Giving while you’re Living

Lauren Janus – Charitable & Good-Giving Adviser

The odds are that you already give to charity in some form.

Perhaps you make a monthly direct debit to a cancer charity, or you recently sponsored your niece’s bike ride in support of mental health awareness.

Yet when it comes to making a larger gift to an issue or organisation important to you, you may have decided to just give through your will.

After all, you never know what life will throw at you, and you want to have enough money to live comfortably throughout your golden years.

You’re not alone in this thinking. According to one estimate, £17 billion will flow to UK charities as a result of legacy giving in the next five years. Many people decide to hold on to the vast majority of their wealth until they’re certain they’ll no longer need it.

The good news is that there are distinct benefits to doing both—designating a charitable beneficiary in your will and giving while you’re still around to see the benefits of your gift.

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A turning tide

The philanthropic community has witnessed a real trend in recent years toward ‘giving while living,’ popularised by former billionaire Chucky Fenney, who at 88 has given away almost all of his fortune. As Chuck famously—and bluntly—says, “It’s a lot more fun to give while you’re alive, than to give when you’re dead.”

There are several key benefits of giving now, including potential tax benefits and simply knowing where your money is going. There’s no guarantee that the charity you pick out in your 70’s will still be operating the same way (or will be even around) when it comes time to execute your will 25 years later.

But the biggest bonus I see of starting your giving now is that it allows you to involve your family in your giving in a really meaningful way.

As I wrote in last month’s post, Raising Kids Who Give, research says that one of the most effective ways to raise kids who share your values is to involve them in your giving. This can mean talking with kids or grandkids about issues that are important to you, researching charities together, or even organising a family volunteer experience.

What’s more, when you make meaningful gifts to charities that illustrate your values today—be they protecting wildlife, preserving historic treasures or simply giving a helping hand to those with fewer opportunities in life—you send a powerful message to younger generations that these are issues too important not to give to today.

Giving close to home

Along those lines, don’t forget that giving to friends and family is just another form of charitable giving.

Ask any 30-year-old if they’d rather receive money for a down payment on a house now, or a potentially larger inheritance once you’re long gone. I think you know what the millennial would prefer.

Giving to your kids now not only allows you to help them when their finances might still be a bit uncertain. But it also demonstrates your commitment to helping those you love when they need it most.

And that’s a lesson you can hope they’ll pass onto their children once you really are out of the picture.

Next Steps

If you’d like to start a conversation about your charitable and good-giving plans, please contact me at

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Lauren is not employed by Longhurst Limited. Lauren Janus owns Thoughtful Philanthropy Limited. Please click here for more information.

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