Taking a break to think about and document what’s important to you—and why it’s important—can help you connect more deeply with the people and places you hold dear.
However, few people take the time.
Did you know that top philanthropists insist on documenting personal values during their estate planning meetings? Similarly, many financial planners have added this step to their wealth management efforts, asking their clients to reflect on what they love most. It’s an important moment to stop and consider your full goals for your assets—how they can protect you, your loved ones and your loved causes.
Ultimately, documenting your values is a rewarding exercise that allows you to tie your hard work to the ways you hope to improve the world.
Write Your Philanthropic Autobiography
It’s time to be the author of your life story. Here are some ideas for how you can forge more meaningful connections and pass along your generous spirit.
To start, answer these questions:
- What did you learn about giving or service from your parents or other loved ones?
- Was there a time in your life when you or your family needed help? Who provided it, and what did you take away from that experience?
- When have you benefited from large-scale philanthropy, such as a scholarship, a favorite park or a critical piece of medical research?
- What gift have you given—to a charity or not—that you were most proud of? Why?
- What is your earliest experience of volunteering? What sticks out from the experience?
- Were there times when you were less active in philanthropy? Why was that?
- Do you have any philanthropic role models?
- What are one or two of the life experiences that have shaped who you are today? How have they influenced your values?
- Have you done an activity recently that made you happy? Are there any causes related to that activity that may benefit from your help? For example, a local conservation group might be working to restore a hiking trail you enjoy.
- Do you feel connected to a current event? How do your values shape how you feel about it?
Tell your story by keeping a running document of the organizations that have helped you or that you’ve helped. Share specifics about when you were charitable: Account for which organization(s) you gave to, why you gave to that nonprofit, how it made you feel and how that nonprofit’s mission fits into your overall value system.
Your Will: Another Expression of Your Values
Your will is your legacy. It dictates how you will be remembered and can be created to reflect your values. That’s why, no matter your age or wealth, you should take time to consider this important document.
For example, there’s an easy way for you to continue supporting our work without giving anything today: by including a gift to Michigan State University in your will. To learn more about ways a gift in your estate plan can make an impact, contact MSU Office of Gift Planning at 800-232-4678 | 517-884-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.