Want to Use Your Wealth to Make a Difference? First, Define Your Personal Mission and Vision

Want to Use Your Wealth to Make a Difference? First, Define Your Personal Mission and Vision

Those who’ve been blessed with wealth want to make a difference, but too often busy lives and careers leave them making last-minute, tax-driven donations at the end of the year.

Writing checks (or online donations) on December 31 does make a positive impact, but if I know one thing about my clients, it’s that they typically hate settling.

They haven’t settled when it comes to their careers or the businesses they’ve built.

They haven’t settled when it comes to creating a prosperous life for themselves and their family.

Yet too many settle for a giving “strategy” that isn’t really a strategy at all, robbing themselves of the opportunity to donate in a manner that truly aligns with their values and beliefs—and the opportunity to experience the true joy of giving.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are a few tips on how to change the way you approach philanthropy.

1. Base your charitable strategy on a personal mission and vision

Harley-Davidson’s Mission Statement is to “Fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products in selected market segments.”

Harley-Davidson has world-class engineers, and the company is an expert at brand-building. Those are skills they could use to build cars, airplanes, or boats—but they don’t. They know exactly what they want to do: make the best motorcycles.

You want to be a steward of the wealth you’ve been blessed with. You don’t want to feel like an ATM machine for everyone who has a worthy cause. Having a personal charitable mission and vision make that possible. Just like Harley-Davidson feels no shame in not making cars, you don’t have to feel shame or guilt when you decline the opportunity to donate to a cause that doesn’t fit with your personal mission and vision.

If you were reactive in your career, you wouldn’t be here today… So don’t settle for being reactive in your approach to charitable giving.

Creating that mission and vision begins with answering questions like:

  • What moves me to give?
  • If I could transform anything, what would it be?
  • What makes me come alive?
  • What are the needs in my community—or even the world—that I’m uniquely positioned to meet?

Answering those questions can be done individually, or it can be done with your spouse, children, and even grandchildren. Involving your family in the creation of your philanthropic mission and vision can be a powerful way to pass on all of your wealth, including your values and vision—not just your financial resources.

2. Know the type of donor you want to be

Nonprofits will gladly take your check, but they are even happier when they get a strategic partner. In fact, most nonprofits would prefer a strategic partner over “just” a donor. What does being a strategic partner look like?

Being a strategic partner to a charity is like being an active investor. You don’t just give money—you do what you can to make sure your investment leads to success. That might involve being an advocate for the organization, or helping facilitate outreach to other donors you know—or any number of things.

That said, we have clients who aren’t looking to be actively involved in the charities and causes they support.

And that’s okay.

A financial contribution is still an incredibly impactful way to make a difference.

Whether you are an active strategic partner or restrict your involvement to financial contributions, the point is to know exactly what role you want to play.

Be proactive, rather than reactive, and you’ll find philanthropy far more rewarding.

3. Remember, your time and knowledge are important contributions, too

If you’re retired or recently sold your business, you can give something that’s often just as valuable as money: your time and talent.

Nonprofits are starving for business expertise. Many nonprofit staff join the organization because they are attracted to the mission, but they may have limited business expertise. Even when they do have some experience, most staff certainly haven’t built and sold a business, or spent years guiding a company through good times and bad.

Your experience can be the difference maker for a nonprofit.

You know how to market products, develop talent, and make hard decisions. Those are skills that every nonprofit needs, and many lack.

A strategic approach to giving can be the difference between feeling guilty every time someone asks for your contribution—and making the type of difference that truly reflects your beliefs and values.

If you were reactive in your career, you wouldn’t be here today. You wouldn’t be wondering how to use your wealth to change the world—because you wouldn’t have wealth to use.

So don’t settle for being reactive in your approach to charitable giving.

Make this the year you define exactly how you will use the resources you’ve been blessed with to make a difference.

James Matush, Jr., CFP®, MBA

James Matush, Jr., CFP®, MBA

James "Jim" Matush, CFP®, MBA, is the CEO and Founding Partner of Trinity Wealth Advisors, a leading wealth advisory firm serving affluent families in the St. Louis area. With 40+ years of experience in financial services, he offers his clients actionable plans to help them achieve their goals.