One Simple Thing

Having celebrated all that we’re grateful for at Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is about taking action—inspiring each of us to give generously towards bettering our communities and our world.

If you’re a non-profit organization, Giving Tuesday is a big day. It’s likely the cornerstone of your Fall fundraising. You chose a campaign theme, select a success story, create a social media hashtag, and perhaps even secure a donor match to inspire individual donations.

If you’re an individual, your inbox, mailbox and social media feeds become full of heartwarming stories and invitations to contribute to critical initiatives both locally and globally.

But even inspiration can be overwhelming. There are so many needs and organizations deserving of our attention and dollars. And I know what I have the tendency to do when I feel overwhelmed—nothing.

I’m offering a solution—one simple thing you can do on Giving Tuesday or anytime during the year to harness your generous spirit and your social and financial capital—today and for years to come.

Open (or contribute to) a Donor-Advised Fund.

I know, this suggestion doesn’t win the warm and fuzzy award (not yet anyway…but read on). A donor-advised fund (DAF basics) is itself a charitable organization; in setting up and donating to a DAF, you can breathe more easily knowing you don’t need to make a slew of non-profit grant decisions by end of day. Instead, you separate the charitable giving decision from the non-profit granting decisions, which you can make over the next few days, weeks or even into the next year.

Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) basics

But I have a more strategic reason for this suggestiontaking one practical first step ignites a broader journey. It’s like when your best friend forced you to write out an online dating profile, and you met the love of your life in the grocery store just months later. Or after years of knowing you needed to get serious about long-term saving and investing, you finally opened up that 401(k) at work—and five years later you find yourself educating your niece and nephew on the basics of personal finance at Thanksgiving dinner.

When you make that first step, you change your mindset—I’m ready to be in a relationship; I’m ready to be financially responsible. When you open a donor-advised fund, you’re saying charitable giving is important to me, and I wish to better use my money towards the change I wish to see—even if I don’t have it all figured out yet.

If you read my posts, you know the change I wish to see—in leadership, girls education, and global investing. I talk about these topics so often that most people assume these passions and commitments have been with me my entire life (sometimes I do, too!). They’re actually fairly recent.

My journey started when I set up a donor-advised fund a decade ago.

Prior to then, I made regular charitable contributions to organizations like Room to Read, and throughout the year would contribute to friends’ charitable causes. I wouldn’t say I had a philanthropic passion or focus. But finding myself in a higher tax bracket, it made sense to make some larger charitable contributions to a DAF, allowing them to grow tax-free knowing I could use the vehicle to recommend grants to non-profits of my choice in the future.

But the biggest impact of this decision was my change in mindset.

I became smarter about contributing to my DAF. Instead of contributing cash, I contributed low-basis securities—stocks, ETFs, and mutual fund shares. Not only could I take a tax deduction, but in not having to pay capital gains tax on the sale, it was as if the government was partially matching my contribution. It incentivized me to give more. Contributing non-cash assets to a DAF is the number one way to maximize your charitable impact (learn more).

Visit to Room to Read India (2017)

The more I funded and made grants from my DAF, the more serious I got about putting the funds to good use. I made an effort to get to know Room to Read—attending events in San Francisco, making site visits around the world to see their work, reading their strategic plans, getting to know their management team. They’ve been critical to my learning about girls’ education globally and non-profit management, and I happily pass on their teachings to other individuals and organizations. The Education Lottery shares that story.

Considering how to be more impactful in my giving led me to ponder how I could be more impactful in my investing. I found impact investing opportunities across asset classes, and was particularly pulled to strategies emphasizing and benefitting from women’s insights and leadership. In Doubling Down, I share how my DAF became a key tool in helping me link the gender equity focus of my investments with that of my giving strategy.

The more I did, the more ideas I had. But I still wanted to do more. I pushed myself to make a big 10 year commitment to Room to Read, and find a way to creatively intertwine it in my work. Once again, my DAF was a key tool. An Invitation shares how it came about.

My journey has now evolved to leading Venture Travel to emerging economies; they include deep-dives into education with Room to Read. Trip participants describe the experience as helping them think differently—about how to best use their money, time, talent and career.

I’m known to get excited about personal finance tools—and donor-advised funds are one of my favorites. Yet I never expected that a practical financial tool would be the ignitor to helping me lead change in the three things I care most about—leadership, girls education and global investing. Towards inspiring others on their journey, I’m proud to share my story and others’.

My Story: “Putting a Gender Equality Lens on Giving“: CLICK for VIDEO

Do one simple thing—open (or contribute to) a Donor-Advised Fund.

Then spend time with family, friends and your favorite non-profits talking about how you’ll use it. Because that’s where the warm and fuzzy magic happens.

Ready to open a donor-advised fund (DAF)? Read this Forbes article on why DAFs are becoming a prime tool for Americans’ charitable giving. A great place to start is by talking to your financial advisor or financial services firm. You can open the account online in about 15 minutes.

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!