Most everyone has goals in their life. From sports to weight loss to Bible study to schoolwork, our activities are best fulfilled by the pursuit of tangible achievements. They motivate us, challenge us, and inspire us.
And when it comes to giving, goals can be just as powerful. Imagine the joy of planning to give away $10,000 this year and accomplishing that. Or maybe for you, it's $100,000. Or perhaps you hope to give $1 million away over your entire lifetime. Regardless of how many zeros you include in your numbers, there is tremendous power in setting goals, determining how you'll meet them, and seeing the fruit of your faithfulness come to life over time.
Like all of your giving, goals are most effective when well-planned, and they can't be created haphazardly or in a vacuum. Giving goals are highly interrelated with financial goals, so the first step must include a proper examination of your personal or family financial priorities.
Financial advisor and NCF Co-Founder, Ron Blue, says, “Most Americans have a fear of not having enough money to last throughout their lifetime. This fear is one of the greatest obstacles to experiencing the joy of giving.” One way to overcome this fear is through the concept of setting a “financial finish line.” Ron explains, “I encourage people to set a finish line in terms of income and wealth. Decide the limit of your lifestyle, and then set a cap. This is important to do in advance because as your wealth increases, so do the endless ways to spend, save, or invest it – and the finish line gets pushed further and further away.”
For a Kingdom-minded approach to setting goals for your giving, consider these three important questions:
- How much is enough?
Noted Christian financial author and NCF Co-Founder, Larry Burkett, answered this question by setting a modest standard of living and then giving away the rest. One year before he passed away in 2003, Larry’s book sales were very significant, enabling him to give $800,000 to charity annually. Terry Parker, another of NCF's founders and a personal friend of Larry’s, commented, “Larry knew what it meant to stop at the finish line each year. And he never lacked for anything.”
Determining how much is enough to live on is not so much a formula as it is a guard against excess accumulation. Although the target may change over time depending on your circumstances, the process of trying to determine how much is enough is still helpful. The key is to recognize (through seeking God's wisdom) that an estimated amount, or range, is enough.
- How much should I give to my children and grandchildren?
Don’t forget to consider who your next steward is and whether they're prepared or not for wealth. Most people give very little thought to this question. The default plan is to divide the remaining estate equally among the heirs, pass on as much as possible at the lowest possible tax cost, and never discuss those plans with the kids before death. But this approach overlooks crucial factors that you should take into account, such as instilling a good work ethic in your heirs, teaching them God's principles about giving and generosity, and adequately preparing them on what to expect with their inheritance. Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 exhorts us to impart wisdom before wealth. Another way to say it is ... be sure to pass on values before valuables.
- Should I give now or later?
Once you’ve determined how much is enough for you and your family, the rest of your estate is free for giving. But most people are content to hold on to as much as possible as a sort of insurance policy against misfortune and tough financial circumstances.
But why wait? First, God knows what you need for your daily bread. He can be trusted to provide for you in the future, as He has in your past. Second, by giving a portion of your estate now instead of waiting until after death, you'll experience countless benefits: you'll demonstrate the generous life to your heirs, you'll experience the joy that comes from obedient generosity today, and you'll very likely reduce your tax burden – which means you'll send far more to charity than you ever dreamed possible. To use a financial analogy, you'll get "compounding returns" on your charitable investment, as your gifts have exponential impact as the years go on.
So ... now that you've examined your heart on the three key issues above, you're ready to create your giving goals. The process of creating these goals is fast and simple on the desktop version our website (not available on mobile phones). Just log in to your Giving Fund and click the "My goals" tab on your Activity page.
Once your goals are set, you'll see visually how you're progressing in a given year or over the course of your lifetime. Note: Your goals are Fund-specific, so if you have more than one Giving Fund with NCF, you can set goals independently for each Fund.
Alright, now that you know how much you plan to give and grant, let's explore some tax-smart ways to maximize those goals.
>> Next ... Give to your Fund in the wisest way (Step 3 of 5)
(Previous step: Create your Giving Mission Statement)
Photo: Samaritan's Purse