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Training the next generation for generosity

I had the privilege of attending the first FoundationWiseSM conference at Focus on the Family the week before last.

FoundationWiseSM is meant to help people who “own” and operate private foundations to do a better job.

As I looked at the various workshops available for participants, it seemed to me that there were to primary tracks: one having to do with succession planning–passing on the vision and purpose to the next generation, and one having to do, more, with success on the “business” end of things–keeping good corporate records, ensuring your within the bounds of the law, investing successfully, and so forth. I followed the “succession planning” track.

One of the key questions I hoped to answer had to do with passing responsibility to the next generation: How can I know that they will carry on pursuing a vision that I would want them to pursue? Put another way: if I’m leaving them significant funds for charitable purposes, how can I ensure that they won’t take those funds and potentially turn them to uses possibly diametrically opposed to those for which I would have given them?

I mean, it is so common for nonprofits to wind up doing things very differently than their founders intended!

Intermixed in this larger question: How do we encourage our children in the ways of generosity?I thought some of the answers were very insightful. Here are some of the things that people suggested (not necessarily in order): Read the rest of this entry »

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Turning a children’s song on its head

Growing up, my mom taught me a song to be sung to the tune most of us know as “Jingle Bells”:

J-O-Y. J-O-Y. J-O-Y spells joy.
Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between.

The priorities and values certainly appear correct according to most Scriptures of which I am aware:

Mathew 6:33 – [S]eek first [God']s kingdom and His righteousness, and all [the food, drink, clothing, etc., you need] will be added to you.

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

And so forth.

But then Jay Link comes along and says this advice is all screwy when it comes to legacy planning. Certainly when it comes to the O and the Y. Indeed, he says, the first priority in estate planning/legacy planning is–it has to be–to ensure the physical and financial needs of the benefactors are met. The second priority is to meet their heirs’ needs. And then–and only then–is it legitimate to consider the needs of others.

If any legacy planner were to attempt any other order–”Others before Yourself”–you can be confident, Link says: “The plan won’t be implemented.” And an unimplemented plan is no better than no plan.

“Oh! Horrors!” I thought when I first came across Link’s suggested priority order a year and a half ago or so. “It’s so . . . selfish!” (So opposite what my mom’s song taught!)

But over time I have come to realize how wise Link really is.

  1. It is not “unrighteous,” “ungodly” or “unbiblical” to make sure your own needs are taken care of.

    According to 1 Timothy 5:8, “[I]f anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” –So by making sure you have taken care of your own and your heirs’ needs, you are actually fulfilling the “law of Christ.” You are ensuring you do avoid becoming an unnecessary burden to those around you.

  2. As far as placing yourself before your heirs, Jay made a comment about how most parents love their children very much but are unwilling to forego their own comfort in order to increase their children’s at some unknown future date.

    I was going to quote him to that effect and leave it there, but it just struck me: that attitude may be neither biblical nor true.

    I know a lot of parents through the years who have made tremendous sacrifices in behalf of their children. They do this when their children are infants. They do it when their children are growing up. They do it again when their children have children of their own.

    I’m not saying such attitudes are ubiquitous. But many, many parents–I think of immigrant parents, especially, but lots and lots of moms, too–make all kinds of sacrifices in behalf of their children and grandchildren.

    Still. And, I’d say, especially for parents who are concerned not to place a burden upon their children, there is something to be said for making sure your own needs are taken care of so you don’t place an unnecessary burden upon your children.

  3. As far as Jesus being first, I thought Link’s company mission statement said it well. He quotes 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.


Second in a series of posts inspired by a presentation by Jay Link of Kardia Family Wealth Planning. First post in the series: Two family CEOs.

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Americans and charity

In “The Surprising Truth About American Generosity,” the editors of Trends magazine provide a more positive perspective than I have been inclined to adopt, warn about government policies that may damage Americans’ charitable urge, and suggest some unusual reasons to give if you’re not giving now: Read the rest of this entry »

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How generous are Americans, anyway?

Every now and then I read self-congratulatory articles about how generous Americans are. This one from World magazine is relatively typical:

Americans are the most generous people on the planet, and they mostly don’t toot their own horns about it.

A new study by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity says that Americans account for 45 percent of all philanthropic giving worldwide. Not only is that significantly more than any other nation on earth, it’s also dramatically more on a per capita basis. One example: The average American gives 14 times more to charity than the average Italian. . . .

“Americans give at least twice as much as anyone else,” [Arthur C. Brooks, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of Gross National Happiness] said. “And we’re giving now more than ever before.” Read the rest of this entry »

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