In today’s hyper-busy culture, many couples end up living almost separate lives during their first one or two decades together. This doesn’t mean they don’t have a close relationship, or that they never do anything together. But, between career demands, shuttling kids to activities, managing the home and all that goes with it, couples need a way to reconnect in a way that goes beyond the occasional “date night”.
Successful individuals often find great fulfillment in giving to charitable causes. When couples team up and support causes they feel passionate about, it presents an opportunity to deepen their relationship in a unique way.
Navigating the waters of charitable giving as a couple
Whether you’ve been with your partner two years or 20, if you’ve decided to add dimension to your relationship by giving, pat yourself on the back and relax. While you’ll probably experience some bumps along the way, open communication and careful planning will give you the tools to navigate through them with barely a scratch.
Consider answering these questions when planning to give together:
How will you divide any administrative tasks associated with your philanthropy?
As a couple, you’ll be combining your assets in order to embark upon your philanthropic journey together. That said, it’s imperative that you discuss how you’ll divide up any administrative tasks and other responsibilities that may come up. For example, if one person has a less demanding career than the other, maybe that person will take on all or most of these responsibilities. Alternatively, couples who find themselves equally busy, whether with career or other family duties, may want to divvy up these tasks evenly. However you do it, decide in advance. You can always adjust it later.
How will you decide which charities and causes to support?
According to a recent survey, cited in The NonProfit Times, more than 80 percent of couples make philanthropic giving decisions together and that only 11 percent of couples say they disagree on the decisions. Even so, one of the researchers points out that even though couples tend to think they’re in agreement when it comes to giving, there’s always room for better communication. You likely have shared values, but also have unique perspectives about them. Use your individual views and skill-sets to inspire your philanthropic union.
You probably already know which issues or causes each of you finds most important. Make a short list of those that each of you feels most passionate about. From there, you can begin to identify and research charities that support these causes. See Tips for Choosing the Right Charity for guidance on vetting various charitable organizations.
How much in liquid and other assets will you set aside for charitable giving?
You’ve probably heard that money represents one of the most common causes of division between couples. If so, you’ve heard right. To avoid this pitfall, discuss and decide in advance on a budget for your philanthropy. As you go along this journey together, you can adjust this budget as necessary and as your giving style as a couple evolves.
How will you mitigate potential problems due to individual giving personalities?
No matter how unified you are as a couple, you and your partner likely have different giving personalities. There’s nothing wrong with that and these differences can make your giving experience as a couple even more meaningful. But if you don’t identify and discuss how these different styles may impact your vision for your charitable giving, you may encounter problems.
For example, one person may want to spread out grantmaking across several charities, while the other may want to focus only on one or two. Discuss how these two giving strategies may impact your overall vision for your philanthropy. Keeping an open mind and discussing these differences with respect and transparency will lead you both to a consensus that integrates well with your mission and purpose.
Do you want to create a philanthropic legacy and will you involve family members?
Many successful couples hope to build a legacy of giving that will inspire family members to continue giving in meaningful ways long after they’ve gone. If you’d like a lasting family legacy, you and your partner will have to decide just how involved you want your immediate and extended family in the process. Make sure to discuss level of involvement of children, step-children, spouses of children, grandchildren, etc. Also, do you want your giving to be public, anonymous, or a combination of these?
It’s exciting to embark on a journey of charitable giving as a couple, even if each of you are experienced philanthropists as individuals. Working together provides you with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of one another and to accomplish meaningful change together. Nothing else can add this unique dimension to your relationship. As you tackle bumps along the way together and celebrate victories too, your renewed connection with each other may even enhance your relationship in other areas of life.