Philanthropy using Time, Talent, and Treasure

Philanthropy using Time, Talent, and Treasure

May 23, 2024

As many of you know, I was introduced to philanthropy as a young child. My mother gave her time to many local organizations, not the least of which was United Jewish Appeal (UJA). Initially, she gave her time to UJA to help the elderly get to doctor’s appointments and to collect food for the needy. Throughout her life the amount of time she gave increased, culminating in a decades-long collection of slightly used stuffed animals. All of her grandchildren were “pressed” into service in her basement—sorting, replacing old batteries to bring the animals back to “life” and giving them a loving place in child-high boxes. My mom’s great talent was getting people to do things they might not have considered doing and liking it in the process. She was a tireless organizer. After getting people to donate these stuffed animals, she would work with local hospitals and then across the world, to have these furry friends delivered to children who had none. 

Her philanthropy developed into donating her treasure as well. When Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 (The Yom Kippur War), my mother not only worked the phones to get donations from our community, but she and my Dad reached into their savings to send funds as well (this at a time when my Dad’s plastic business was in a deep recession as a result of the Arab oil embargo and increase in raw material costs). 

I thought of this as I was watching the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. I don’t normally watch this event (it started at 10 am and ended after 4 pm), but it was so interesting and instructive. This was the first year Warren Buffet was on stage without his long-time partner and friend Charlie Munger who had died just days before his 100th birthday. Buffet spoke at length about the importance of living your values; what you do is way more important than what you say. And, if like him, “You are lucky in life…… make sure a whole bunch of other people are lucky too.”

Buffet mentioned that he and Charlie had a combined interest in philanthropy, dating to well before they had achieved financial success. Growing up in the Midwest (Charlie in the teeth of the Great Depression and then World War II), the values of helping your community were deeply engrained. A fascinating read (or audio book) is Poor Charlie’s Almanack—a collection of Munger’s principles and speeches—many having to do with giving back.

This discussion as well as my own cultural admonition, tikkum olam (Hebrew for repair and improve the world), has pushed me and our firm to become advocates for philanthropy. This is a commandment directed at us as individuals—not politicians or celebrities—to do what we can on a personal level to repair the world. As your wealth has grown, we have increased our attention and advocacy for our clients to become (more) philanthropic. For those who grew up like I did with parents using their time, talent and treasure to support community causes, our job is to advise more on the how than the why. For those who come to philanthropy with little to no history, our role is to educate and to grow confidence in the why and then the mechanics of the how.

Several years ago, I completed a multi-year certification with other leaders at the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida. As a Certified Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®), I was able to expand my knowledge of various giving strategies that benefit both non-profits and our client’s tax situation. This certification also got me thinking about how to teach philanthropy to our clients and their children. Of course, along the way, you have also taught me about the power of giving back through your examples of philanthropic giving.

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others. That is so obvious that it leaves many with the idea that being a philanthropist is above their means and status in life—nothing could be further from the truth! Philanthropy is about using your time, talent and treasure for the community. 

My family were my first philanthropy mentors along with my school (didn’t we all collect for UNICEF in those metal boxes when we were young?). Much later in life, I was fortunate to marry Lisa whose father, Henri Landwirth, created a family foundation to aid the hungry and homeless (as he had been for five years during the Holocaust). As a family Board member, The Landwirth’ s taught me the nuances of doing site visits at non-profits, reading financial documents (Form 990s), getting to know leaders at each organization, and then following up after funding to ensure that the money was well spent. This has continued as Lisa and I coordinate and magnify our own giving.

At Ullmann Wealth Partners, we also act as mentors and advocates for you and your family. We have witnessed you do some amazing philanthropic giving. Your involvement on charity boards, teaching literacy one-on-one with struggling elementary school students, cleaning up our rivers, removing pollution along roads, donating funds to put lights on a small college’s sports stadium, funding scholarships, etc., are all examples of philanthropy in action. Our role is to help educate and to give you the confidence to continue to help repair the world.

I have been giving more thought recently to my own young adult children (ages 29 to 23). Here are some steps to start greater communication and education about philanthropy:

  • Lead by example—engage in charitable activities yourself. Let them see us donating our time, talent and money to help others.

  • Write down in bullet points your thoughts about giving. How much of your income/assets is appropriate based on your plan to be giving away? What causes are important to you? What things would you avoid? How do you want your money to repair the world?

  • Start Conversations—encourage open discussions about giving, kindness and the importance of helping those in need. Talk about different ways to make a positive impact on the world through personal stories and great historical mentors. Benjamin Franklin was the first great American philanthropist—setting aside $2,000 in his will (the equivalent of $ 3.4 million today) to be invested for 100 years before the income could be used and then another 100 years until the funds had to be spent down.

  • Volunteer together.

  • Teach the “how”. How do you give funds to charity? Is it cash and if so why (how does that potentially help your taxes)? Do you give stock that has appreciated greatly direct to a charity or Donor Advised Fund and why is that advantageous for both you and the charity?  Engage UWP to help have these conversations and provide resources.

  • Offer choices—allow children to explore various causes and organizations that align with their interests and help them understand the impact of their choices.

  • Set goals whether it is raising money for their causes or volunteering a certain number of hours.

  • Learn and educate. There are so many resources including Charity Navigator, Give Well and Global Giving as well as programs like My Project Heart and Philanthropy courses online and at the college level. Find mentorship programs to connect young adults with experienced philanthropists in their community (The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida is an incredible resource).

  • Online videos on philanthropy including this one, What is Philanthropy?

  • Don’t forget My Project Heart is a terrific resource to further the discussion using talent to help those in need. One project was designed by young students who interviewed their aunt. The aunt had a 4-year-old daughter who had a genetic condition that required daily administration of lots of different medications. The students used a 3D printer to design a device to keep the syringes organized, off dirty surfaces and speed up drying.

Most of us, through savings, investing and process, have more financial resources than we will ever need to maintain and even increase our standard of living (and take care of extended family members in need).  Our team is always available to discuss philanthropy and how it relates to your plan and of course tax mitigation. Your time, talent and treasure is precious. We stand ready to help you utilize philanthropy to help repair the world.