Last year was rough, but communities still banded together to support those in need. In August 2020, the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe had more than 16,000 active fundraising projects for small businesses affected by the coronavirus and hundreds of thousands more for individuals and families. On Giving Tuesday, Americans donated nearly $2.5 billion, a 25% increase from 2019, according to the GivingTuesday movement. Many understand the need to support their communities in times of distress.
The definition of charitable giving includes the concept that the “donor receives nothing of value in return.” However, we know that charitable giving provides substantial rewards — beyond the tax benefits — to the giver. It is for this reason that parents and grandparents are increasingly using giving as a tool for educating young people.
This education focuses on exposing the giver and their family, particularly children, to the needs and struggles of our friends, neighbors and community members of various socio-economic groups. This helps to develop empathy, which is the gateway to other positive emotions including joy, pride, motivation and wonder. This, in turn, leads to a more fulfilling life and teaches our children to become community leaders.
As Jews, we are reminded daily to teach our children to love Hashem with all our hearts and to perform his mitzvot.
Local organizations have begun to respond by creating charitable programs that allow the whole family to participate in giving. Jewish Family & Children’s Service, for example, specifically promotes giving and volunteerism programs that parents and children can participate in together. This includes a school backpack project and art supply kits, as well as others.
Other organizations have also begun to create givers and an expectation of volunteerism among children directly. For the 2020-2021 school year, Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine rolled out regular volunteer and charity programs for girls as young as 5. Girls are specifically encouraged to “identify a problem they want to do something about” and “be active and informed members of their communities.”
These programs have taken to heart the words of Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
From an estate planning perspective, parents have started setting forth activism, volunteerism and giving requirements in their estate plans for their children at all ages. Traditional estate planning focuses on what happens at the time of death. It plans only for the two inevitables — death and taxes. Yet, more and more families want to engage their heirs on levels that transcend money and financial transactions. Families are encouraging and even requiring giving and charitable support as a condition of inheritance, as in the following examples:
Before a beneficiary may inherit, the beneficiary must perform a certain number of volunteer hours or other acts of service. This can include serving on a committee or board of directors, running a food drive or planning a volunteer program.
A beneficiary must give a certain portion of the inheritance to a charity of their choice and within a specific time frame. This is intended to help the beneficiary identify what is important to them and start to make a valuable contribution to that cause.
A beneficiary must establish their own donor-advised fund to hold and annually distribute funds to various charities of their choice. Donor-advised funds create a pattern of annual giving.
A beneficiary must make a charitable donation and create a physical gift to honor their deceased loved one. This type of donation often leads to the creation of a scholarship in memory of the loved one. Other ideas are to create a garden or dedicate a bench or other physical item in the name of the deceased.
A beneficiary must create a private family foundation to support charities that are meaningful to the family and/or that create a family legacy. These types of foundations are often multi-generational and endeavor to bind the family together even after the matriarch and/or patriarch of the family has passed.
For families with lifetime irrevocable trusts, some requirements of giving and volunteerism can start now instead of waiting until there's a death.
Each of these types of requirements have the good intention of educating the beneficiary and building within them a sense of obligation to give and actively participate in the local community.
Giving and receiving an inheritance is generally thought of as a way to provide long-term financial security and make education and travel more accessible, especially for younger children. Yet, a beneficiary must have the skills and maturity to successfully receive an inheritance and not waste it foolishly. Establishing giving requirements as a condition for inheritance can help educate and train a beneficiary to appreciate the inheritance and use it for societal good.
Maimonides noted, and scientific studies have proved, the act of giving benefits both the receiver and the giver. Focusing on the giving as a tool for education may provide a longer legacy for giving than the financial
contribution alone. JN
Allison L. Kierman is on the board of directors for Congregation Beth Israel and is the managing partner of Kierman Law, PLC, an Arizona estate planning law firm based in Scottsdale. To learn more, visit kiermanlaw.com.