3 Great Ways to Reach your Philanthropic Goals

Incorporating charitable giving into your estate planning doesn't have to be complicated.
Photo: courtesy of Hawai'i Community Foundation

If philanthropy is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, congratulations! Contributing to charitable causes is a rewarding way to help make the world a better place. And if you’re not quite sure exactly how to go about setting up your charitable giving, the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone: There are financial advisors with the expertise to help you make the most of your donation so you can reach your philanthropic goals.

As an attorney with the Hilo-based Hawaii Trust & Estate Council, Kumu Belcher has been advising clients on how to include charitable giving in their estate plans for more than a decade, often working with the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) to help make their philanthropic goals a reality.

Belcher frequently works with HCF philanthropy advisor Malu Debus to implement his clients’ plans. We asked the two to share their advice on how to start thinking about legacy giving.

1. Start the conversation.

There are so many worthy causes out there that, even if you know you want to help make a difference, it can be intimidating to figure how to get started. Not to worry! You can start talking with your financial advisor in general terms, and get advice on how to build out your giving plans from there. Belcher says many of his clients start their philanthropy conversation that way: “They’ll come in and say, ‘We’re animal people,’ or ‘We want to help people in poverty,’” he says.

Also, while making targeted donations in the moment is great, consider thinking ahead to see how philanthropy could factor into your estate plan. Debus says planned giving is a significant driver of funding at HCF. “Gifts made through legacy plans are usually 10 to 20 times what donors can give during their lifetime, so these are impactful, change-making gifts,” she says.

2. Consider an endowed fund.

If you want to support a certain cause rather than a specific organization, an endowed fund might be a better vehicle than a direct donation to a single charity, Belcher says. With an endowed fund, you set up a fund at HCF that’s dedicated to the cause you’re supporting. You can also set guidelines for how the money can be used. HCF advisors then take over management of the account, and use their knowledge of local charities to make awards to the organizations that will do the most good.

“Often the Community Foundation is a stronger organization than individual charities,” Belcher notes, “so they’re more likely to be around in perpetuity. It’s a way to make sure the client’s goals will be carried out forever.”

3. Set up a Memorandum of Understanding.

Estate planning can be a long, drawn-out process, but if you know you’re interested in planning a future gift toward charity, one easy and flexible way to do that is to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with HCF. This supports language in your will or trust about the terms of your gift, allowing you to easily update or change your wishes around how your bequest will be used, without having to go back and formally change your estate plan every time.

“People’s intentions change throughout their lifetime,” Debus says. “We have seen a number of plans change as our donors get closer to the end of life, to reflect what is really hitting home for them at that point. It’s always a good feeling to know we’re able to do that hassle-free and make that an easy process for them.”


Visit HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org/Donors to learn more about how HCF can help with your philanthropic planning.


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