Planning for generosity

Growing up, my family didn’t really talk about money, budgets, bills, or charity. My grandfather earned money; he (and the rest of my family) mostly left generosity to my grandmother, who contributed to her church, missions, and evangelical ministers, and spent time helping churchmembers.

I never thought about planning for generosity until I read “The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World” (2009) by Kathy LeMay. But think about it – we plan for vacations, weddings, college, and retirement; we save generosity for when we have “enough” money or when we pass away. Why not have a plan for giving back while we are alive?

Generosity is not about giving large amounts of money, or even how large your estate is when you die. Generosity is about “finding your passion, envisioning a better world, and putting yourself on the path to making that vision a reality” (page x).

LeMay advises us to keep a Generosity Journal, which will help you create your Generosity Plan. Her book is filled with personal stories about ordinary people who made a conscious decision to give back. There are questions, exercises, and tips to help you practice philanthropy in your life.

I won’t go into the full detail of LeMay’s Generosity Plan here (if you’re interested, read her book or visit her website at http://www.thegenerosityplan.com), but I want to highlight the five steps that resonated with me.

1. Look back at your giving roots. “Each of us has roots in giving, be they based in culture, faith, personal belief systems, or family” (page 1). Think about how your family, friends, and teachers gave back. List the people that inspire you and how they changed your life. Reconnect with the things that you did which were most fulfilling.

2. Unlock your vision and set your priorities. “With a vivid and powerful description of the change you want to see, you put yourself on track toward transforming an idea into a reality” (page 18). Determine the causes and issues that you are most passionate about, and decide how you would change the world. It’s important to stand for something, not against something!

3. Share your time, treasure, and talents. “The time, treasure, and talent model works because it takes all of our gifts in service to the greater good” (page 42). Choose organizations that match your passions, goals, and values. Give your time informally (such as helping family, friends, and neighbors) and formally (such as becoming a mentor or tutor).

4. Create a giving formula. “You will feel powerful when you add a generosity line item to your life budget” (page 131). Figure out the percent of your income (not the dollar amount) that you currently give to charity, and what you would like to give. Determine what percentage would feel empowering to you, and what is truly affordable.

5. Know what successful giving looks like. “The five keys to a successful Generosity Plan are: vision, boldness, authenticity, staying the course, and support” (page 225). If you know what to expect from your giving, you can feel a sense of accomplishment or progress. Decide whether you need immediate results (such as feeding the hungry) or long-term social change (such as ending hunger), or both.

“Philanthropy belongs to all of us because the world needs all of us to participate” (page xxii), LeMay declares. What does generosity mean to you?

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