You do your best every day to make smart decisions about how you and your family members spend money. You know a haphazard approach to your personal finances isn't efficient or effective, and you rely on common sense and planning to help you make smart spending decisions.
I suggest you apply that thoughtful approach to your charitable giving, whether you're a veteran philanthropist or someone who seldom does more than throw a few coins in a kettle. In fact, I suggest you develop a simple strategy for your philanthropic efforts.
It's safe for me to assume the organization you work for has a strategy in place. In fact, it probably has several smaller, more specifically targeted strategies within that larger one. Without such plans, an organization lacks direction. A good strategy provides a compass. A really good strategy acts as a satellite global positioning system.
These kinds of plans aren't just for big organizations, though. Many individuals and families are adapting strategic concepts to their lives. One hot trend in that area is "strategic charitable giving."
With a strategic approach, you no longer have to make haphazard decisions when good organizations request your support. You replace slapdash, mood-ofthe-moment donations with a process that ensures your good deeds reflect your values and interests.
Generally, people who are active philanthropists or who are on the verge of being able to help others have some traits in common. First, they share the quality of compassion that makes people want to improve their communities, eliminate the suffering of others, and maximize the potential of human-kind. Second, they embrace practical reasons for charitable giving-for example, reducing tax burdens. And third, they give as a tangible expression of who they are, of what they stand for.
To start yourself on this strategic giving process, consider four simple steps: 1) define your values; 2) identify your interest areas; 3) write a mission statement for your charitable giving; 4) create a simple plan for your charitable giving.
The benefits of taking a strategic approach to charitable giving are numerous, and will, of course, vary greatly, family by family, year by year. But the benefits can be summarized and generalized by the three C's of strategic charitable giving-control, confidence and character.
Control: You strive to control as much as you can about your finances, and you should control as much as you can about your philanthropic activities. I'm not talking about simply controlling whether you give-you already have that kind of control. I'm talking about controlling the process that leads you to valid and consistent reasons for yes or no decisions so you can be more precise-and therefore more effective-with your giving.
Confidence: A strategic approach to charitable giving empowers you and your family members and provides you with greater confidence in your decisions. You're more confident that your donations are in tune with your values, your interests, your family traditions. You're more confident that the change you hope your donation brings about is meaningful and fulfilling to you and your loved ones.
Character: Your philanthropy speaks volumes about who you are, and about the character attributes that are important to the people who live under your roof. A strategic approach to charitable giving more accurately reflects your true character, or even helps you become the "character" you aspire to be.
Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a successful 2006.
Payne is president of Central Indiana Community Foundation.