January is a great time for all of us to review our written goals. If you do not have them, now is the time to begin. Writing down what we want forces us to distinguish between momentary desires and those things that are truly important to us. It also creates documents that we can review and revise in the future. Perhaps we have already achieved a goal and are now acting out of habit. Something may have changed so that a goal no longer suits our plans. How will we know if we have not written it down?
The same is true when we develop a charitable mission statement, which is also a part of our larger financial plan. We need to approach the development of our statements as seriously as we would any other important endeavor. A date should be set, and the calendar cleared for planning. If you are single, make time for yourself and block off your calendar. I suggest preparing a cup of tea or the stimulant of your choice. For couples and larger families, designate someone to keep minutes of the meeting. That person can also create the first agenda and distribute it in advance to everyone who will be there. A statement of purpose explaining why the family is meeting will help at this point.
There always needs to be ground rules for planning meetings, and because of family dynamics, we should consciously avoid falling into long-term roles. Everyone’s ideas must be respected, and open discussion encouraged. There can be no sighing or eye-rolling and each member of the family deserves the complete attention of the group. Brainstorming ceases the moment anyone’s ideas are ridiculed or diminished.
The following are a few questions that may clear the path for productive discussions.
- Why is it important for me/us to give?
- What is it that I/we want to encourage or preserve?
- Do I/we want to confine our giving to our local community, state, or region?
- What is my/our time horizon for giving?
- Are there other people with whom I/we can collaborate?
- How do I/we measure success?
Once we have these questions answered, we can begin the development of a mission statement that us identify appropriate and inappropriate charitable causes. It also provides a basis for the periodic review of individual charities. We now also have a framework for making other important decisions as we pursue our charitable missions. I shall discuss some of these in future blogs.