Every new year brings an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and make plans for the year ahead. The news media and social media are full of stories reflecting on the highs and lows of the past year in world events, sports, politics and business. On a personal level, it’s a time many individuals make new year’s resolutions. Let me encourage you to include some reflection and resolutions with regard to your philanthropy. Here are some ideas you may find useful to guide your review and planning process.
First, review your philanthropy for 2019. Most of us will need to gather receipts and review charitable expenses anyway to determine if we will itemize our deductions or take the standard deduction on our tax return, so it is a good time to look beyond the numbers in the process. Do you see any surprises or disappointments? Did you know you gave that much (or that little) to a particular charity? Do you remember why and when you made those gifts last year? Are there charities that you thought you supported, but when looking at receipts, acknowledgments and other records, it appears that you didn’t?
Next, make a list. Write down all the charities you gave to in 2019 and how much you gave them. Start a new column for 2020 next to your 2019 totals. Start filling in the 2020 column with your thoughts for giving this year. As you go down the list, consider whether each charity should receive more or less this year. Did you finish a pledge to a capital campaign for a charity last year? Perhaps that will free up funds in your charitable budget for more giving to another project or another charity this year. Make notes as you go through the list to help you remember why you want to increase or decrease your giving to each organization for 2020. Put a question mark next to any charity you want to find out more about in 2020. Maybe you want to know what they did with your previous gift before you are ready to make another gift. Did the organization finish or make progress on a project that was the subject of your gift last year?
Next, add new charities to your list. These are not necessarily newly formed organizations, but any organization you thought you gave to but didn’t, or any organization you learned about recently that you were unable to support last year. This may require more research and adjustments to your list. Keep this list handy throughout the year because you may need to add and adjust throughout the year as you learn of new organizations.
Finally, get more organized. Through the process of evaluating your charitable giving for the past year and making plans for this year, perhaps you have discovered some room for improvement in the area of organizing your philanthropy. Some people use Quickbooks, while others keep a running list on a spreadsheet or on paper. One of the best reasons for having a donor advised fund at East Texas Communities Foundation, or through another provider, is to keep your giving organized. DAF users can quickly review their annual giving online or when they receive a written annual statement. Regardless of how you get organized, let me encourage you to do so to help you avoid overlooking important charitiesyou want to support this year.
If you take a few minutes to reflect on your giving for this past year and make preliminary plans for your giving for the coming year, I believe you will have a better chance of reaching your charitable goals. Having goals doesn’t mean you have to make all of your gifts for 2020 in January; it just means you have a plan you are going to try to follow for the coming year. Regardless of when you plan to do your charitable giving this year, the idea is to have a plan so you will have fewer regrets when you conduct this annual review next year. Reflecting on your charitable giving last year and making resolutions for charitable giving this year may be your next best opportunity to give well.