ISSUE 21 | PARAGONROAD.COM
Learning & Growing Better Listening +HOW CAN YOU BEST CAPTURE FAMILY MEMORIES? LISTENING BETTER IS THE KEY! LAURA A. ROSER EXPLORES 7 LISTENING GUIDELINES TO HELP YOU EXPERIENCE THE STORIES AND MEMORIES OF THOSE YOU LOVE.
Effective Family Rituals + CHRIS PALMERâ€™S RESOLVE TO BECOME A BETTER FATHER UNCOVERS FAMILY RITUALS THAT WILL DRAW YOU CLOSER TO YOUR FAMILY IN THE NEW YEAR.
Smart Giving + GREG DOEPKE EXPLORES THE 7 ESSENTIALS FOR SMART GIVING TO HELP YOU DECIDE HOW TO GIVE OF YOUR RESOURCES IN THE NEW YEAR.
Note from the Editor A New Year for Your Family
Gloria Bares’ Poetry Explores the Influence of Her Grandmother
Living Into Legacy
Laurie Sorensen Explores Her Family’s Generation-Spanning Legacy
Becoming a Better Father
Chris Palmer Shares the Rituals that Brought Their Family Closer Together
Grab Some Popcorn … It’s Family Movie Night Paulette Pantoja Helps Families Enjoy Quality Entertainment
Practicing Good Listening
Laura A. Roser Presents 7 Listening Guides to Help You Become a Confidant and Gather Family Stories
What All Annual Givers Need to Know
Your Life Story Can Take Many Shapes and Sizes
The Toronto Light Festival
The 7 Essential Questions for Smart Giving
Brad Gornto Reveals a Tax Efficient Giving Strategy
Matthew Rosenblatt Shares His Vision for The Toronto Light Festival
Flora Morris Brown Encourages You to Write Your Life Story
Greg Doepke Explains What to Ask Before You Give
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Issue 21 | January 2020
Paragon Road PUBLISHER
Laura A. Roser EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Marko Nedeljkovic DESIGN William Summey CONTENT DIRECTOR
Charity Navigator Your Meaning Legacy by Laura A. Roser Paragon Road
Gloria Bares Flora Morris Brown Greg Doepke Brad Gornto Chris Palmer Matthew Rosenblatt Laura A. Roser Laurie Sorensen
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What is Legacy Arts Magazine?
Legacy Arts is dedicated to the journey of developing a great legacy and passing on non-financial assets (such as beliefs, values & wisdom). It is produced by Paragon Road, the leader in meaning legacy planning. 6 LEGACY ARTS Issue 21 www.paragonroad.com
Note from the Editor
A New Year for Your Family
appy 2020! The start of a new year is always an incredible time for life reflection.
This issue of Legacy Arts focuses on how to create a close, resilient, giving family. Both Chris Palmer and Laurie Sorensen share how their families have created rituals to encourage loyalty and fun. These seemingly-small acts form the foundation of their strong family culture and help family members along life’s journey as they mature. One of the best things you can do for your family legacy is to share family stories. Most Americans want to know about their grandparents’ history. You can start by interviewing family members about their lives. My article titled Practicing Good Listening will give you some pointers on how to get started having these deep conversations. Flora Brown has also written an incredible article about how a life story can take on many shapes and sizes. Be sure to check it out to learn more about how to start writing about yours.
Are you interested in giving more, but aren’t sure how to structure it? In his article, What All Annual Givers Need to Know, Attorney Brad Gornto explains how to structure giving in the most taxefficient ways. And Greg Doepke gives you Seven Essential Questions for Smart Giving.
Thanks to all of our contributors and readers. As always, we couldn’t do it without our Head Small things can have a huge impact on someone’s Designer Marko, and Content Director William. future. For Paulette Pantoja movies and TV played an It’s been such a pleasure meeting and working influential role in making her childhood a happy one. with so many professionals and families who They helped her and her sister escape the stress of divorced parents and the absence of their single prioritize the things that matter. working mother. This is why as an adult Paulette has All the best, pursued a career in mastering video content. For her, it’s all about creating that quality experience so that Laura A. Roser people can enjoy entertainment and connection. Editor-in-Chief of Legacy Arts and CEO of Paragon Read more about her vision in my article, Grab Some Road Popcorn… It’s Family Movie Night.
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LIVING INTO LEGACY
One Family’s Story
By Laurie Sorensen
hat if we viewed time as something to invest rather than something to spend? This thought is at the heart of the Sorensen family’s view of legacy.
The family not only views their own lives as being a precious trust they get to steward but also encourages others to live their lives through the lens of the legacy they desire to leave behind.
A Generation-Spanning Legacy
The Sorensen family story includes two men who immigrated from Denmark in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, one to plant churches and leave a spiritual legacy in his new country and the other to take advantage of the offers of farming ground in the Midwest. Those men then had children who met, married, and raised a family on the farm. The threads of legacy begun by those brave immigrants continued to be evident in the choices of their children. The granddaughter of the church planter started a women’s circle for ladies of the church to gather and fellowship while serving their community and was passionate about world missions. The son of the farmer grew up to farm and appeared in magazines for his ingenuity in creating practical inventions that made farming easier and more convenient. The next generation has continued the legacy of farming and a passion for their faith, but they have taken it a step further and now teach others about the importance of legacy.
planting and harvest. The brothers have been 50/50 partners in nearly every venture. The Sorensen brothers were passionate about providing jobs for people in rural areas and about serving companies who needed access to technology but weren’t located in a city. Arlin grew their IT company to 102 employees in five states before selling it in 2012. Brad always uses retired farmers and local friends to help with harvest and planting, holding a big harvest dinner each year where the family and those who helped with the harvest stop to acknowledge God’s goodness that has brought another harvest. Arlin also started a second organization to provide leaders of IT companies an opportunity to share best practices and learn from other leaders in their industry. This peer group company has over 75 groups and works with over 1000 leaders of IT companies across North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. A passion for farming runs deep in the bones for the Sorensen men, so Arlin started a third company called HTS Ag, which sells and services the precision technology that enables an efficient farming operation today. He took his knowledge of how to get smart business owners to share ideas and leverage one another to grow their companies and started peer groups for precision agriculture business leaders. The team also offers peer groups for farmers who are clients of HTS Ag.
Arlin Sorensen went to college to study farm operations but has an entrepreneurial spirit, like his father and immigrant ancestors. He and his brother Bradley partnered in running the family farm operation. Arlin then started an information technology (IT) company in the middle of a cornfield that sold and serviced computers for farmers, rural companies and organizations. As the company expanded, Brad took over the farming and Arlin focused on the computer company full-time except for
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Both of Arlin’s children came back to join the IT peer group company. Brad’s son now runs the farming operation and is a member of one of the farmer peer groups. Arlin writes a daily blog with learnings from the prior day, some thoughts on scripture he is studying, and some content from another area of interest. He shares that via a daily email to a list of over 1300 followers around the globe and hasn’t missed a single day (it comes out six days a week – not on Sunday) since the fall of 2008. It too is part of the family legacy of working to educate others about life and legacy, and now features Laurie writing on Saturdays. The next generation of Sorensens are continuing their family’s legacy of teaching others about living intentionally today in a way that will matter tomorrow.
Investing in Others: How the Sorensen Family Shares Their Learnings about Legacy
The top of an org chart can be a lonely place for a leader. Peer groups provide a place for leaders to be people and to share their joys and struggles in both work and life with people who have similar job titles and responsibilities. Groups typically consist of 10-12 company leaders who meet regularly to share and learn together. There are many peer group organizations, but IT Nation Evolve and the peer groups run by HTS Ag are different because they focus equally on business and life, both of which are built on the foundation of an individual’s legacy plan for their life and business. Members spend time sharing an update of their quarter, including things that went well and those that could have gone better. Conversations about marriage and parenting, measured by a quarterly scorecard, are interwoven with leadership discussions and best practices about running a company (or a farm). Here are some of the messages the Sorensen family shares about legacy:
Laurie Sorensen serves as a Learning Architect for ConnectWise, developing and delivering training and knowledge sharing opportunities designed to assist partners in reaching their desired growth and legacy. She also facilitates LifePlans for individuals and couples and travels to speak to audiences about legacy and the power of living intentionally. Laurie holds a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership as well as a second master’s degree in the field of education. She is energized by thinking, planning, and writing on topics that help partners grow their leadership. Laurie is the author of the Planning for Success workbook which guides people through Legacy, Business, Life and Leadership planning the IT Nation Way. Laurie lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family and friends. In her spare time, Laurie volunteers with her church. She is the proud aunt to three nephews and one niece who serve as constant reminders why it is important to live intentionally and leave a legacy that makes much of Jesus. To contact Laurie, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. l “Begin with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey was fond of saying. Envision what you desire to leave behind and then begin to live toward that vision. l Start today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed (the death rate still hovers around 100%, after all). l Time is your most precious resource. Invest it wisely. You always get 168 hours every week. l Remember that both work and life matter. Balance is an illusion, but we need to manage the tension between the two. Don’t build your business at the expense of your family and your life. l Live intentionally today toward your vision of what you desire to leave behind. We are all leaving a legacy; the question is just whether it will be an intentional legacy or an accidental sum total of the days we lived. l You get to choose. What legacy will you leave behind? You will leave a legacy whether you plan it or not. l “Vision without execution is hallucination.” —Thomas Edison For the Sorensen family, each generation is dedicated to leaving an intentional legacy and teaching others to do the same. For more information on IT peer groups, visit https://www. connectwise.com/theitnation/evolve. To be added to Arlin’s daily blog update, email arlin@ arlinsorensen.com and put add in the subject line. To see the Iowa Public Television piece on our story, visit http:// www.iptv.org/video/story/27188/iowa-entrepreneur-htg.n
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Becoming a Better Father
The Most Effective Rituals in Our Family By Chris Palmer
hen my wife, Gail, and I decided to start a family, I knew nothing about raising children. I was, however, aware that they could be demanding and stress-inducing. As the youngest of four boys, I had experienced a rather stressful childhood myself. More than anything, I was terrified of failing. I wanted my kids to be happy and successful. Despite my misgivings, we forged ahead and gave birth to three daughters. Working diligently to build my career as a wildlife filmmaker meant traveling extensively and spending a lot of time away from my family. At home, I wanted to be a capable, loving, and effective father, but the girls sometimes kept me at a distance. I recall one night when Gail and I put our daughters to bed and I tried to cuddle with each one. “Would you like to snuggle?” I asked my girls, all of them under 10 years of age and each of them adorable, loving, and beautiful in her own way. “No,” they answered, one by one, unknowingly inflicting wounds to my heart. They would only snuggle with their mom. It hurt to be left out. Full of self-doubt and worried that I was failing as a father, I wondered whether my own father had ever felt the same way. I wanted to be a better father, and I wondered if I was devoting sufficient time to parenting. For a month, I kept a log of everything I did during the day and how long it took me. I discovered a massive discrepancy between how I spent my time and what I claimed was important to me. I would
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glibly tell people that my family was my top priority but, when I analyzed my schedule, I found that I devoted 90 percent of my time to my job. I was a workaholic. I yearned to be a father who wasn’t simply an awkward appendage to the nuclear group, but a pivotal and integrated member. The feelings of rejection roiling inside me prompted me to start thinking of innovative things I could do to play a more significant and meaningful role in my daughters’ lives. I became a student of what makes an effective parent. I resolved to learn all I could about what it means to be a loving and capable father. I undertook a deliberate, self-imposed program of study, reading book after book on parenting. I also took every opportunity to talk to other fathers about what they did and didn’t do, and what they found worked and didn’t work. And, of course, I observed other families and drew my own conclusions about which fathering behaviors produced good results and which ones didn’t. One of my first insights was that fathering was a skill I could learn (like cooking or playing golf), not something that just happened to a man when he had children. It wasn’t a fixed, inborn talent, but rather something that could be taught, acquired, implemented, and constantly improved upon. Great parents are made, not born.
things, such as how to give a dinner party, the importance of having a rich vocabulary, and stories about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When I was away from home, my nightly letters were an attempt to get the attention of my daughters and not be “out of sight, out of mind.” I soon realized that the letters were a wonderful way to tell my daughters things and pass on knowledge, love, and wisdom that I might find difficult to do face-to-face. Like a lot of men, I wasn’t very good at expressing my feelings verbally. I found it easier to do in letters. Another family ritual was to hold a weekly family meeting with a written agenda. Our family members took turns chairing and running the meetings, which usually lasted about half an hour. The agenda would contain perhaps 15 items relating to family matters, such as upcoming vacations, organizing the trips for the next day’s multiple soccer games, deciding how to organize chores more fairly, going over New Year’s resolutions, providing encouragement, and sharing “rocks.” The rocks agenda item involved each family member stating the one or two most important projects she faced in the coming week, such as an exam, repairing a frayed relationship, or completing an unfinished task.
Inspired by my studies of parenting, and with Gail’s support, I introduced new traditions and family rituals to help build a strong family and set up our kids to succeed. These were all constructive things we would do as a family that our children could rely on to happen, so that they would grow up with a strong sense of rootedness, love, and trust. When children know that there are certain things they can count on, they feel more confident that they can excel in the world rather than be defeated by it. Our children knew that they could always come home for support, encouragement, and guidance. They knew they would be safe. Whatever madness was happening in the world, our children knew their family was a secure place of trust, sanity, and love.
The encouragement agenda item was important. During encouragement, everyone in the family, in turn, offered encouragement (not necessarily praise) to every member of the family for doing something right. For example, I might say, “Kim, you worked really hard on that calculus homework last night, and I commend you for that.” Or, “Tina, you lost the tennis match 0-8 but you didn’t give up and kept focused until the end.” Encouragement is a mechanism to get everyone to focus on what is going right in the family. The point was to avoid the natural tendency in people and families to focus on what is going wrong.
Unfortunately, not all of my attempts to create rituals worked out. I could never get my daughters to buy into the idea of a regular “Date with Dad,” during which I would spend one-onone time with a daughter during an evening doing anything she wanted.
My daughters often resisted these family meetings, but I insisted. They enabled us to communicate more effectively. They helped to maintain order in what otherwise could have been a chaotic household. And they gave our daughters the experience of organizing and leading meetings.
One successful idea I came up with was to write letters to my daughters every night when I was away traveling and making films. I invested a lot of time and effort in these letters and wrote hundreds of them over the years. I saw that my daughters really liked them. The letters were a way I could build a meaningful connection with my children. I wrote to them about all sorts of
11 Family Rituals and Traditions for Bonding:
1. Over about a nine-month period when my children were young, we created a Family Mission Statement. Everyone contributed to it. We then framed it and hung it on the wall in a prominent place in the house, so it would be a constant reminder to us all. 2. Every year on January 1, we each wrote our goals for the coming year. I collected them all and made copies for everyone, so that we all knew each other’s goals and could help each other achieve them. My daughters are in their 30s now, but I still collect everyone’s New Year’s resolutions!
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3.I keep a family journal (with a particular focus on gratitude), and every Christmas Day I give each member of the family a book of about 200-300 pages chronicling everything of interest that has gone on in the family that year. 4.We started a “predictions” tradition, in which every member of the family makes a secret prediction on January 1 for the coming year. On the following Christmas Day, we open the sealed envelopes and see how accurate the predictions have been. As we go around the table, smiles and laughter fill the room. 5. On each child’s birthday, I hide dollars around the family room equal in number to their age, such as 12 dollar bills on a 12th birthday. 6.Also on their birthdays, I developed a treasure hunt for each birthday gift. Following funny, cryptic clues, often poems, the birthday girl went around the house to find the hidden gifts. 7. I often bought T-shirts for the whole family with a family photo on them, or with the words, “The Shearer-Palmer Family,” emblazoned across the front. 8.I did science experiments regularly with my daughters. 9. I took my daughters on filming trips to Alaska, Tahiti, Barbados, the Bahamas and other fun and educational places. While the “Date with Dad” idea may have fizzled, I found other ways to spend time one-on-one with the girls. 10. I instigated daily sessions of something I called “teacher/ student,” in which my kids and I would reverse roles and they became the teacher. They could pick any topic (usually something they had learned in school) and had to teach it to me.
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11. Finally, a crucially important thing I had to learn was how to say, “I love you.” I learned from a book on fathering that it was important for children to hear their dads say that to them. I disciplined myself to say it. It wasn’t easy.
As I gained the skills to be a better father, I learned to apply those same skills to my professional work. This helped me become a better filmmaker, nonprofit executive, and professor, because my leadership abilities improved. I kept my promises, made more of them, and spoke more clearly. I listened more actively and was kinder. I became more self-aware and less selfabsorbed. All of the qualities that made a good father also made for a good leader. I slowly learned to live more intentionally--to decide what person I wanted to be and to commit to achieving that goal, acknowledging that I will forever be a work in progress. Despite my initial worries about having kids, it turned out that having children was the best and wisest decision I ever made. My children bring extraordinary meaning and purpose to my life. They helped move me from being a selfish, egocentric male to a person who is more sensitive and open to listening, more willing to apologize for mistakes, and more loving, empathetic and generous. My daughters have brought out the best in me, and I hope that Gail and I have done the same for them. Being a parent led me to think carefully about how to create a meaningful legacy that will survive me and will be my gift to the future I will not see. I want “my memory to be for a blessing.” I want to leave more than just money. I hope to ripple into the future, just as my parents have rippled through me. (Rippling,
psychiatrist Irvin Yalom’s word, refers to passing parts of our self on to others and helps to reduce the dread of death.) I read Laura Roser’s outstanding book Your Meaning Legacy and it inspired me to think about what I want to pass on when I die, especially my non-financial assets like love, wisdom, beliefs, and values. As a result, I’m in the process of producing family memories, expressions of love, a tangible record of my life, a video message, and an ethical will. An ethical will (also called a legacy letter) is a way to convey ethical values, wisdom, and love between the generations. It contains personal reflections, values, and ideals. The idea behind creating a meaningful legacy is to capture my essence as a person and my vision for the future, so that future generations (my heirs) can benefit from it. In this way, I hope to live beyond my death and continue to support my family even after I am gone. My death does not end my responsibility to those I leave behind. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind: In those whom they have blessed they live a life again.” In other words, after I die, I can live in others by what I gave. When I am no longer here, you can find me in my daughters and grandchildren, and in my friends.n
Chris Palmer is an author, speaker, former professor, and a wildlife filmmaker. He serves on the Board of Montgomery Hospice, is writing a book on death and dying, is a hospice volunteer, and runs a death and dying group for the Bethesda Metro Area Village. During his filmmaking career, he has swum with dolphins and whales, come face-to-face with sharks and Kodiak bears, camped with wolf packs, and waded hip-deep through Everglade swamps. Over the past thirty-five years, he has spearheaded the production of more than 300 hours of original programming for prime-time television and the IMAX film industry, work that won him and his colleagues many awards, including two Emmys and an Oscar nomination. He wrote about wildlife filmmaking in his two controversial books, Shooting in the Wild and Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker. His latest book is College Teaching at Its Best, and his next book is about success and how to achieve it. He has also written books on parenting and on how to succeed after graduating from college. In 2004, Chris joined the full-time faculty of American University where he taught filmmaking and founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. He also created a popular class called Design Your Life for Success. He retired from AU in 2018. Chris and his wife, Gail, have lived in Bethesda, MD, for 45 years and raised their three daughters there. They now have eight grandchildren. Chris was a stand-up comic for five years appearing in venues all over the Washington DC metro area.
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How Will You Change Th Make The Most Impact With Charity
l Animal Rights, Welfare, and Services l Wildlife Conservation l Zoos and Aquariums
l Early Childhood Programs and Services l Youth Education Programs and Services l Adult Education Programs and Services l Special Education l Education Policy and Reform Scholarship and Financial Support
Community Development l l l l
United Ways Jewish Federations Community Foundations Housing and Neighborhood Development
Arts, Culture, Humanities l Libraries, Historical Societies and Landmark Preservation l Museum l Performing Arts l Public Broadcasting and Media
Resources for Intelligent Giving: www.charitynavigat
l Development and Relief Services l International Peace, Security, and Affairs l Humanitarian Relief Supplies
l Environmental Protection and Conservation l Botanical Gardens, Parks, and Nature Centers
l Diseases, Disorders, and Disciplines l Patient and Family Support l Treatment and Prevention Services l Medical Research
Research and Public Policy
l Non-Medical Science & Technology Research l Social and Public Policy Research
Human and Civil Rights l Advocacy and Education
l Religious Activities l Religious Media and Broadcasting
l Childrenâ€™s and Family Services l Youth Development, Shelter, and Crisis Services l Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution l Multipurpose Human Service Organizations l Homeless Services l Social Services
Prairie Legend By Gloria Bares, Author of A Bionic Woman, her book of memoirs
n many Saturday mornings I sit with my grandmother, Mimi, on the porch outside her flat in Los Angeles, California, enjoying our favorite breakfast: fresh raspberries I call “garnets” dolloped with whipped cream and just a little cereal on top. This is our time to talk. She tells me about her life when she was seven years old, like me. Her name was Coral Marie Farrier, her childhood days spent on the family farm in the Dakota Territories during the l880s. They grew Durham wheat so tall she could hide among stalks of the sun-gold grain or run around and in-between the sky-high piles of sheaves. Her friends were the farm animals— chickens, roosters, pigs, two cows, two sheep, and a dog. Mimi tells me there were also hard times on the farm— sometimes little money, a child seriously ill, food running low, a family member injured. Yet . . . she says, smiling mysteriously, her eyes shining, those times birthed the legend of the prairie basket. When someone’s spirits needed a lift, a very large wicker basket would appear on their doorstep, decorated and filled with what they needed. No one knew who sent it. The receiver kept the basket until she learned of another who could use a boost. Redecorated and refilled, it was secretly passed on to another’s doorstep. Mimi’s story of her altruistic farm community awakened within me the first seeds of compassion, growing and slowly blossoming, like the legend of the Prairie Basket. And I smile.n
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Gloria Bares was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1932. Gloria is proud to publish her new book of memoir poems as a legacy for her family. Purchase A Bionic Woman II on Amazon and contact her at email@example.com.
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Grab Some Popcorn … It’s Family Movie Night How Paulette Pantoja Helps Families Enjoy Quality Entertainment By Laura A. Roser
ike many, Paulette Pantoja was a child of divorce. She’d spend hours watching TV with her sister, while her single mother was away at work. “It was an escape,” she says. “A way for my sister and me to laugh together and be with each other.”
to continue the amazing work that it does in Los Angeles. One fundraising event she helps organize is called Miles of Music 5K, which is an annual 5K run sponsored by KIIS FM and other wonderful supporters fully supporting Youth Mentoring Connection.
That love of entertainment has now become a mission for Paulette. Her company, Blu Digital Group, specializes in providing services and software to the media & entertainment industry. Her service division processes, qualifies, and distributes film/TV content to global video streaming services, while her software division licenses its video management and distribution software. “I want to deliver the same joy to families that I felt as a kid.”
She also mentors young women through the Exceptional Women Awardees non-profit group, which was founded by Larraine Segil and her Larraine Segil Scholars, of which Paulette is a member. This organization focuses on helping women progress in their professional career paths by providing a group of supportive, passionate, and driven female professionals.
That joy involves being able to watch your favorite movie or TV program anywhere, anytime, and in multiple ways. As technology has evolved, so has the way entertainment is consumed. Paulette’s focus is on ensuring that the visual and sound quality seen on the big screen makes it to your individual screen at home or on personal devices at the best quality possible. With a background in computer programing, a B.A. in Film and Television from UCLA, an MBA from Pepperdine University, and a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10ksb program, Paulette loves combining both her technical and creative sides to deliver joy to millions of viewers around the world. Her company now has over one hundred employees and works with major studios in Hollywood and around the world.
It’s always been important for Paulette to give back to the community. In her business, she makes an effort to give opportunities to recent college graduates and those wanting to enter into the industry. She wants to help young people get a foot in the door and those that have a yearning to learn and be a part of a growing company. Paulette is also a Board Member of Youth Mentoring Connection, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help at-risk youth by matching them with caring adult mentors and placing them within a structured group dynamic. As a Board Member, Paulette is responsible for bringing awareness to the organization and helping them raise funds
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Paulette continues to support her alma mater by being a UCLA
Alumni Mentor for current and former students where she is matched with mentees looking to enter into the same field or seeking advice on career advancement.
Practical vs. Idealistic
Paulette says she was fortunate to have a balance of ideologies from her parents. Her mother was the idealistic one — believing that Paulette could do anything. This gave Paulette the drive to try new things with confidence, to take risks and to believe in her instincts. While her father was the pragmatist — believing in hard work and respect. A piece of advice he gave her that she has never forgotten was about how perception and consistency in your professional career were crucial. “You could be on time a hundred times and late only once to work. The time you were late will stand out above all.” This, along with his other advice, attributed to Paulette’s overall work ethic and how she viewed the professional world. With two hard working parents, the unfortunate financial situations her family faced, and the ideologies from her mother and father, Paulette had it set in her mind that she would succeed at whatever she put her mind and energy into by putting into practice everything she learned and experienced. Throughout Paulette’s life, she’s learned many valuable lessons. One lesson is the importance of work-life balance and focusing on family. “When I started my company in 2007, I was not married yet so I was able to devote long hours at work and make my business the central part of my life. I did this so I wouldn’t have to later on in life.” With her business now 12 years old, Paulette makes it a priority to spend as much time as possible with her two sons and wife.
Paulette Pantoja is Founder and CEO of Blu Digital Group, a media services operation, which processes, qualifies, and distributes film/tv content using its proprietary software technologies. Since the company’s founding in 2007, Paulette has helped Blu Digital Group play an increasingly influential role within the digital media distribution supply chain. Paulette holds a patent in an online quality assurance and project management system. She earned a BA in Film and Television from UCLA and an MBA from Pepperdine University’s President and Key Executive program. Paulette also graduated from the Executive Program at UCLA Anderson School of Management and the Goldman Sachs 10ksb program. She’s also learned that — as her father said — that followthrough and professionalism are incredibly important and that you shouldn’t expect people to give you a second chance if you don’t follow-through the first time. Paulette is excited for the future of her company and her family, and she continues to do as much as she can to give back to her community. “When I started my career and company, I did not have a mentor or group to look to for advice and support. I want to be this for other women, young professionals and entrepreneurs, and I hope that all my experiences, good and bad, can be of value to others in their career path.”n
Another lesson is not to let people’s negative perceptions influence you and your confidence. “I learned quite a bit when becoming a business owner about how others perceive you as an employer, competitor, vendor, co-worker, and how not to let these things make you second guess yourself or interfere with making sound and wise decisions.”
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PRACTICING Better Listening How to Become a Confidant By Laura A. Roser
hen people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”—Ernest Hemingway, American journalist, novelist, and short-story writer
Are you thinking about interviewing your loved ones to capture their stories? The first step is getting them to open up. You would think this would be easy, but it can prove to be rather difficult — especially if you’re not used to talking about deep life topics with that person. At the University of Maryland distinguished social
psychologist Arie Kruglanski once did a study about motivation. What he and his team found is that there are two motivational mindsets: the thinking mindset and the doing mindset.
Thinking vs. Doing Mindset
When you listen to someone, you put yourself in the “thinking mindset.” You pay attention to details, process what is being said, and think through the implications. The second
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you focus on planning what you are going to say next, you enter the “doing mindset” and don’t think through events carefully. You see this all the time in conversations or arguments. Someone will vent a frustration to a friend, and that friend will immediately offer solutions without truly hearing what the other person has said. Instead of spending a bit more time thinking through the problem, the friend jumps into action mode immediately. The point of an interview is to listen to your interviewee and collect responses. So you would think that this automatically puts you in the thinking mindset. But this isn’t necessarily the case. I hate to admit this, but in some interviews, I was so focused on the next question that I didn’t properly process what was being said. The problem with this is that when you focus on your next words, you often miss details that are important for follow-up questions and making the interview flow better. Your interviewee wants to feel heard. She wants to feel like you care about what she’s saying and not solely focused on rushing through your questions. In focusing on your next question, you may miss the emotion behind what is being said.
Best Practices for Better Listening
The following are some basic guidelines for better listening.
Listening Guideline 1: Lead with Curiosity When you’re genuinely curious about someone’s story or behavior, you turn off your defensiveness and openly accept that person for who she is. Your interviewee may tell you things that you find peculiar. Asking why she did something or what motivated her from a nonjudgmental place will allow your interviewee to open up and explain her thoughts and feelings. Listening Guideline 2: Know When You or the Other Person Is Fried Authentic listening requires humility and curiosity. Sometimes that just isn’t possible — your interviewee is tired or his mind is preoccupied or you aren’t in the right frame of mind. Don’t try to fake it. It won’t work — you’ll just come across as disingenuous or the interview will be forced. If you really want to save the interview, consider going on a walk or taking a break. Some light exercise can help dramatically. But if that doesn’t do the trick, the best thing to do is reschedule. Listening Guideline 3: Stay Focused Maintain eye contact, set your cell phone on “do not disturb,” and don’t let your mind wander. Focus on your interviewee’s responses and don’t interrupt. Listening Guideline 4: Don’t Try to Read Minds If your interviewee says something you don’t quite understand, ask what he means. Also, ask yourself if you’re making unfounded assumptions. Are you leaping to conclusions without asking for
Laura A. Roser is the founder and CEO of Paragon Road, the #1 authority in meaning legacy planning. For more information about meaning legacy planning services, visit www.paragonroad.com. more detail? It’s always better to check your assumptions than presume you know what the other person is thinking. Listening Guideline 5: Pay Attention to Body Language Your interviewee will have a baseline. Maybe she talks quickly. Maybe she hangs her head when she’s thinking about an answer. Pay attention to how the interviewee speaks, moves, and enunciates when she is relaxed. Throughout the interview, if you begin to see changes, you’ll know something is going on with him emotionally. If he starts tapping his foot, his voice pitches higher than usual, or he folds his arms and speaks in a whisper, this could mean that he is distressed, excited, tired, angry, or a variety of other emotions. Listening Guideline 6: Think Before You Speak Going along with Arie Kruglanski’s study mentioned above, remember that the most important thing is for your interviewee to feel heard. Once the interviewee finishes answering a question, spend a second or two absorbing what you heard. If you need more time, say so: “Give me a couple seconds to think about what you just said.” In these few seconds, think about if you want to ask relevant follow-up questions or if you’d like to move on to your next question. In either case, it’s a good idea to rephrase part of what he said so he knows you were listening. For example, if your grandfather just told you about his time working on the farm, you might say something like, “Thank you for sharing the story about getting up every morning to milk the cow. I’m sure that wasn’t easy. Now, tell me a little more about your mother. What was she like when you were growing up?” Listening Guideline 7: Never Judge (Even If It’s Really Tempting) The fastest way to cut an interview short is to show contempt for someone. If your interviewee feels your disdain, he will either become defensive or close off completely. Be honest with yourself here. Interviewing family can open up old wounds, and if you hit a topic where you really can’t see a way out of being judgmental, try to distance yourself and come at it with curiosity. If that still doesn’t work, it may be time to change the subject or take a break. If you or your interviewee is agitated, the result isn’t going to be good.n
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“If you care about your impact on the world and your family, read Your Meaning Legacy. It will teach you how to pass on what’s most important.” —Kevin Cashman, Global Head of CEO & Executive Development, Korn Ferry and Bestselling Author of Leadership from the Inside Out Download FREE Chapter
You Are Worth More Than Your Stuff Leave a Legacy That Matters Estate planning traditionally focuses on your financial assets—your stuff. But what about your other assets? Such as your wisdom, values, beliefs, and experiences. These are essential to pass on as well. In Your Meaning Legacy, legacy planning expert Laura Roser reveals a step-by-step approach to cultivating, capturing and passing on what matters most.
WHAT ALL ANNUAL Givers Need to Know The “Tax Efficient” Charitable Giving Strategy By Brad Gornto, Esq., LL.M
hose who give to charity on a recurring annual basis are, simply put, a very special group of people. For them, giving $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more on an annual basis is just an extension of who they are as a human being. Giving on a recurring basis is part of their DNA, and they find great joy in supporting worthy charitable causes. Unlike people who decide to leave assets to charity upon their deaths, current annual donors also get to personally witness, and in some cases experience, the fruits of their generosity. The income tax savings generated by such annual charitable gifts rarely serve as the primary catalyst for such gifts. However, the federal income tax savings (and state income tax savings in most states) are significant and certainly serve as a valuable incentive for people to make charitable gifts. In fact, charitable giving and resulting income tax savings have been a foundational aspect of tax policy in our country since the inception of the federal income tax back in 1913.
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However, recent tax law changes have – for better or worse – made it more difficult for people to receive any additional income tax savings from annual charitable gifts under $25,000/ year. This is largely because the standard deduction, which all taxpayers receive each year regardless of any charitable gifting, doubled on January 1, 2018. In 2020, the standard deduction for a single person is $12,400, and for a married couple is $24,800. To understand the impact of the larger standard deduction, it is important to know that the charitable income tax deduction is one of the so-called itemized deductions. Every year all taxpayers have the option to claim the standard deduction or their itemized deductions. For example, if you are married and made $8,000 of charitable gifts (and no other itemized deductions) in a given year, then you should certainly claim the $24,800 standard deduction. In this example, claiming the standard deduction will save you $5,376 in taxes (at the 32% income tax bracket),
however, you will not receive any additional tax savings from your charitable gifts of $8,000. Currently, there are very few solutions available for annual givers to charity who would like to receive additional tax savings from their charitable gifts. The most common recommendation is for annual givers to “bunch” two, three, five, or more years of their typical amount of annual charitable gifts into a single lump sum payment in a single year. While this will work, bunching is not congruent with their preferred manner of giving to charity on an annual basis. Moreover, in many cases, such givers are not financially capable of making a large single gift to charity. There is, however, another well-established solution that surprisingly few annual givers (and professional advisors) know about, even though it presents a compelling solution for annual givers. For over 40 years, federal tax laws have authorized an annual giving tool that will generate a very large deduction, which is based on the promise to make annual charitable gifts in the future for a specified number of years. In the vast majority of cases, the immediate charitable deduction generated by this annual giving tool is between 90% to 95% of the sum of all the annual gifts to charity! This large deduction is allowed because the applicable IRS rules utilize a basic present value approach to determine the accelerated charitable deduction and the applicable IRS interest rate remains at historically low levels.1 The technical name of this well-established annual charitable giving tool is a reversionary charitable lead annuity trust, which is intentionally designed to be a grantor trust for federal income tax purposes. For brevity sake and for purposes of the remainder of this article, it is also commonly referred to as an “iCLAT.” 2 Let’s take a look at a simple example. Assume that Grace and Andrew, a married California couple in their 50s, regularly give $20,000 each year to their two favorite local charities and their church. They plan to continue making their typical level of annual gifts to charity for at least the next 10 years. If they decide to make their typical annual gifts for the next 10 years through an iCLAT, then they will receive a year 1 charitable deduction of $91,318, which is 91.3% of total payments to charity over such 10-year term! This deduction will save $29,200 in federal income taxes and, since they are California residents, $11,870 in state income tax savings, totaling $41,070 in combined federal and state tax savings. Conversely, if Grace and Andrew continue to make their gifts from their current bank account, then they will not receive any additional tax savings over the next 10 years! Think about that, with an iCLAT, they will save over $41,000 in taxes for simply continuing to make their accustomed level of charitable gifts for the next 10 years! An iCLAT works best for those annual givers who fall in one of these two ideal categories:
The applicable IRS 7520 rate for January 2020 is only 2.0%. 2. iCLAT is another name for a what is commonly referred to as a reversionary charitable lead annuity trust. iCLAT® is a registered trademark of Effectual Giving, LLC. 3. In 2020, the applicable federal estate tax exemption amount is $11,580,000 per individual ($23,160,000 for married couples). 1.
Brad Gornto has practiced law throughout Florida in the areas of complex estate & charitable planning, business law, probate and trust administration, and income tax planning for over twenty years. In addition to his active law practice, Brad is also the President and Founder of Effectual Giving, LLC, which is a consulting firm that assists charities, philanthropic families, and allied professionals across the country in the actual implementation of planned giving recommendations. Brad earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State University, his law degree (J.D.) from the University Of Florida College Of Law, and his Masters in Taxation (LL.M.) from the University Of Miami School Of Law. Brad currently volunteers as a member of the Florida State University Foundation, Inc. Planned Giving Advisory Council and the President of the Charitable Gift Planners of Central Florida. 1st Ideal Category: Annual givers who have a large ordinary income event of at least $250,000 in a particular year from a large bonus, Roth IRA/401k conversion, large distributions from a IRA/40k or other retirement plan, stock options, restricted stock compensation arrangements, sale of business, large contingency fees (such as attorney fees) or large commissions. 2nd Ideal Category: Annual givers who are currently earning a high level of income, such as executives, doctors, attorneys, veterinarians, accountants, engineers, professional athletes, architects, etc. but plan to retire in the next few years. Note, if you decide to research charitable lead trusts on the internet or you happen to discuss them with your financial advisor, attorney, and/or accountant, then keep in mind that there are other types of charitable lead trusts, which are not only more commonly known than the iCLAT, but also significantly more complex. Therefore, most information and professional knowledge concerning charitable lead trusts only pertain to the traditional (and more complex) form of charitable lead trust – and not to the iCLAT, which is much simpler to understand, establish, and administer. So, don’t get confused if you discover this after conducting some research on your own. Traditional charitable lead trusts are primarily used to save future estate taxes, which only impact the very wealthiest of families these days.3 However, an iCLAT is an entirely different story. Since it is solely designed to save income taxes, and not estate taxes, it is beneficial to a much larger number of people, particularly to those who already give charity on a recurring annual basis. In conclusion, the iCLAT is a compelling annual giving strategy to consider in the current income tax environment. This is certainly true for those who currently give on a recurring annual basis (or plan to do so in the near future) and want to receive additional income tax savings from their generosity in the current year. If you are interested in learning more about the iCLAT, then please visit www.iclat.net or simply contact Mr. Gornto at brad@ iclat.net or (844) 464-2528.n
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The Toronto Light Festival By Matthew Rosenblatt, Creator and Executive Director of the Toronto Light Festival
he Toronto Light Festival offers a visual journey and a playful adventure throughout the walking streets of Torontoâ€™s Distillery District. During the cold, dark days of winter, The Toronto Light Festival offers visitors a reason to bundle up, get outside, and celebrate the season, creativity, and life in the big city. The Festival, now in its fourth year, exhibits local and international light artists. Artworks are curated to educate, warm hearts, inspire, or just put a smile on visitorsâ€™ faces. We wanted to create something special, a happening that would lift the collective spirit of the City. In a world with so many dark and ominous messages, our goal was to create a positive, magical urban oasis where people of all ages and backgrounds could and would enjoy together. Simply put, we want to help transform a moment of consciousness, from the cold and the dark into the warmth of the light. The festival lasts January 17-March 1, 2020. Visit torontolightfest.com for more information.n
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ENDURING There are families of enduring greatness. They have achieved excellence in times past, yet continue to pursue what made them great. They have stories to tell. They embody high character, are celebrated throughout history and loved by all who know them.
Whatâ€™s your legacy?
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Your Life Story Can Take Many Shapes and Sizes By Flora Morris Brown, PhD
n the surface it seems writing your life story should be easy. After all, you’re the main character, and all the experiences that make up your story are filed in your memory. And yet, most of us struggle with where and how to start. There are many reasons for that, but two primary ones stand out. 1. You think your life is boring and unlikely to be of interest to anyone else, perhaps not even to your family. I was having lunch with a few retirees when one of them, upon learning I help people write their life stories, said, “My life has been dull. No one would want to read it.” Yet a few seconds later he added, “Now, if you asked me what it was like to work at Disneyland for 30 years, I could talk all day long.” “Then that is where you begin your life story,” I said. TV and Hollywood productions, with all their fast action, music, skilled actors, and special effects, have made many of us believe our lives are boring. That’s absolutely not true. Those fictional accounts are no comparison to the real experiences of our lives. As you write your life story, focus on whatever times and events you wish, and you will begin to see beauty and meaning in things you once took for granted. My maternal grandmother, pictured here with my mother at age three, died a few years later when giving birth to my uncle. My mother and I would love to have known about her life, her values, her aspirations, and more. Thankfully, we have this photo. 2. You are insecure about your writing skills. “Some critics willwrite ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’—which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.” No one is a born writer. Start writing your life story and you’ll become a better writer as you go along. Besides, the content of your story is more important to your loved ones than the quality of your writing. If you decide to publish your story, you can engage the services of an editor and proofreader to make it ready for the public eye. I have a cookie recipe on a now-yellowed index card my step grandmother wrote in pencil and sent to my mother when I was a baby. This decades-old recipe is very precious to me, complete with the errors made by a woman who spent her childhood picking cotton and doing manual labor instead of learning to read and write in elementary school.
Two Primary Benefits of Writing Your Life Story
We have legitimate concerns that block us all when we set out to write our life stories, but two primary benefits to writing your life story will, I hope, override your hesitance.
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1. Telling about past hurts can help you heal. At the start of my life story workshops a few students often announce there are things about their past they don’t want to relive. When I assure them that they get to choose what they want to share, they breathe a sigh of relief, and invariably end up writing about that very painful experience they’ve kept buried for so long that it spills onto the page. Once they’ve gotten it out they always feel lighter. Even those of us who listen to them reading their story are relieved and feel a bond with them. 2. Sharing details of your life will be valued by your descendants and sometimes go on to inspire strangers you’ll never meet. Your life story is not yours alone. It belongs to anyone who reads it and is empowered, encouraged or inspired by it. Diaries give meaning to the people who leave them and give us a glimpse into a past we would never have seen otherwise. The many diary entries kept by Anne Frank, for example, gave her a new routine while she was in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She got the idea to start her diary when on March 28, 1944, the Dutch minister Bolkestein, who had fled to London, appealed to the Dutch to keep their important documents so they’d have a record of what they experienced during the German occupation.
Although Anne aspired to be a writer, keeping her diary had a much more important and immediate benefit for her. “The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I’d absolutely suffocate” (Anne Frank, 16 March 1944). Although her diary was compiled and published after her death, Anne Frank became one of the most famous diarists. Yet many other diaries written by ordinary people are meaningful to the diarist and to those who discover the diaries later. One such story that illustrates this is “Getting to Know My Grandmother-in-Law Through Her Diaries” (Legacy Arts, Issue 17, January 2019, pp. 8-11). Treasures can be hiding in your own or a loved one’s piles of papers, so carefully examine what at first may seem like clutter. You may find buried treasure.
More Ways to Convey Your Life Story
If the idea of writing your story is still just too scary, you’ll be glad to know a variety of options are available to you for passing along your unique life story or that of your family. Oral history. During the Great Depression, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), from 1936 to 1938 under the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), sent out-of-work writers to collect the life stories of ordinary people. The writers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia focused on interviewing former African American slaves. Because folklore expert John A. Lomax, who worked for the FWP, found these narratives intriguing, other states were directed to interview former slaves as well. The interviewees had been from one to fifty years old at the time of the Emancipation, and some were as old as one hundred at the time of the interviews. The result was Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–1938, containing transcriptions of more than 2,000 interviews along with 500 photographs of former slaves. These interviews were edited and have been digitized, giving us a glimpse of daily plantation life, some of brutality and others of surprising nostalgic memories. Stories captured on audio recordings and digitized give us a priceless look at a time that would have otherwise been lost forever. Your family’s oral history does not have to be as formal as this project. Making audio or video recordings of your loved ones sharing details of their lives will be quite gratifying for years to come. If you can manage to get transcriptions created with tools such as http://temi.com, you will have a valuable legacy to pass on to future generations. Artistic history. Ji Lee, a creative director for Facebook who lives in New York, told how his seventy-three-year-old retired father in Brazil became a grumpy couch potato after Ji Lee’s sister, her husband, and their two children, to whom Grandpa had devoted a lot of time, moved from Brazil back to Korea. Ji Lee remembered how his father used to draw pictures for him and his sister when they were kids. Seeking to find a way for his father to become more active and engaged, he asked his dad to start drawing again. His father was initially uninterested. But when Ji Lee and his wife had their first child, it was easier to convince his father to create drawings to send his faraway grandkids in Korea and in New York. Fortunately, Ji Lee’s mom was tech-savvy and encouraged her husband. As he began drawing pictures she posted them on Instagram for their grandchildren. Eventually, his father got more excited when Ji Lee promised him they could sell the pictures and use the money for him to travel to Korea and New York to visit. https://instagram.com/drawings_for_my_grandchildren/
Flora Morris Brown is an author, publishing coach, and certified Guided Autobiography Facilitator and Trainer. She is a reformed coffee snob with an unhealthy love of British murder mysteries. She helps writers navigate the choppy waters of publishing and guides people who want to capture their life stories to leave behind for their families. Flora earned a B.A., M.S., and PhD from the University of Southern California and enjoyed a 20-year teaching career at Fullerton College. Now Professor Emeritus, she has published 14 books, the most recent of which is The Color Your Life Happy Do It My Way Journal, available at https://amzn.to/2FG0CXh. Her upcoming online course will make her popular life story workshops available globally. Visit her website www.florabrown.com, to learn more and access free downloads. Memories through crafts. When 89-year-old Nebraskan Margaret Hubl passed away in July 2018, she left behind a spectacular treasure in the form of keepsake quilts she had made for her family. To honor her memory, they displayed, on the pews at her funeral, all the quilts she had ever made. As her family went through her things, they found another surprise. Margaret had kept a notebook indicating, for each quilt, whose quilt she was creating, the day she put it in the quilt frame, and the day she finished it. https://daily.lessonslearnedinlife.com/margaret-hublgrandmother-funeral-displayed-all-her-quilts-to-honor-hermemory-christina-tollman Narratives that heal. A nearby community theater invited five local veterans and the wife of one of the veterans to participate in a five- to eight-week theater workshop where they created their personal narratives of wartime experiences. At the end of the workshop, in a public performance, they shared their war experiences as well as the physical, emotional, and psychological after-effects upon returning home. In Veterans Speak Up, the packed audience was deeply moved by their powerful stories that covered three different wars. https://chancetheater.com/read-ocregisters-coverage-voices-veterans-storytelling-project/
Don’t Let Life Get in the Way
When we were young my mother told us stories about her everyday life, hardships, and triumphs, but those memories are fuzzy now. She never thought about writing them down, and neither did I or my siblings. Now I’m one of the few remaining links to my family’s history. Perhaps you are too. Capturing memories of your life and those of your loved ones is one of the most important things you can do. Getting your story in writing helps to ensure it will survive as part of your legacy for many generations. But don’t wait. Whether it’s through photos, craft projects, original art by your loved ones, gather those memories in whatever shape and format you can manage to start. You and your family will be glad you did.n
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The 7 Essential Questions for Smart Giving By Greg Doepke
ou have come to that point in your life when you realize that giving to others or to a cause greater than yourself is becoming more important and meaningful to you. You realize that your giving will bring meaning and purpose to your life, and it will make you happier. And you also find it liberating and exhilarating to realize you are on the precipice of an uncharted cliff — and what you do next is up to you! Many individuals would like to learn more about giving of themselves and their resources whether that is giving to their family, charities, or by giving in ways that they may not even know about. They aren’t quite sure where to begin. They want to be smarter with their generosity and ensure what they are giving — be it time, talent, treasure, or trust — has the greatest impact possible on the causes that are important to them. Realizing your desire to do more for others, embracing your giving heart, and listening to your practical head are the means to an end when it comes to bringing giving to fruition. To begin the process, a certain amount of self-reflection will be required. Aristotle may have said it best: “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.” In considering your own situation, below are seven questions to think about and perhaps discuss in collaboration with a philanthropy coach as you nurture your growing desire to do more and aspire to learn the ways, tools, and techniques of giving. At Aspire to Give, we apply these seven essential questions in our proprietary process as part of the philanthropic conversation.
So much in life circles back to the fundamental question of “why?” In the end, the answer to the question why, is our motivation — our reason — for doing something and when it comes to our giving — whether that be to family, to charity, or through social impact investing — each giver has a personal reason fueling the need to give. Often it takes conversation and reflection to figure out your “why give” answer. In some cases, it may be the desire to make a difference, to give back, to lend a helping hand to those in need, or to perpetuate personal and family values. In other cases, it could be your life was affected by a certain situation or event and you want to help others going through similar experiences. Understanding and articulating your “why give” is the emotional connection and motivation for giving. It’s the first and most important step to smart
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giving and the answer serves as the springboard in addressing the other six questions.
Who to Give to?
This is a question that is in direct correlation with your answer to “why give?” What is important with this question is to assure that your answers to the why and the who are intentionally aligned to be emotionally satisfying, meaningful, and mutually beneficial for all involved. If your motivation for giving stems from a specific personal experience, the who might be a certain organization or passion that addresses what is important to you. If you want to give back simply because you can afford to do so, the answer of who to give to may be more complicated. In this instance, this will require some personal reflection followed by research. As a good steward of your resources, you want to identify and screen the nonprofits that receive your gifts. What are your personal and family mission and the anticipated social return on investment (SROI) of your financial giving? What do you know about the nonprofit’s board leadership, infrastructure, and composition? How much of your financial gift is used for social impact vs. organizational overhead? These are just a few of the questions to consider as you make your giving plan.
Where to Give?
Before deciding where to give, ask questions. Do the leg work required to ensure that the answer to where you give brings about your desired result and maximum impact. Do you want to give within your local community? Or do you prefer to give regionally, nationally, or even overseas? If you give locally, is the nonprofit a local nonprofit or a community branch of a national nonprofit? If you give to a local branch, how much stays local and how much goes to the national affiliation?
When to Give?
Oftentimes, the bequest at death is the by-default option for when to give. There are other options such as “giving while living,” which provides more control on directed giving and gives you the joy of seeing your generosity used during your lifetime. Another option for when to give may be anticipating the sale of real estate or a business. Sometimes, tax consequences may be a factor for considering the timing of your giving. If you are giving your time and talents to a specific cause or organization, when to get involved may depend on your family situation, your health, and your availability. Are you retired, still working but have flexibility within your schedule, or is your time
limited to weekends only? Is this something you will do on your own or will you invite your children or grandchildren to participate and use it as a teaching moment instilling the values that matter to you?
What to Give?
For some, the choice is simple. For others with higher incomes or net worth, what to give becomes more challenging. Cash, securities, real estate, closely held business stock, life insurance, retirement assets, or even collectibles can be given. Each giver should assess their situation to determine what makes the most sense to give. It’s also a good time to broaden your horizons and think beyond money or material gifts. Maybe when you begin your giving journey, the first step is to offer your time. Getting involved in a local charity or church organization that is doing work that is close to your heart may be a good option as you consider what to give in the long-term. Think about your specific talents and check within your community to see if you could contribute in a different way that is just as valuable as a monetary donation—perhaps more so through the relationships that will be established through volunteering.
How to Give?
Again, expanding your typical understanding of giving is a good place to start. Is it best for you to start out by offering your time and talents or making a financial gift? Would it benefit your hometown more to start with a combination of these? Should you give directly, or through some other means such as a donor advised fund, private foundation, charitable gift annuity, or a specific type of charitable trust? What is the tax impact? Should you give as an incentive, as an impact investment, or to facilitate community development? Do you want to engage your children or grandchildren in your giving? How to give is a layered question with answers coming in many forms. There is not a cookie-cutter answer that can be applied to all. That is why working with a trusted, professional advisor may help provide a clear sense and understanding of how you give impacts the overall giving aspirations you have defined for yourself.
How Much to Give?
This may be one of the more complex and difficult questions to answers as many factors come into play. It is common for individuals who want to give to ask: How much can I give and still ensure my family’s financial security and personal financial independence? If you have enough money for your own lifetime and for your family’s financial security, you may be able to experience the joys of “giving while living” or, if you prefer, leaving donations as a bequest at death. At this point, consulting with a trusted advisor may be a
Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies; as well as on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy. As the founder of Aspire to Give℠, a social enterprise dedicated to advancing philanthropy, Greg educates and equips individuals, business owners, professional advisors, and nonprofits with the knowledge and philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. good way to determine exactly what can be allocated for personal needs, family obligations, and the greater good.
Your Next Step
There you have it — the seven essential questions for smart giving. Our hope is that these questions help raise your awareness on the process behind giving. For it is through the giving of ourselves and our resources, including financial resources, that we can make a difference, give back, and help those in need. It is through intentional and aligned giving that we can feel really good while finding a true sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. When you think about it, intentional, meaningful, and impactful giving is not that easy. It requires some soul-searching thought of who we are, our values, and what is really important to us. We have what we refer to as our giving wheelhouse — our time, our talents, our treasures (financial resources), and our trusted relationships (personal network) — all available as giving means. We have choices to make as to where we give — our family, charity, a special cause, or social impact investing within our communities. We integrate the seven essential questions within the giving process to discover and align our purpose with our passion, design our giving plan, and then deliver our own unique giving gifts. Using our philanthropic giving process, we can then give in a way that is smart, effective and impactful to create both a lasting and a living legacy for ourselves and our families. Our hope — our aspiration — is that we may serve you, those with a “giving heart,” and equip you with the resources and knowledge to become an even better version of your giving self. Aspire to Give® will continue to share with you our leading-edge thinking through our blogs, articles, books, and other resources. In fact, a more in-depth look at these seven essential questions is explored in my new book, Aspire to Give® How to Create a More Meaningful Life through Your Giving, is now available as both a digital Kindle book and a print-on-demand version may be purchased at amazon.com. We want you to consider Aspire to Give as your personal resource and as a trusted source to help you become the best you can be on your life’s journey of aspirational giving! Let’s do some good!n
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