dollar signAfter my mother died last spring my brothers and I inherited some tangible household items and memorabilia along with some money, mostly in the form of stocks. In hindsight, deciding what to do with the physical items was relatively easy. I swapped out some of our more raggedy furniture for the nicer and memory laden items from mom. (See Finding Good Homes #3  and #4.)  I found respectable new homes for the other items. (See Homes for Inherited Stuff #5 )

The money part is much more complicated. For one it takes awhile to settle an estate and I’m not very astute at handling finances. Mostly I knew that I now had a lot more virtual money – not cash in the bank but stocks in a cloud somewhere. In order to be good stewards, my husband and I decided to consult a financial adviser. After clarifying our values within ourselves and with our adviser, we realized that we didn’t need all the extra money to meet our daily or projected needs. It seemed only right and fair to share our bounty with those who needed it more. This was an easy decision because it flowed from our faith and values. The hard part was facing the question, How much should we give away and to whom?

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH TO GIVE AWAY?Days 112 Extra - Question mark
I know myself well enough to know that I’m frugal by nature. (That is probably an understatement.) I knew that I would have to face the downside of that trait and not be a cheapskate. I wanted some outside source to tell me how much. One answer comes easily to people of Judea-Christian heritage – Give away the traditional tithe or 10%. Thank you to the Bible. While this is not a perfect solution since 10% of a wealthy person’s income is not nearly as painful as 10% of a poor person’s income – thus the graduated income tax – still, it is a start. Awareness of the Widow’s Mite (see Luke 21:2-3) saves me from taking undue pride.

We decided to apply the criteria we use for most of our annual donations:

  1. Days 365+109 First ShiftGive to a cause that we are personally invested in. Thus we gave some seed money to First Shift Justice Project and the Marianist Lay Communities we are part of. Since we know these causes intimately, we know the money will be well used for the good of society and extends our own volunteer commitments.
  2. Choose a cause that our relatively small contribution can make a difference. While there are many worthy national and international causes, many people already are donating to cure various diseases and world hunger. This is good, but our donations won’t be game-changers for these organizations.
  3. Make stocks count. A new criteria for us was in the area of stocks. Although we wanted to be responsible investors, we did not feel compelled to make the maximum return on stocks. Previously we had invested in socially responsible funds. But now we learned about yet another strategy – Impact Investing. (Click here and here to learn more.) We decided to put a percentage of our stocks into one or two organizations that may or may not bring the highest financial return, BUT it would make a significant impact on the viability of a cause that we support. We’re still researching which particular organizations to allocate this pot of money to. Mostly, we remember that we are privileged to even own stocks.

It’s hard to be rich – at least in the sense of being generously rich. (Tweet that). Trying to decide what causes to give money to takes a lot of research. Charity Navigator is another helpful source to check legitimate charities. See also a program by Gene Gardner called Donating With Confidence on my website.