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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 5:50 am | Fair 44º


Steven Crandell: Choosing to Give Together Is a Meaningful Couples Experience

Everyone knows the holidays focus on giving. Presents, donations, friendship, good will and, most important, love. But how many of us think about this giving as a potential team sport? An activity we can enjoy in partnership with our significant other?

As holiday celebrations arrive, I want to remind you that giving as a couple offers great opportunities to explore — on philanthropic and personal levels.

The first step for many donor couples is to sit down and have a wide-ranging discussion about the values and motivations that inspire them to give together.

In philanthropy, the range of these values and motivations can seem as extensive as human experience itself. Donors cite everything from religious commitments, to feeling a responsibility to give back, to tax considerations (“I would rather give it away than give it to Uncle Sam”).

Two donor guides funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors go into more detail on how donors can achieve clarity in this area. (See: Your Philanthropy Roadmap and The Giving Commitment - Knowing Your Motivation.)

Here, it is enough to know that the “why” of giving can help guide key decisions such as determining funding interests and goals, the level of giving and whether the couple wants their philanthropy to be public, anonymous or somewhere in between.

Getting started discussing values and motivations can be straightforward. It requires only time and patience to listen and talk. Many donors report their discussion and the ensuing philanthropy have brought them closer as a couple.

Of course, this isn’t true for all donors. Long-term relationships tend to have long-term relationship dynamics. And these tend to flow into philanthropy.

Still, couples who explore philanthropy together can find new focus for an existing relationship and the chance for fresh understanding.

Here are some questions that partners and spouses can use to begin a discussion:

» Have either of us found fulfillment in giving; if so, where is it greatest for each of us?

» What life experiences — or epiphanies — have inspired us, individually, to give?

» What motivations and values do we share — what is our common ground for giving?

» Where and how do we think differently?

» Has anything held us back from giving in certain ways or to certain areas? If so, what are those limitations and can they be addressed?

Trusted family counselors and professional philanthropic advisers can help couples. But the most important work is up to the two people involved. Asking good questions and listening to their answers can provide a solid foundation for joint giving.

What’s more: Check out the online guide, Giving as a Couple.

— Author and writer Steven Crandell helps integrate story and strategy for organizations, with nonprofit foundations a particular focus. “Thinking Philanthropy” aims to provide practical, thought-provoking ideas about giving. This article was cross-posted on Tumblr. Steven can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @stevencrandell. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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