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Philanthrophy & Charity: What's the Difference?

Ira Glass of National Public Radio’s This American Life said it best: supporters of public radio love it so much they actually listen to the pledge drives. Glass spoke these words during a pledge drive, and the effect was not only comic, but also spot-on, placing listeners’ passionate loyalty at the center of the fundraising conversation in a humorous way.

By its very definition, and as even the most casual listener knows, NPR is a publicly supported enterprise, but their income is not derived solely from tax revenues. In fact, private support accounts for a much larger portion of funding, and it requires regular, at times seemingly endless, solicitations each year to keep the whole thing running.

This is just one example of charitable giving. While different from the charity that pours forth when a tornado, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, it springs from a similar spirit and mindset. People care. And they are willing, even eager, to put their money to work in helping to ameliorate other people’s suffering, and to do their part to meet others’ immediate or short-term needs. In 2018, Americans gave an estimated $427 billion to charities, disaster relief, and other benevolent causes. Individual giving accounted for approximately 68 percent of that, or about $292 billion, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

People give to charities, whether religious, educational, or community-focused, in virtually every area of human endeavor, locally, nationally, and internationally. They understand how important funds are in providing a vital stream of immediate support for the organizations that match their values and priorities.

So where does philanthropy fit in? How is it different? Is it different? Andrew Carnegie saw his own philanthropic efforts as “doing real and permanent good in this world,” which became the tagline of the Carnegie Corporation, the philanthropic foundation he created a century ago. Philanthropy is proactive, big-picture problem solving that ultimately seeks to build something strong and lasting for the future rather than responding to needs on a case-by-case basis.

Philanthropy happens when people with discretionary resources pause and reflect on what matters to them, what they truly care about. They assess their financial circumstances, their needs, and those of their families, and they ask themselves, what impact can I have? What difference can I make? What is important to me when it comes to my role in supporting the causes that are near and dear to me?

It boils down to focus and strategy. Focusing on what you care about when it comes to your philanthropy is the first step. No matter which organizations you support, philanthropy comes from the heart and reflects deeply felt values. Having a clear sense of priorities leads naturally to the next step: formulating the most effective strategy for making your family’s philanthropic aspirations a reality.

How do your financial circumstances and needs match your desire to strengthen your favorite charities over the long term? Is now the right time? A master plan for philanthropy will guide your decision-making when it comes to directing funds for your nonprofit and charitable interests.

Our job is to assist you and your advisers in maximizing your tax benefits as you select the assets that will optimize both your support and the impact of your gift to the organizations you wish to support. We are here to collaborate, using our expertise that comes from more than 100 years of combined experience helping prospective donors sort through gift planning options. Most importantly, we understand that you are the driving force behind the philanthropy that is building something great and enduring for organizations in a way that fits your individual passions and values, enabling you to make the right decisions at the right time.

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