By Kimberlee Riley
President, The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida
The first step to becoming a donor most often happens with small, unplanned gifts offered because a family member or friend asks. Most of us have had a friend ask to sponsor them in a 5K race benefiting a cause or to support their charity rather than giving them a birthday gift. We are asked at the grocery store to round up our payment to support a cause or we walk by an organization or sports team table and are asked to support their efforts. At church, we also give small, unplanned gifts when the basket is passed for second collections and even weekly offertory.
When we reflect on our giving, we may often feel as though we are giving randomly rather than intentionally. This giving, while unplanned by us, can still have impactful results for the causes and organizations we are supporting. This giving may not have intentions of our own or the intention may be tangential, such as supporting our friend more than the cause being supported. Yet this type giving still defines us as donors and is a way that we can serve our community and our church.
At some point though, many of us find ourselves ready to move to the next level of giving. Giving that we plan and that serves our own intentions. The next level of giving is where we get organized and we have more control over what we are giving. Typically at this giving level, we find that we may give fewer gifts and perhaps to fewer causes but our giving amounts begin to increase because of our own intentions. We still respond to our friends or other asks for unplanned gifts but we tend to be more strategic. We grow as a donor throughout our lives and our giving becomes more reflective of who we are and what we value.
When we reach this level of giving with our charitable gifts to the Church, our intentions usually focus on our recognition that all we have comes from God and our intention is to return our first fruits back to Him with increase. Some of the principles of stewardship include responsibility and accountability. In the beginning, God gave dominion to man to care for all His creations. Stewardship is the giving of our time, talent and treasure – all gifts we receive from God.
Focusing on how we steward the Church with our treasure, our offertory gifts support the operational needs of our parishes and the ministries of these parish communities. Our Catholic Appeal gifts support those ministries that are outside of our parishes such as Catholic Charities of Central Florida, and Catholic education, but also serve our parish through services and support from the chancery. Our Catholic social values provide us many ways to reflect our individual passions by giving to the causes that are on our hearts – our environment, justice, pro-life and more.
Each of us is made uniquely by God and our gifts can be as unique as we are. As a donor, we are responding to God and creating a legacy of the unique person that God created us to be. The level of giving is just as unique as we are and God calls us to give according to our means, have faith in Him and give cheerfully. (2nd Corinthians 9:7) Giving with intention helps us to be responsible and accountable in sustaining the work and ministries of the Church.
At The Catholic Foundation we are often engaged with donor intentions through the donor-advised, reserve and endowment funds that we manage as well as many of the planned gifts throughout the diocese. Our role is to safeguard the donor’s intentions to ensure they are honored. When funds are created, we document the donor’s intentions and as grants or distributions are made from these funds, we make sure everyone is aware of the donor’s intentions. We then document how the funds are being used in compliance. Similarly, when we are contacted about a matured estate, we work with the legal professional to ensure the donor’s wishes and intentions are honored.
Improving your intentional giving.
For offertory and Our Catholic Appeal giving:
- Reflect upon your spending habits to determine if they reflect you the way you would like.
- Review your income level and giving level history to see if they are in sync.
- Understand what you are supporting and what the needs are (Please click here to see how your gifts or Our Catholic Appeal support our Diocesan community).
- Plan your giving and determine a weekly or monthly amount.
- Automate your giving – online through your parish website or recurring through your bank account.
- Pray about your level of giving.
Intentional giving through a donor-advised, reserve or endowment fund, or your estate plans:
- Review your values.
- Discern your personal mission.
- Research options to support causes that align with your values and mission.
- Do some due diligence to ensure the organization(s) you want to support operate efficiently and honor donor intentions.
- Contact professionals (estate attorney, wealth advisor, tax accountant, etc) to learn and understand your options with giving vehicles and their ability to meet your goals.
- Clarify your language – be specific with what you want to support.
- (For gifts that are long-term or in perpetuity) Consider alternatives for the organization to adapt to current situations – for example, if your intentions are to support a school with the purchase of technology, allow for an alternate use in any year there might not be a need for new equipment. Include safeguards for the alternative such as a requirement for the pastor and parish finance committee to agree on the higher priority.