The Generosity Hack: How One Change in Managing My Money Changed My Life

December 30, 2020
Use cases

Can we be honest? Being financially generous can be difficult.

A study by Notre Dame on generosity revealed 20% of people report a desire to give 10%+ of their income to charity. Yet, when they pulled back the curtain in people’s lives in the study, only 2.7% of people actually did it. 17 out of every 20 people who want to live generously don’t meet their aims.

The gap between good intentions and execution is wide.

That was my story, too. My wife and I wanted to be givers, but it was difficult. “Life” continued to get in our way financially. We’d then feel disappointed for falling short of our stated giving intentions. We bought into the conventional wisdom that we needed to “pay ourselves first” (act on your goals before spending) with giving, yet we didn’t always know the exact causes we should give to at each paycheck. In the time between paychecks and actually giving, other things in life would gobble up our money and focus.

There’s a similar effect with physical health: many people have great intentions to improve their health, but they are difficult to carry out. Health is a “practice:” it takes repetitive behaviors (a steady rhythm) to reach goals.

Think about some practical things that often help people achieve their physical health goals:

  • A commitment to a fitness program or community
  • A committed friend that serves as an accountability partner
  • A deep, personal commitment from a life event

Notice a common word? A strong commitment to the outcome is critical. Behavioral scientists often recommend “commitment devices” to help us achieve our goals—no matter the area of our lives.

Generosity is akin to fitness—it is also a practice. Some may even say we need to regularly exercise our “generosity muscles.” In my life, I lacked a strong enough commitment to move toward generosity. A commitment device—precisely one for giving—was what gave me the tools to practice generosity.

My hack: I found a commitment device for generosity.

My wife and I started a separate checking account for our giving which became our “giving account.” We told a few trusted friends about it for accountability, and we committed to having this separate account of giving money. Each time either of us got a paycheck, we immediately moved some funds into this giving account.

It worked. We were much more consistent with our giving, and the feeling of giving was “joy of giving out of abundance” because the account was already funded with money earmarked for giving. Each decision to support a charity wasn’t going to impact our financial situation further. Previously, it had seemed every donation was coming from accounts emotionally aimed for our next car, vacation, or the down payment on our house.

Separating the decisions to give and to give to a specific organization/cause turned giving into a joy rather than a chore.

A Charityvest Giving Fund is my hack, improved.

Donor-advised funds like Charityvest are giving accounts similar to that extra checking account my family created but upgraded in two primary ways. Charityvest Giving Funds are:

  • Tax-deductible.
  • Better commitment devices (the money must go to charity).

I started Charityvest because donor-advised funds have traditionally served the high-net-worth and their financial advisors. They were not simple to understand and use.

Charityvest is making giving accounts simple and useful in new ways. We aim to make giving a  joyful experience for everyone. Whether you give $50 a year or $50M, having a separate account for giving makes a big difference. 

We’ve found a lot of people agree. In the 12 months since we first launched Charityvest, we’ve had the privilege of helping thousands of everyday people give away more than $7M to charity (at the time of writing this article). Donor-advised funds nationally will sponsor more than $150B in total charitable giving this year.

So, I encourage everyone to open a donor-advised fund of some kind.

We think you’ll like Charityvest —it’s free (no admin or transaction fees), easy to navigate, secure, and offers all the tax advantages previously only accessible to the high-net-worth. There’s only a couple of minutes of your time at risk to try it.

If you’re not ready to make that jump, consider creating a second checking account and separate your giving money like I once did. I promise it will give your financial life a fresh purpose.

Dare to commit to being generous. I’ve never heard anyone regret investing in generosity.

Interested in bringing generosity into your workplace? Learn more here.

Create your Charityvest giving fund—it's free and takes 90 seconds.

Stephen Kump

Stephen is the chief of promoting generosity @ Charityvest. Former Bain consultant, philanthropic advisor, and military officer. Yale MBA.

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