A new take on holiday giving

Thanksgiving marks the start of the ‘giving season,’ but this year a new trend shows how people are seeking to give in more meaningful ways.

Harlem Globetrotter 'Ambassadors of Goodwill' Alexander Wright (back, right) and Darron Claxton (back, left) cheer with some of the kids at a comedy basketball event at Fairmont State University in Fairmont, West Virginia. The November event helped raised money for the United Way.

Thanksgiving marks the start of the “giving season,” a time of holiday reminders to be more selfless toward others, especially the less well-off. This year, however, giving is taking new turns.

Traditional ways of giving to charities are changing fast. Younger adults want more hands-on influence over the use of their donations, for example, in what’s called impact giving. But the most striking shift is that big charities such as the United Way, Salvation Army, and American Red Cross no longer receive the most contributions. A financial firm does.

In an annual ranking of the largest nonprofits, the Chronicle of Philanthropy puts the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund at the top in 2016. An arm of Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based wealth management company, the fund is one of many financial firms that allow donors to set aside money for giving – and immediately gain the tax benefit – but decide later when or where to distribute it. Fidelity merely holds the money while it gains value through investments and then disburses the funds to a designated charity.

Known as donor-advised funds, the amount of assets in these specialty accounts has grown from $11 billion in 2007 to $70 billion in 2014. The average amount has also risen to more than $300,000. Overall, their popularity is shaking up the charity sector by giving more control to donors and, perhaps, making it easier for people to give.

Individuals are still the largest givers in the United States, more so than foundations and corporations. They gave $265 billion last year, or two-thirds of all donations, according to the Giving USA 2016 report. Yet overall giving remains flat as a percentage of the economy.

That does not mean giving is a small matter. A survey by U.S. Trust of people with more than $1 million in assets found that most of these wealthier Americans believe charitable giving and volunteering provide the better opportunity for a positive effect on society than voting or contributing to a political candidate.

In whatever ways new technologies or incentives change giving, it is still an activity that mostly comes from the heart. As donors seek more control over their donations, they are also making sure the money is well spent and produces fruitful results. In many cases, this creates a bond between the giver and the recipient, leading to more gratitude and a virtuous cycle of giving. Such relationships are a bountiful harvest – something to celebrate this Thanksgiving.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A new take on holiday giving
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today