Giving your time, talent and resources this holiday season

Be strategic about your philanthropy so you can make the most of your contributions

What mark do you want to leave on the world? What are the values that drive you? What matters most? Whether it’s your time, talent, or making a contribution, giving back can be one of life’s greatest rewards, especially during the holiday season.

Philanthropy is being democratized. Individual donors have never been more empowered to make a difference. With just $25, you can make a micro-donation to a farmer in Peru, help cover upfront costs to build a girls’ school in Pakistan, or invest in a diversified portfolio of nonprofits, microfinance institutions, and social enterprises. You can also help support a cause without spending any money at all by joining a campaign or volunteering.

With so many ways to give, it’s important to be strategic about your philanthropy so you can make the most of your contributions.

Here’s a framework to help you determine your own approach to giving:

How You Give

Time & Talent: One of the ways to help support causes and organizations you are passionate about is by volunteering your time and talent. A big advantage of volunteering is that it can allow you to see the direct result of your contribution.

Resources: Making a contribution or donation may get a little more complicated. One of the most common strategies is donating directly to a charity, but there are plenty of other approaches to consider. A Financial Advisor can help you assess the pros and cons of each approach and how you can incorporate giving into your broader financial plan.

Here are some of the various ways you can put your charitable dollars to work:

  • Direct donation. A direction donation is a gift that is received in full by the recipient of choice. Nonprofits that are 501(c)(3) public charities are tax-exempt, and therefore the government allows you to deduct any direct donations (subject to income limitations) from your taxable income at the end of the year.
  • Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). A donor-advised fund is operated by a public charity. As the donor, you recommend the organizations that are to receive grants from the DAF, but all administrative duties and taxes are handled by the charity.
  • Designating a charity as a life insurance beneficiary. Another way to share your wealth is to designate a charity as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. This is relatively easy to do, and you have the right to revoke the gift at any time by simply changing the policy’s beneficiary. While this type of giving may provide an estate tax deduction, you will not receive any income tax benefits.
  • Charitable Trusts. There are two main types of charitable trusts: Charitable Remainder Trusts and Charitable Lead Trusts.
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs): CRTs allow you to give money to both a beneficiary (such as yourself) and a cause you care about.
  • Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs): CLTs operate differently than CRTs. CLT beneficiaries are paid only after the income is paid to the charitable organization for a number of years.
  • Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA). A CGA is a contract between you and a qualified charity in which you make a gift to the charity and, in exchange, the charity provides you (or other annuitant(s)) with a lifetime fixed income stream.
  • Private Foundation. A private foundation is a nonprofit organization created with endowments from individuals, families or corporations. Private foundations are required to give away at least 5% of their net investable assets each year.

Before making a commitment, make sure to do your due diligence so you can identify the right opportunities, manage expectations, and ensure accountability.

There are countless ways to use your resources—money, time, networks, expertise, and perhaps even social influence—to give back. Once you have identified the opportunities that are most aligned with your passions, the key is determining how you can allocate your time, talent or contribution to make the greatest impact on the causes you care most about. Whatever the size and scope of your giving, a Financial Advisor can help you make a plan that reflects your priorities and works within your budget.


Article by Morgan Stanley and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor.

Curtis Lowery, Lisa Shelton, and Brooke Lowery are Financial Advisors in Vancouver, WA at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”). They can be reached by email at or by telephone at 360-992-8062. Their website is

This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information and data in the article has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. It does not provide individually tailored investment advice and has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it.