For Example — Stories of Giving

Strengthening a Community Through Thoughtful Giving

A woman learns that philanthropy can go much deeper than writing a check

A couple of years ago, I found myself in need of guidance and support. My investments provided taxable distributions of around $1 million per year, which was more than I needed to live on. Philanthropy had always been important to me, but I had never devoted as much energy to it as I wanted. I knew I could make a difference with my money—but how? My estate planning attorney recommended I contact a philanthropic advisor to get some much-needed expert insight.

Our first conversation was wide-ranging and fascinating. The philanthropic advisor asked about my passions, and I found myself talking at length about the years I’d spent as a teacher and my strong support for children’s issues. As we talked, I recalled that budget cuts had forced the city where I lived to drastically downgrade its arts programs.

My money could make a real difference in children’s lives

As an educator, I’d seen firsthand how my students had returned from art and music classes with a spring in their step and a renewed appetite for learning. It broke my heart to think that future generations would miss out. This became my mission!

The philanthropic advisory team got right to work, researching the arts education field and giving me a report that detailed where the needs were greatest, who else was giving and where the best opportunities were that aligned with what I wanted to achieve. Hearing more about these opportunities for giving energized me; I could see in a concrete way how my money could make a real difference in children’s lives.

I zeroed in on two of the opportunities they presented that involved some truly exciting, innovative work. The team did a deeper dive into the organizations to ensure they had the capacity and stability to accomplish what we were talking about. My philanthropic advisor facilitated meetings with both organizations so I could get a sense of whether we’d work well together. Our conversations stoked my enthusiasm even more. I felt like a partner, not just a benefactor.

I ended up making a multi-year gift to the organization for the specific program I wanted to support—providing instruments for a program offering music classes in schools over a three-year period. Thanks to my gift, hundreds of middle schoolers would now have the chance to pick up a trombone or viola and to connect with the special joy that music brings.

I felt like a partner, not just a benefactor

My philanthropic advisor and I came up with the metrics we would use to make sure the program was on track before the next portion of the gift was paid out. We made sure the organization knew what I wanted, how much I wanted to be involved and what I expected from them for my support. We put all of these details in place before finalizing the gift.

This experience taught me a lot. I saw how much a well-thought-out, strategically targeted gift could do—how it could create real, lasting change in a community. In fact, I’m going to do this again this year, but with a different focus: programs for children with emotional difficulties. I’m still deciding how this gift will be structured, but I’m already intrigued by a nonprofit that my philanthropic advisor introduced me to, one that’s doing fascinating work with family-driven support services.

My giving experience has made me feel much more connected to my community than I ever have before. My role is so much more than just writing a check; I am helping to brainstorm solutions that create change for the better.