Approaching Philanthropy, Part 2: Discovering Your Gift

What gifts do you have to give to the philanthropic community? The answer is often a lot more than just money. We believe it’s wise to consider all the ways that you can give in order to maximize both your personal satisfaction and the positive change you can make in the world.

How we get involved in charity is unique to each of us. One way to discover your true giving potential is to spend some time thinking about five key areas: intrinsic drivers, available time, areas of expertise, past experiences and financial capacity.

Your intrinsic drivers

Your intrinsic drivers are the thoughts, feelings and desires that naturally motivate you. What matters to you? What ignites your passion? What type of work gives you the greatest sense of fulfillment? What outcomes would be deeply satisfying for you?

For some people, giving a cash donation is nice, but nothing compares to being hands-on. They want to personally engage with the issues they care about. They may want to take part in physical activity or be in direct contact with the people they are helping. They may thrive on thinking strategically, planning and managing, or delving into areas like budgeting and fundraising. We think it’s important to understand what level and style of engagement is going to be best for you.

Your available time

Time is a finite resource, and your capacity to give it away is an important consideration. We’ve seen many retirees make philanthropy a core part of their schedule. These are folks who have the free time to do things like serve meals at a homeless shelter or participate in Habitat for Humanity builds on a regular basis.

On the other hand, if you’re heading a young family and building a busy career, you might be looking for a more streamlined level of engagement. You might lean more heavily on providing financial support and only volunteer on an occasional basis.

The balance between your intrinsic drivers and the time and money you are able to devote to charity is one of the fundamental balancing acts of a philanthropic life.

Your areas of expertise

Expertise is an interesting and often overlooked factor. Community nonprofits tend to operate with slim budgets and lean staff, which means they usually cannot afford to hire the professional help they need. They have to look outside their own ranks for people with expertise in areas like human resources, accounting, legal and marketing.

If you have the skills they need, we find that nonprofits are usually more than happy to have you participating on committees and boards and being actively involved. When you contribute your expertise, you might find that it’s the quality of your time—rather than the mere quantity—that makes a meaningful impact.

Your past experience

Your past experience in the nonprofit world can shape the gifts you are able to give today. We’ve observed that as you spend time with an organization, your level of engagement tends to deepen. Often, we see financial supporters become volunteers, volunteers run committees and committee members join the board.

What has your past experience taught you about finding and managing donors? What have you learned about organizational management, engaging with the community, building teams and getting things done in the nonprofit environment? And how can you further develop and apply those experiences now?

Your financial capacity

Finally, financial capacity will always be an important driver of how you get involved. If you find yourself with more time than money, you might choose to prioritize giving your effort and skill. And if money is all you’re able to offer at this time, nonprofits will be very happy to have you aboard. They are, of course, always looking for financial supporters.

How we get involved is very much driven by where we are in our life cycle and our wealth cycle. The level and type of commitment we make will often evolve as we proceed through these cycles. One thing is for sure: almost no gift is too small. Whether you donate time, treasure or both to a charitable cause, the benefits for them—and you—can be priceless.

Your philanthropic path will likely depend on many factors, including your life experiences, your family values and the needs of your community. It will be shaped by what gives you personal meaning, the amount of time you have available, your unique skillset, your past experiences and your financial resources. A Corient Wealth Advisor can help make sure that your wealth management strategy and estate plan work hand-in-glove with your desire to give.

Other topics in this series:


Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Lesley Draper is a Partner and Wealth Advisor. She is responsible for managing client relationships, advising families and individuals on financial planning, tax planning and investment management. She received her BS from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA). She is currently studying for Charitable Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation. She is passionate about giving back and co-chairs RegentAtlantic's Neighborhood Nonprofits team and serves on multiple charitable boards, including P.G. Chambers School and Morristown Festival of Books. Prior to joining RegentAtlantic, Lesley was a Vice President at Citi Private Bank and subsequently spent 11 years at U.S. Trust Company of New York in the Financial Planning and Family Wealth departments. Lesley enjoys golfing, fly fishing and resides in Montclair, NJ with her partner Bob, two German Shepherds and four rescue cats.

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Jim has over 35 years of experience managing investment portfolios and providing financial advice to individuals, families and charitable organizations in the New York metropolitan region.

As a Wealth Advisor and Co-Chair of the Firm's Neighborhood Nonprofits Group, Jim works with a wide range of clients and has a particular specialty in philanthropic strategies. For donors, Jim works to construct strategies that align with the client's philanthropic goals. In the nonprofit sector, Jim focuses on helping organizations strengthen their financial position through endowment management and planned giving consulting. Jim currently serves on the boards of The Rippel Foundation and the Environmental Endowment of NJ.

Jim holds a BA in Business from Western Colorado University and an MBA in Finance from Drexel University, as well as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst certifications.


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