I was recently captivated by the story of Ronald Read, a Vermont gas station attendant and janitor who amassed an $8 million personal fortune. Upon his death at age 92, Read bequeathed $6 million to his local hospital and library. In my book, that janitor is a class act!
Stories like Read’s remind us that the quality of our life’s work is better measured by our contribution, rather than our accumulation. Giving is a proven way to make a difference. Chuck Feeney is a visionary philanthropist who has given away billions of dollars in his lifetime. Chuck said, “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today.” Through his example, Chuck has inspired others to embrace the philosophy of “giving while living.”
One of the goals of this blog is to encourage generosity at every level of affluence. Giving is not the sacred preserve of the billionaires or multi-millionaires among us. Anyone with a generous spirit can make a difference through giving. If you’re waiting to amass a fortune before considering giving, you’re waiting too long. Start from where you are. Start with what you have.
Do you have a giving plan? Giving is such a noble act but for maximum impact, giving must be intentional. Consider the following elements of a well-formulated giving plan:
How much will you give? Think not just in absolute dollar terms. The spirit of generosity is aptly measured in proportion to your means. What proportion of your income will you give to enrich others and your community? A lot of people track their income tax bracket. Do you know your giving bracket? Aim to increase the level of your giving relative to your income.
When will you start giving and how frequently? Consistency in giving is key. Don’t wait to make the big splash donation when you reap some financial windfall. Who knows if and when that’s coming? Give regularly, say from every pay check, and you’ll be surprised how much this will amount to over time.
What cause(s) will you support with your giving? Peter Karoff, chairman and founder of The Philanthropic Initiative said, “the alignment of one’s passion to one’s giving is often elusive but worth the search. The reward is that your gifts become the best possible articulation of your values, your belief systems, and at the same time, become a direct link to those issues within the communities and societies that you deem of greatest significance.”
Getting is important and it pays to enhance your earning power. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have. That said, don’t just make money, make a difference. Get a life … Give!