say to their parents that it is the parents’ money and decision as to who and how they want to leave the estate.  Whatever the parent decides will be fine with them. 

That is consistent with Tom Gitter, a wise, well-spoken businessman and pastor, who reminds us that "you don't want anyone cheering you on from the here and now (i.e., children) regarding the establishment of your estate distribution plan."  Easier said than done!

There is certainly an art to designing the distribution of your assets so money does not stop the fulfillment of non-financial objectives you have for your heirs.

We can learn one key principle about distributing our estates from the medical community. My nephew, Justin, who is in his residency at Packard Hospital in Palo Alto, California, tells me that although the focus of medicine is to improve a person’s health, the motto from which they operate is "Primum non nocere " which is a Latin phrase meaning "do no harm."

Ultimately, we do not want our wealth to do harm to our heirs rather than the good we intend.  With all of our wealth we want to make sure our children and grandchildren are safe and comfortable, helping them become established and successful in life and providing for their education, medical or housing needs.  We also want them to exhibit character, mental strength, integrity, a sense of family legacy, and responsible behavior-- all attributes money cannot buy. 

However, most of us do not want to give them too much to cause them harm.  We want our heirs to be self-supporting, yet in a position to help others and not ruin their desire for personal achievement. It is a tension that is important to manage wisely.

Defining an appropriate inheritance requires careful consideration about each individual child, grandchild, nephew or niece. What is appropriate for one may not be appropriate for another. Our task is to identify specific lifestyle attributes we would like our beneficiaries to enjoy resulting from receiving an inheritance.

There is a relatively simple formula for creating a preferred future vision for your estate.

First, determine the amount you wish to give family members during your lifetime.

Second, identify the appropriate amount to give them when you pass.

Third, calculate the amount of tax (if any) due on these transfers and establish a reserve to meet that liability.  Finally, the balance of the estate is free for your use in supporting the philanthropic interests of you and your family.

This exercise may in turn reduce income, estate and gift taxes owed. Many people find that charitable gift planning techniques enable them to accomplish much more than they ever dreamed possible.  It may allow them to create a preferred future vision for their estate.  Instead of just letting things happen, people become intentional about who and how family and charities will benefit from their funds.

So, the next time you consider the distribution of your estate ask yourself the following questions:


          When you are no longer here, who do you want using your money?
          How will they be using it?  Will they be spending the income, principal or both?
          What will be happening?  Will it be positive?
          What do you hope is the result and outcome of the use of your funds?
          How will the world be a better place as a result of your funds?

By carefully creating a preferred future estate vision for your money, benefiting both family and charity could effectively help you impact and influence the lives of many.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Choosing Not to Act

Generosity sometimes means curbing our own liberty for the sake of good relationships and unity.

In the 21st century as in the past, we cherish our freedoms and the ability to do what we want and when we want to do something.  Our “rights,” freedom and liberty are values that are important to us.   At times, we embrace our rights to do what we want regardless of the impact on others.

Yet, sometimes choosing not to act even though we have the right and ability to do so, can be as generous as taking action in helping others.  A great example is what happened to Benjamin Watson. 

In his book and recent ESPN forum, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race,” Benjamin Watson, tight end for the NFL Baltimore Ravens describes when he was in high school, he and his best friend (his friend had white skin and Ben has dark skin) went to his friend’s house where they went upstairs to his room to hang out.  When entering the room, Ben noticed a huge confederate flag draped on the ceiling above the bed.  The flag made Ben feel quite uncomfortable and his friend recognized Ben’s cautiousness.  They continued being best friends hanging out at each other’s homes.

To his surprise, the next time Ben went to his friend’s bedroom the confederate flag was gone.  His friend had removed the flag because he valued their friendship and did not want Ben to feel uncomfortable.  Generosity sometimes means curbing our own liberty for the sake of good relationships and unity. 

Sometimes choosing to do something different than what we have a right or ability to do can also be an act of generosity.  That is what Chicago first grader Armani Crew determined.  Instead of inviting a group of friends over for her 6th birthday party like most first graders do, Armani instead chose to recruit her family and friends and give food and care packages to the homeless.  Instead of bowling, jumping on trampolines, eating pizza, cake and ice cream, drinking soda and receiving gifts, little Armani, who is barely tall enough to see over the table, and her friends spent the lunch hour on her birthday serving food to strangers.

Although, it’s perfectly fine if we have the resources and capability to do something for ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we cannot instead choose to use them for others.     

Another selfless act of generosity was demonstrated during the end of World War II by German soldier, Dietrich Hugo Hermann von Choltitz.  He is chiefly remembered for his role as the last commander of Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944 when he disobeyed Hitler’s orders to level the city.

According to WWII historical sources, on 1 August 1944, Choltitz was promoted to General der Infanterie and on 7 August was appointed military governor of Paris. At a meeting in Germany the following day, Hitler instructed him to be prepared to leave no Parisian religious building or historical monument standing. After Choltitz's arrival in Paris on 9 August, Hitler confirmed the order by cable: "The city must not fall into the enemy's hand except lying in complete rubble."  A popular account holds that Hitler telephoned Choltitz a week later at his headquarters in the Hotel Meurice in a rage, screaming, "Brennt Paris?" ("Is Paris burning?")  

Finally, on 25 August 1944, Choltitz surrendered the German garrison of 17,000 men to the Free French resistance group, leaving the city largely intact. Because Hitler's directive was not carried out, Choltitz has been described by some as the "Savior of Paris".

By choosing not to act, General Choltitz’ decision was truly a tremendous act of generosity.  Many lives and historical buildings were saved as a result of his inaction.

Like General Choltitz, is there an act of generosity that you can demonstrate by not acting?  Does someone owe you money or borrowed an item that your inaction to collect would be a generous gift to them?

Like six-year old, Armani Crew, is there something that you would like to do but instead by choosing a different path you will have a significant impact on others?

And like Benjamin Watson’s best high school friend, is there something that you have a right, liberty and freedom to do but by curbing your own liberty can serve as a tremendous act of generosity for the sake of your relationships and unity with others?

Although being generous often requires action, inaction can sometimes be just as impactful.

For more thoughts on generosity, pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Giving When You Don’t Want to Give

Coming alongside others can sometimes help make the impossible possible.

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you knew giving to a particular need was the right thing to do, but the little voices inside rationalized reasons you shouldn't do it?

An important giving opportunity will come across our path, we have the resources and instead of getting enthused to help and participate, we begin thinking of all the reasons why we shouldn't be involved and contribute. 

We are involved with the FOL Foundation in the construction of a residence for orphan boys rescued from the slums in Nairobi, Kenya.  This newly constructed 24-bed residence will replace a decent barracks-like corrugated steel building and will now provide the boys with a family home to live and learn with a dining room, kitchen, running water, flush toilets and showers as they grow up under the excellent care of the Fountain of Life Deliverance Fellowship Centre’s Child and Family Services.

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As the project nears completion, the remaining balance of funds are needed to complete construction.  Since we have been raising funds concurrent with construction, we find ourselves continually seeking support.  If funds haven’t been secured when the next payment is due to the contractor, then someone needs to step up and contribute so the orphan boys will have a more dignified place to live.  After all, what is more important than helping take care of vulnerable children who are in difficult situations?    

In digging deeper to help complete the project, we ask ourselves the question, “how can we afford to give more when we have already given so much?” 

That question is easily answered by reminding ourselves that to those orphan boys, in their situation, the construction of a new residence would seem impossible.  But through our involvement with people in places who think something is impossible, allows us to have an impact on their lives far greater than we ever could imagine.  Coming alongside others can sometimes help make the impossible possible.

Being generous in supporting people in difficult, vulnerable situations doesn't just change our perspective, it can alter the trajectory of our lives and those we serve.  It can take us from where we are in life by expanding and stretching us to places we never thought possible to go.  In our case, we never dreamed we would be involved with orphan children half way around the globe.

By immersing ourselves in areas and with people in challenging circumstances helps keep us grounded as to life's reality for many and gives us a greater sense of appreciation for where we are in life, what we are doing, and how we have been blessed.  

If you are wondering how you can get connected with people encountering challenging circumstances just look around your neighborhood and community.  Contact churches and nonprofit organizations helping those with human services, education, healthcare and job training to name a few.    

You can also learn about connecting with people by visiting websites such as Kiva.org, a microfinance company whose mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty” and CrowdRise.com, a platform that uses crowdfunding to raise charitable donations for various project needs. 

Being generous when we don’t want to give creates an exciting journey we never before dreamed of or imagined possible.  Rather than asking the question how can we afford to be generous, instead we need to ask how can we afford not to be generous?

Knowing you have something to offer that serves the people around you and understanding how your relationship with them positively impacts the whole is a key concept to remember in being generous when you don’t want to give. 

The reality in living a life filled with generosity is that by doing something for those in difficult situations will not only help them but could last for generations beyond their lifetimes.

And one of the exciting, unexpected gifts of being generous when you don’t want to give is that it can potentially help you find your place in the world.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Building Community Through Generosity

Generosity is about acknowledging people and responding with open hands, heart and mind in recognition of their humanity.
— Michael Dauphinee

I think you will agree that there is an extraordinary amount of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty in the world as we enter 2017.  People are concerned for the future and the unknown.  There are appeals for everyone to come together for the well-being of all. 

It is in this context that I believe generosity can play a role in helping to bring people together.

I recently learned of a conversation a father had with his son who came home from his first day of middle school afraid. He didn't have any friends and did not know what to expect going forward. His father encouraged him to think of the other students in his class. He told his son one of the best things that you can do when you are fearful is to think of someone else. When we focus on others we feel less afraid for ourselves.  He encouraged his son to make friends with other students in the class as they too may be fearful and have feelings of being alone. 

According to Michael Dauphinee, the talented leadership coach in his book, Identity, states that, “Generosity, though focused on someone else is paradoxically one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves."  He cites that at its core, generosity is a perspective. It's a perspective of the world that's bigger than us.

I have always loved the 1965 song by Jackie DeShannon, “What the World Needs Now” …is love, sweet love. Coming together and building community through generosity is certainly a demonstration of the sweet love we need in our world. 

A powerful picture of that generosity of love sweet love is Missio Dei Uptown, a church on Chicago’s Northside.  For the last several years, Missio Die has hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for about 200 people in their community.  Uptown is considered one of the most diverse communities in Chicago and includes many homeless and disenfranchised persons who attend the dinner. 

What is most inspiring about this dinner is that it is the church leadership’s objective to help build the Uptown community not by providing a hand out to those in need but rather by entering into the lives of those in their community as a means of coming together and strengthening each other.

Many people think that generosity is about rich and poor, the haves and the have not's, the insiders and the disenfranchised.  But in reality, generosity is entering into someone else’s story.  It’s connecting our life story with theirs.  Giving generously to someone in need or taking time to listen to someone’s concern, for that moment enables us to enter into their world and connects us together.  Coming together through an act of generosity strengthens our relationships and builds community.

Michael Dauphinee confirms this idea when he states that "generosity is about acknowledging people and responding with open hands, heart and mind in recognition of their humanity. Generosity is an attempt to be a part of a world bigger than our own. To be a part of the story of someone else's life.”

Generosity is not only about the needs of the recipients but it is also about the needs of the givers. It is about the need to build relationships and communities by entering into the stories of the people with whom we live, work, and encounter on a daily basis.

How can you be generous and enter into the story of other people’s lives?  What are ways you can help people come together and in some small way help build your community?

By reaching out and being generous with others, like the middle school student, you hopefully will help reduce any anxiety, fear and uncertainty we may have entering 2017 and will bring us together building a stronger community.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Is Generosity Learned or Part of Our DNA?

When growing up, did you ever make a Christmas list for Santa?  I did!  I couldn’t wait for the “Sears Christmas Wish Book” catalog to arrive so that I could go through it page by page to make my list.  I dreamed about all of the toys that I hoped to get Christmas morning and was enthralled with the idea of opening packages with a Daisy BB Gun (yes, like Ralphie in the Movie, A Christmas Story), a baseball mitt, match box cars or an Etch-A-Sketch.

While looking through the catalog, I never thought about other people and what they would like to receive Christmas morning.  I was completely self-absorbed and at that stage in my life there wasn’t a “bone of generosity” in my body.  Which began my thinking, why are some people generous and some not?  Do generous people learn how to be generous or is it a natural part of their DNA?

In his 27 May 2014 article, “What Makes Us Generous?”, Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame, defines generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. Generosity thus conceived is a learned character trait that involves attitude and action—entailing both the inclination and actual practice of giving liberally. Generosity is not a haphazard behavior but a basic orientation to life. It entails not only a moral good expressed but also certain vices rejected, such as selfishness, greed, fear, and meanness.”

So, I guess all that I needed growing up was a little practice in being generous since the trait of generosity is a natural part of our DNA the same as negative traits such as selfishness or greed.  The question is which character traits are we going to nurture and develop?

Those are happiest who do the most for others.
-Booker T. Washington, Educator and Founder Tuskegee University

To that end, it is my belief that we need to teach and model generosity if the next generations are going to be givers.  Younger generations need to not only receive instruction but also need to see generosity modeled for them if they are to truly understand what it looks like.The publication, “Generosity: Inherited or Learned?” (8/26/15) by Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., describes a 2015 study that when children between the ages of 3 and 6 are guided to talk about the feeling of being left out or included related to sharing, those children tend to exhibit greater generosity than children who are merely offered the opportunity to share without a discussion of feelings related to being included or excluded.

Trussell noted in the article two factors that influence the capacity for generosity are modeling and “preaching.”

He references an example of the effectiveness of modeling and “preaching” found in a recent exercise that included elementary and middle school students. A “teacher” demonstrated sharing tokens won in a game by donating them all to a needy family, donating some to a needy family or donating none to a needy family accompanied with a lecture about the value of selfishness or generosity or no preaching at all.

A control group simply played the game without a “teacher” demonstration or commentary. Following the game, they were asked if they wanted to donate some tokens to a needy family and this established a baseline of giving.

When the experimental students were given an opportunity to play the game to collect tokens and were then asked if they wanted to donate, results were surprising. When the teacher modeled generosity whether preached to or not, students gave 85% more than the control group. Moreover, when the teacher acted in a generous manner but preached about the value of selfishness, students still gave 49% more than the control group. This certainly suggests that actions speak louder than words.

Part of the answer to the question about why some people are generous may be the fact that being generous usually brings the reward of joy.    

Christian Smith also highlights that “generosity makes a big difference in the quality of human personal and social life, both for the givers and receivers.  Generosity is not just giving anything, but rather those things that are good for others. What exactly generosity gives can vary: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more. But it always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of the receiver.”

Booker T. Washington, the great 19th century educator and founder of Tuskegee University in Alabama noted, “Those are happiest who do the most for others.”

If giving is so good for us, why don’t more people give?  Why is it difficult for some to be generous? 

Maybe people who find it difficult to be generous want to avoid the negative feelings associated with the loss they may feel in giving good things away.  By not giving allows them to avoid those negative feelings.  But people who practice generosity know that their lives are enhanced by giving to others.”

How can you help the next generation avoid having negative feelings when giving?  How can you model generosity for them?  How can you teach them to be generous? 

As we embark upon a new year, let’s make generosity part of our everyday lifestyle. 

Take advantage of the opportunities to give and serve through your faith community or local service organizations.  Volunteer with your children or grandchildren at a food pantry, nursing home or needs drive.

Recently a 5th grade church children’s teacher collected funds with her class for a library in an orphan home in Haiti.  All of the students were excited in helping children in Haiti. 

Maybe you and your family can shop together at the store and give an unexpected gift to an individual or family in need.  Or maybe you can get in the habit of leaving a tip for anyone who assists you?  Consider leaving more than the standard 20% tip to your wait staff at the restaurant or give extra funds above the contract amount to the painter you hired, the hairdresser trimming your hair, or the neighbor boy cutting your lawn. 

By making generosity part of your everyday lifestyle, you will surely experience happiness and joy, but most importantly, you will be teaching it to the next generation. 

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Giving Beyond What You Can Imagine-Notable Strategies for Year-End Giving [part three of a three-part series]

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Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

I wish that every American could spend one day visiting northern France where our brave troops stormed the beaches of Normandy 72 years ago.  After recently visiting those beaches and then experiencing Armistice (Veterans) Day, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness contemplating those who laid down their lives for the liberation of Europe during WWII. 

If you were to spend the day traveling through northern France, you might be surprised as I was, to find families from the liberated countries of France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the U.S. Military cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, caring for the graves of the U.S. soldiers.  In fact, for 3 generations now, the liberated families have not forgotten what those men and women did for them as they continue caring for the soldiers’ graves. 

Like me, you may also be surprised to discover that in many parts of northern France the U.S. flag is flown adjacent to the red, white and blue flag of France.  There appears to be great respect and appreciation by the French people for the American men and women who laid down their lives for the liberation of their country.    

What I have been told about the French people was different than what I observed and experienced.  They were friendly and warm yet, in the back of my mind I questioned if this sense of thankfulness and appreciation by the French for their liberation is sincere and genuine. 

Then I read a Detroit News article (11 November 2016) and discovered the appreciation is real.  The news story told of France honoring 5 U.S. WWII Veterans from metro Detroit, Michigan.  The veterans, Alexander Jefferson, Walter Bala, John Clark, Mario Gizzi and Robert Haffner were honored by France’s Consul General for the Midwest for their role in helping liberate the European nation from Nazi occupation.

The U.S. Veterans were presented with France’s Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal created by Napoleon Bonaparte. The medal is the highest honor the country bestows on people who have carried out the actions of great value to the nation.  I’m sure that our Veterans did not realize that they had given in a way far beyond what they could have ever imagined.

According to the article, while the French Consul General for the Midwest presented the veterans with their medals, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) told the Vets: “Both the American people and the people of France are truly grateful for everything you have done for our two nations.  Thank you for your patriotism, your sacrifice and your willingness to liberate a country that was not your own.  Your service and dedication to defending the American ideals of liberty, equality and justice for all will never be forgotten.”

As 2016 comes to a close, consider ways that you can give beyond what you can imagine.  All of our Veterans who have served our country through the years could never have imagined the impact the giving of their lives through their sacrificial service has had on the world, which like the French people, will never be forgotten. 

You may want to take a step of faith and make the kind of gift that in your heart is of great sacrifice. 

Just as Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  

We do not know what next year holds.  But we can be confident that our generosity at this year-end can demonstrate much love and add great value to others in need. 

What large, audacious charitable challenge are you aware that is in need of your support?  Is there an asset that you own that you can gift in helping address that challenging need?

Maybe you have a valuable piece of real estate or other personal property that you have longed to use for the good of others?  Or maybe you own your company and control closely-held stock you have considered gifting to charity? You may be considering converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and making charitable contributions to help offset the tax liability incurred while re-positioning your retirement assets? 

These types of gifts can certainly get a bit complex.  However, generosity is meant to change us as well as those we benefit.  It’s an adventure.  If we embrace it, we can open an excitement to life that is vibrant and energizing. 

Storming the beaches of Normandy France is one way to give beyond what you can imagine…but it’s not the only way.  We remain forever grateful and indebted to those who did.  Now it’s our turn to do something daring and boisterous.

So, as the end of 2016 approaches, consider ways you can give beyond what you can imagine by adding value to others through your generosity.  Consider getting in the game. The primary experience is participation.  The money part is not the goal but it’s the faith that we demonstrate through our generosity that will impact lives in future ways that we cannot imagine.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Notable Strategies for Year-End Giving Creating Happiness: Experiencing Joy [part two of a three-part series]

As we approach the year-end, consider ways that you can create happiness for others through creative, generous philanthropy.”

You have probably heard the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  The blessing in the quote attributed to Jesus Himself by the Apostle Paul may seem obvious in that in order to be able to give, you first need to have something in which to give.  However, I believe it goes beyond the material possession.  I think the blessing also refers to the tremendous joy you experience by creating happiness for someone.

The joy you experience is reflected in seeing the expression on the face of a child after receiving a gift on Christmas morning; or being given a handful of gummy bears to eat; or the warm expression on the face of a wife after unexpectedly receiving a bouquet of flowers from her husband. 

I cannot imagine the look on the faces of the 2,000 full-time employees of the yogurt company Chobani when they were handed an ownership stake that could make some of them millionaires. 

According to the 4/27/2016 New York Times article, “Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005, told workers at the company’s plant in upstate New York that he would be giving them shares worth up to 10 percent of the company when it goes public or is sold.

“The goal, he said, is to pass along the wealth that they have helped build in the decade since the company started.  Chobani is now widely considered to be worth several billion dollars.

“I’ve built something I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people,” Mr. Ulukaya said in an interview in his Manhattan office.  “Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” he said.

“At a $3 billion valuation, the average employee payout would be $150,000.  The earliest employees, though, will most likely be given many more shares, possibly worth over $1 million.”

What Mr. Ulukaya did was a wonderful expression of philanthropy.  He was certainly looking out for the well-being of his employees who helped build the popular yogurt company.

As we approach the year-end, consider ways that you can create happiness for others through creative, generous philanthropy. 

For example, consider gifting appreciated securities instead of cash thus avoiding the capital gains tax while providing more dollars in the pockets of your favorite charities.

Or, if you are 70 or older consider giving a portion of the minimum required distribution from your IRA directly to a charity.  You will not pay tax on the withdrawal and it will count toward the required distribution.

And if you have significant income this year and are looking for additional charitable tax deductions but are not sure which charity you desire to benefit, consider creating a donor advised fund.  You can then recommend grants to your favorite charities over the next year or so while initially receiving the tax benefits you desire. 

If you cannot afford to make larger charitable contributions because you need the income, you might consider creating a life-income gift.  Such a gift will pay you (and another person) income for life after which the remaining funds are used for the charitable purposes of the organization that you made the gift.

By looking out for the welfare of others through creative, generous gifting at this year-end, like Mr. Ulukaya at Chobani, you may be able to see similar smiles on the faces of those your favorite charities serve. 

Your gifts may allow the charitable organizations that you support provide unexpected food, heat, clothing, an educational scholarship, a cultural experience, or a needed piece of health equipment to make someone’s quality of life better. 

It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Through your charitable contributions and creating happiness for those person’s the charitable organizations you deeply care about serve, you will experience the tremendous inner joy and satisfaction that comes from making people happy.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Notable Strategies for Year-End Giving Finishing Strong: An Inspiring Approach [part one of a three-part series]

If 2016 giving in the U.S. exceeds the $373 billion given in 2015, there will be a
lot of funds transferred to charitable organizations during the next few months.

The last several months hold some of the most anticipated times of the year.  It’s the time we enjoy cider, donuts and wagon rides at the apple orchard; It’s kick-off time for college and professional football; And it’s a time to get lost in a corn maze or spooked at a “haunted house”; Or eating turkey, stuffing and gravy with family time at Thanksgiving; Or anticipating the joy and gift of Christmas and all of the specialness the Season brings.

The year-end also brings with it the opportunity to finish the year strong by impacting others.  It provides us with the time that we can encourage and inspire those in need through our charitable giving.

Typically, a significant percentage of all charitable contributions are made during the last few months of the year.  If 2016 giving in the U.S. exceeds the $373 billion given in 2015, there will be a lot of funds transferred to charitable organizations during the next few months.

With federal income tax rates ranging from 10% to 39.6% and capital gains tax rates ranging from 15% to 20%, many donors itemizing their tax returns will appreciate the deductions their charitable gifts generate.

However, tax benefits are not the only advantage to year-end giving.  The greatest benefit may be the encouragement and inspiration you can bring to those at this time of year. 

One year, several of my friends discovered that a local human service organization was going through tough budget times.  The organization was not going to be able to provide pay raises or offer modest Christmas bonuses which they typically provided their employees at year-end. 

My friends approached the executive director of the organization and asked if they could do something special for the employees by hosting and paying for a staff Christmas dinner and provide funds that the executive director could present each employee with a modest year-end gift.  The executive director loved the idea and the event was held. 

All of the employees were greatly encouraged and felt most appreciated by the generosity of those several friends who pooled their resources together and provided a little something extra for the hard-working staff of the organization.  Needless to say the following year proved to be exceptional for the organization due, in part, to the inspired and uplifted staff.

So what is an approach to inspiring others this year-end?

First, make a list of the charitable causes and organizations near and dear to your heart.

Then, do a little research and discover those extraordinary needs each may have from their “menu of giving opportunities.”  This menu is generally those areas of need that an organization has that is above and beyond their general operating budget.

Once you have identified an opportunity that interests you, learn more about that particular need and the impact your gift can have on the organization and its service to others.

Finally, make your contribution, inspire the organization and its staff, volunteers and clientele and help them finish the year strong.

And through your intentional generosity, you, too will finish the year in a most positive manner!

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Giving Priorities of Savvy Donors

When making gifts to charity do you take the time to learn about the leadership of an organization and the impact it is making?

Leadership in an organization can mean everything.  It can mean the difference between winning and losing, profit and loss, effectiveness and ineffectiveness.  Great leaders can produce significant impact and results, while poor leadership can create devastating consequences for many employees and their families, as was the case during the market meltdown of 2008.  Bad decisions made by corporate leaders resulted in many companies merging or going out of business and many people losing their jobs.

In the nonprofit world, savvy donors consider making charitable contributions that support leadership and impact.  Solid leadership is a good indicator for sustainability of an organization and its mission.  Impact demonstrates the results and leverage donors seek through their giving.   

A great example of excellent leadership that savvy donors support was displayed by Dr. Gayle D. Beebe (current president of Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA) during his tenure (2000 – 2007) as president at Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, Michigan.  In 7 years under Dr. Beebe’s leadership: The University’s enrollment increased by 255% (1570 to 4002 students); 13 new academic programs were initiated reflecting the changing educational needs and demands in the marketplace; and the University expanded or renovated over 280,000 square feet of its campus facilities. 

Dr. Beebe’s leadership laid the groundwork for the University’s continued excellent leadership in higher education and success today having been ranked in 2015 by The Economist number 2 in the state of Michigan and 112th nationally in terms of economic value of all colleges and universities.   

Although there are many examples of positive impact that savvy donors support, one example that stands out is the Lourdes Senior Community, Waterford, Michigan.  Since 1948, the Lourdes Senior Community, a Catholic nonprofit continuing care retirement community sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, has grown into a neighborhood of 250 seniors living in four distinct residences.

Through its core values of dignity, spirituality, compassion and service, Lourdes Senior Community offers comfortable living and care that meet the physical, spiritual and psychological needs of its residents.  The organization has a long history of offering high quality healthcare services and programs.  In 2013, U.S. News & World Report magazine named Lourdes as one of the best nursing facilities nationally and the Oakland Press readers selected Lourdes as Best of the Best for senior living. 

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit may have best described the “Lourdes impact in care” when he said, “There is no hopeless situation.  There is no person who is not worth doing whatever it takes to care for them.  People who are in situations that may seem hopeless will see the face of Jesus through the love and care they receive at Lourdes.”

The love and care the older generation receives through senior communities such as Lourdes, will prove more and more impactful in our society as the population of America ages. 

When making gifts to charity do you take the time to learn about the leadership of an organization and the impact it is making?

Sometimes it is difficult to discern the effectiveness of an organization’s leadership and impact.  That is one of the many benefits of “watchdog” type of organizations who attempt to measure the effectiveness of charities. 

However, there is one simple question that you can answer that will help in your discernment.  Ask yourself, “do the actions and services of the organization line up with who they say they are and how you perceive them to be?”  If all align then you can feel confident in moving forward.

And a result of your implementing these giving priorities of savvy donors will also help the charities you support be positioned for a sustainable, impactful future.    

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

My Purple "Lankey"

Generosity is what allows us to give others that same sense of hope and security

My three-year-old grandson, Kru, loves his purple “lankey” (that's blanket in Kru’s language).  Like the Peanuts character, Linus Van Pelt, Kru’s lankey gives him a feeling of security. Security gives us a sense of hope and it's hope that many people desire.

According to Elyssa Carr of the publication Elite Daily, "feeling secure isn't an avoidance of fear but knowing you will get through the moments of difficulty. It’s that one thing that soothes your shaking hand and helps you to feel strong in moments of struggle."

What does a purple “lankey” have to do with generosity?

When people age they tend to hold back on their charitable giving for fear of not maintaining their standard of living and having enough to see them through life so as not to be a financial burden on children and family.  There is a tension today among baby boomers as to how much to save for retirement versus giving to charity. Many of my friends struggle with this issue. They want to be generous but are concerned that they are not saving enough for later years.

As the number of retired baby boomers grows this could adversely affect the resources available for charities.  For example, if the 75 million baby boomers reduced their charitable giving by 20% charities would receive $26.8 billion less representing a loss of 7% of total giving in the U.S.

Does money become our purple “lankey” in our elderly years?  It appears that we may not have as much of a need for that “lankey” as we may think.    

Bloomberg news recently reported that baby boomers, who are already part of the wealthiest generation in US history, have experienced S & P 500 investment returns of 269% since it's March 2009 low.  Bloomberg reports that researchers from Texas Tech University found that 60% of retirees ages 65 to 70 (years 2000 to 2008) had surplus income above expenses ranging between 8% and 53%.  And the top 20% spent nowhere near the amount that would place them in danger of running out of money. In fact, the average financial assets of wealthy retirees increased during this period.

We all desire a hopeful future. Money often gives us that sense of hope and security. We hold onto it like a purple “lankey.”

Generosity is what allows us to give others that same sense of hope and security.  How do we maintain our future security and at the same time give generously to others?    

Have you calculated and identified an accurate assessment of what your needs may be for retirement so that you can continue giving generously?  If we take the time to do our research and seriously consider our retirement needs and goals, we may feel more comfortable in continuing to serve and give to others.

Caring for ourselves and our families while at the same time offering hope and security to others allows us to experience the joy of generosity throughout our lifetimes.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Relief or Development?

It seems that one of the greatest questions in generosity is discerning whether to give someone a fish or teach them to fish?

Jimmy, Donn and Paul are avid fisherman friends of mine.  Hot, cold, rain, sleet, snow or ice does not keep them away from the beautiful lakes and rivers of Michigan and beyond.  Although I appreciate their generous offers to teach me to fish, I would much prefer heading over to Holiday Market and pick up a filet of Walleye or Tilapia to cook with some fresh veggies on my grill. 

It seems that one of the greatest questions in generosity is discerning whether to give someone a fish (relief) or teach them to fish (development).  As a philanthropist (someone who looks out for the welfare of others) it is important to determine when to provide relief and when providing relief may become harmful.  At that point it may be better to teach them to fish.

For example, the city of Flint recently went through a clean water crisis.  Lead contaminated water did not allow the residents to drink from their faucets.  Typical of the American way, millions of bottles of water were contributed by thousands of volunteers from across the country providing much needed relief.

In a different approach, many people love to provide funds for scholarships for students.  One reason may be that they believe the funds are helping the students to develop through education.  It is the donors’ way of teaching the students how to fish so that they can be positive contributors to society. 

Charitable organizations too, must know when to give relief and when to provide development.

One charitable organization that has struck an excellent balance in discerning when to provide relief versus development is Central Detroit Christian (CDC).  Founded by Lisa Johanon, CDC has created one of the most effective community development models in the city of Detroit last year being named “Community Development Corporation of the Year” by several local funding groups.    

For nearly 20 years, CDC has been developing a targeted geographic community through education, job training, employment and economic development.  In addition to assisting residents with relief (such as providing produce to the head of a family who recently lost a job), CDC has created a number of businesses which they use to serve the needs of the community providing jobs and job training for its residents.  Many go on to secure positions in other companies as a result of their skill development. 

Being generous as an individual donor or as a charitable organization can be challenging in deciding when to give someone a fish or teach them to fish. 

There is a time and place for both.  Generosity and education are a powerful combination. The challenge is to determine which is better in a given situation.

In many ways its more difficult and time consuming to teach someone to fish.  But like my fisherman friends, I know they really love and care for me by offering me fishing lessons.  I appreciate their thoughtful generosity in desiring to help me develop my fishing expertise.

In your generosity have you ever considered when it is best to teach someone to fish or to simply hand them a fish?     

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Next Generation Wealth

Money isn’t the issue. The issue is going to be what will the next generation do with their wealth.

I recently learned an alarming statistic in the realm of next generation wealth.  According to the Williams Group wealth consultancy, 70% of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90% by the third. 

What does this tell us about how we are preparing the next generation to handle inherited wealth? 

When surveyed by U.S. Trust, 78% of high net worth individuals indicated that the next generation is not financially responsible enough to handle inheritance; 64% admit they have disclosed little to nothing about their wealth to their children for a number of reasons including worry that they will become lazy and entitled and fear of information leaking out to the public.

Deloitte University Press reports that the Silent Generation (those born 1928-1945) controls $24 trillion in wealth; Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) own $36 trillion; Generation X (born 1965-1980) $9 trillion; and Generation Y – aka., Millennials (born 1981-1997) $3 trillion. 

This $72 trillion in wealth owned by Americans is expected to grow to $120 trillion by 2030.  That means that the Generation X and Millennial generations are expected to inherit more than $60 trillion over the next 15 to 20 years.  Given the track record of inherited wealth one has to ask are we doing enough assisting them in stewarding their upcoming inheritance?

There will be plenty of money to go around.  Money isn’t the issue.  The issue is going to be what will the next generation do with their wealth.  Presently, the Silent and Baby Boomer Generations contribute 2/3 of all current charitable gifts in America which makes sense where they are in life.  They feel a sense of loyalty and obligation to organizations.

Generation X and Millennials however, are less consistent, peer motivated, and a bit more random in their giving.  They are impacted by an inspirational story of need and compelled to support when friends ask.

As we all know, it’s not the amount of money we have it is what we do with it that matters.   “Understand that pride of accomplishment from one’s own hard work is the way to realize true self-esteem, and not from your money,” my homeless friend, Mr. Eugene Howe would tell me. 

In that respect the Gen X and Millennial generations have it together.  They love to volunteer and serve those in need as a part of their philanthropy.  However, if all of the Silent and Baby Boomer generations’ wealth is left to the next generation and their current giving habits continue into their later years, what might happen to our charities? 

Some of the Silent and Baby Boomer generation wealth could be left to their favorite charitable organizations reflecting their values and interests.  Simultaneously, maybe we need to do more in the area of teaching and demonstrating for the next generation about generosity and handling wealth? 

Never has there been so much wealth amassed in the history of the world as in America today.  There is no precedent or history from which to learn.  We are navigating unchartered waters never before traveled.

Are you considering ways to educate and develop the next generation about wealth? 

Are you considering ways you can perpetuate support for your favorite charities through your estate plan?

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the highly applauded book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

 

The Giants in Your Life

“Have you ever considered that generosity doesn’t have to involve money?”

Have you ever thought about Giants?  I certainly did when I was a kid.  “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the “Jolly Green Giant” are probably the most famous in addition to those in San Francisco and New York.

The dictionary defines a Giant as “an imaginary or mythical being of human form and superhuman size.”

I contend that Giants are real and at times they exist in each of our lives.

Giants are those people who take a special interest in us. They invest a part of themselves in us in ways that help us develop beyond our years of experience.

Overtime their impact on our lives is profound.

They may be a teacher\professor, coach, colleague, or a mentor and friend.

I am sure you can name those persons who have played significant roles impacting your life.

I have had many Giants in my life.  They are too numerous to name them all here.

However, one of the Giants who has significantly impacted me through good and challenging times is E. Harold Munn Jr..


Broadcasting Hall of Fame consulting radio engineer E. Harold Munn Jr. built or serviced 800 radio stations in all 50 states and nearly 70 colleges and universities in a career spanning six decades. He received his first FCC radio license at age 14. 

A pioneer in broadband and internet infrastructure, he received the first FCC clearance for cable TV operation. In his passion to live out his Christian faith, he served as a trustee of Billy Graham’s Blue Ridge Broadcasting Corporation, Spring Arbor University, and Asbury Theological Seminary spanning over 50 years. Billy Graham inscribed a note to his board member and ministry partner Hal Munn on the flyleaf of his book Facing Death: And the Life After: “To my faithful brother Harold Munn. God bless and keep you always.” Billy Graham. Mar. 15, ’88. 1 Cor. 15:58:

Hal Munn epitomized the prototype Giant. He did not use his success as an excuse to stop investing in others. He intentionally invested his time in me and others providing key insights, encouragement and support, often at times when most needed.  Over the years he would contact me to meet to discuss ideas enhancing whatever project we were involved and the role I played.   

He is now in the final stages of a battle with cancer. But as a Giant to many, his life will continue through the lives of those he invested.

Have you ever considered that generosity doesn't have to involve money? It can include serving as a Giant to others as Hal Munn did for many.

In who's life can you invest?  Which person can you impact?

When people enter your life it’s good to pay attention.  You may just be able to be one of their Giants.

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the highly applauded book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

Significance and Generosity

Do you remember when you bought your first car? For me it was such a great experience that I can remember every detail. I bought the used car from my good friend Mark.  It was a 1970 canary yellow Chevy Malibu with a vinyl black top. I especially remember feeling that I had "made it." I was now independent. I could go wherever and whenever I wanted. In my mind, I had achieved success.  But had I really achieved success?

“Significance, on the other hand, comes when you add value to others which allows the impact of your success to live on. “

Business consultant, author, and leadership coach, John Maxwell describes successful people as persons who believe they are successful because they have everything they want.  But in reality they have only added value to themselves.

Maxwell adds more to his definition of success saying that you cannot have true success without significance.  We live in an age when only a rare minority of individuals desires to spend their lives in pursuit of objectives which are bigger than themselves.  In our age, for most people, when they die it will be as though they never lived.  Significance, on the other hand, comes when you add value to others which allows the impact of your success to live on. 

Reflecting on this concept of adding value to other peoples’ lives, I recall my feelings of great satisfaction after participating in activities like helping send a student to college; renovating an urban community park; or supporting the rescue and care of orphan children. Those feelings of significance were much different and deeper than the feelings I had when I bought my first car. They were feelings of purpose and meaning.

Through the years working in philanthropy, I have observed many selfless, sacrificial donors who did whatever they could to assist the mission of charitable organizations in powerful ways.  The desire to achieve significance by adding value to others’ lives may be why many successful people, upon retirement, often serve in various ways in the nonprofit sector giving of their time, talents, and resources.   Some retirees begin new careers working for nonprofit organizations while others devote significant hours as governing board members and key volunteers. 

This craving to create significance seems most compatible with generosity.  Philanthropic, generous people desire to promote the welfare of others enabling them to create significance by adding value to other peoples’ lives through their generosity. They create a lasting legacy that will be a meaningful remembrance of their lives on earth.

Have you considered ways that you can add value to the lives of others?  Have you thought about sharing your know-how, experiences, and resources making someone’s life better today and into the future?  Have you considered that success only becomes significant when it adds value to other peoples’ lives? 

In my experience, once you gain a sense of significance, you will know that your life has counted for something.  It will be far more satisfying than the experience of buying that first car or having everything you want. 

 As a result of your generosity, you may just realize true success.  

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the highly applauded book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.

 

Unprecedented Wealth

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I was recently speaking with an urban pastor who described the great emotional difficulty people face living in low-income urban communities.  Surrounded by large amounts of wealth he indicated that people become easily discouraged.

According to Mike Hanlon of Gizmag, 10% of the world’s adults control 85% of the global household wealth.  Americans control a majority of that wealth.  It is estimated that the poorest of Americans rank in the top third of the wealthiest in the world. 

No wonder people living in low-income urban communities in America become easily discouraged. They only see what they do not have in America. They do not see what they do have relative to the rest of the world.

We live in unprecedented times.  There is more financial wealth amassed today than ever before in the history of the world. 

I do know from experience that Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.

When it comes to natural disaster crises, Americans are among the top contributors immediately providing emergency aid relief.  However, those emergency relief gifts are primarily from our current income and not from the abundance of resources that we have accumulated.

America is a land of opportunity.  We have the opportunity to work, own property, make a living, and support our families.  We are certainly a financially blessed nation. 

Yet, living in America offers us another kind of opportunity -- the opportunity to help others.

With wealth comes responsibility.   What are we to do with the wealth entrusted to us?  Mr. Howe, my homeless friend, used to remind me that our children and grandchildren only need a small amount to help them become self-sufficient, independent, contributing members of society. 

What are we going to do with the rest?

We have a fantastic opportunity assisting charitable purposes that are dear to us with some of the riches that we have accumulated.  Have you thought about whom and how you wish to help?

The Welfare of Others

Have you ever wondered if the desire to look out for the welfare of others is a natural part of us?

Do you think it is a natural response when we help someone we see in need?

What would you do if a homeless man shows up at your office door, tells you that he has a tax problem, his attorney sent him to see you, and he wants to set up his foundation like Mr. Rockefeller?

That is exactly what happened to me one day while working at our foundation offices in downtown Detroit, Michigan.  The homeless man was Mr. Eugene Howe.  Yes, he had a tax problem.  Yes, his attorney sent him to see me.  And, yes, he wanted to set up his foundation like Mr. Rockefeller.

During Mr. Howe’s weekly visits, I often asked myself the question if it is a natural desire to help others in need.  Didn’t Mr. Howe have enough to worry about meeting his every day basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing living on the streets of Detroit?  Instead, I found him concerning himself with the philanthropic desire to help people by creating a charitable foundation like Mr. Rockefeller.

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others.  Mr. Howe certainly demonstrated that desire.  During his visits, he would tell stories of ways people helped him and others.  He also taught me many principles of giving.

Mr. Howe set a humbling example in his care and support of the welfare of others.

Do you ever desire to promote the welfare of others?  Do you seek out ways to assist those in need?  Now is the time to consider doing so.