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Create a legacy that’s personal to you

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Harnessing your social, intellectual and human capital—in addition to your financial resources—can help you make a meaningful impact.

Defining your philanthropic legacy can sometimes feel intimidating and out of reach, especially given the common misconception that the measurement for charitable impact is the dollar amount of your financial gift. In reality, there are many approachable and fulfilling ways to leave a lasting legacy and experience the true joy and fellowship of giving.

What exactly does it take to create a philanthropic legacy?

The key is to take a holistic approach that taps into your unique relationships, passions, interests and resources. Writing a check is important, but that’s not the only lever to pull to leave your philanthropic mark. Harness your intellectual, human and social capital—as well as your financial capital— to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Here’s how.

Donate intellectual and human capital

Donating your skills, experience and time can be a powerful way to support the causes you care about most.

For example, do you have skills honed at work? Fluency in multiple languages? Specialist knowledge developed through hobbies? Athletic abilities that could be shared through coaching?

You will maximize your impact by thinking broadly about what you can contribute to the organizations that align best with your values.

Giving back in action: Contributing time and expertise to inspire change 

One family’s support of a nonprofit organization grew out of the father’s desire to empower local youth. Drawing on his experience as a corporate lawyer, the father volunteered to serve as a member of the organization’s board of directors and as an informal legal advisor.

Over time, the father’s two children were moved to help with the group’s mission to strengthen underserved youth’s leadership skills through soccer. Now, on game days, the whole family turns out to help set up the field, shag balls during play and clean up afterward.

Multiplying the father’s initial impact even further, he involved employees at his law firm in the nonprofit’s activities—both as donors and volunteers.

In the end, one person’s motivation to give back inspired action in many others, creating a rewarding and unforgettable experience for everyone involved.

Donate social capital

One of the best ways to scale your philanthropic impact is by collaborating with others.

As an example: Join or form a “giving circle” to pool charitable resources with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Giving circles attract members who are excited to work together to support causes under a unifying theme. For instance, together you might focus on a given population, such as women and girls; a place, whether a nearby neighborhood or far-off locale; or a pervasive issue, such as racial inequity. 

The benefits to membership, beyond maximizing the financial contribution of a single donor, include:1

  • Learning more about issue areas you care about
  • Refining giving best practices alongside peers
  • Expanding and diversifying your personal networks

Currently, there are more than 2,000 giving circles2 in the United States and the number is growing, as the enthusiasm for collective impact appeals to all levels of donors. 

Giving back in action: Joining together to magnify results

A number of “next gen giving circles” across the country aim to engage younger philanthropists. For a group of 20-to-30-year-olds living in the same city, a giving circle was a way to learn grantmaking best practices and identify grassroots organizations that align with the group’s social justice mission.

The ultimate aim is to pool funds that can make a difference while making philanthropy accessible to early-career donors. Before the giving circle makes a donation, members research nonprofit organizations, discuss them as a group, and learn from each other’s questions and lived experiences. Then, they reach a consensus on which organizations to support, the funding amount and the timeframe, either over one year or many.

The grantmaking process is collaborative, engaging and ideally fun!

Donate financial capital 

Individual donors are incredibly important to an effective and sustainable nonprofit sector, accounting for two-thirds of annual donations made to charitable organizations.3 Yet even experienced donors can feel unsure or apprehensive when considering a financial gift to an organization that is new to them.

Perhaps you are drawn to support the mission of an organization mentioned in your social media or suggested by a friend. For an organization you don’t know well, take the time to develop a personal connection to feel confident in your giving:

  • Learn about the organization through publicly available means: annual report on website, nonprofit database Guidestar and news coverage; meet board members; volunteer and attend events; and tap your network to uncover personal experiences with the charity’s mission. 
  • Use a first donation to get to know an organization; consider increasing your donations as the relationship deepens.
  • If you aren’t sure how much to give, open a dialogue: Ask the organization about its top funding needs; about what individual donors give, on average. Or ask outright: “What do donors like me give?”

Is a deep personal connection with a nonprofit organization required for every single financial gift? The answer is “no.” But don’t hesitate to invest the effort if you want to diversify and broaden your giving. 

Giving back in action: Cultivating family values and traditions

Many families engage in philanthropy to actively share their values and inspire the next generation’s lifelong giving.

For one family, philanthropy became a holiday tradition.

Every year, the parents asked each of their three children to identify a charity they wanted to support. The children eagerly presented their research and recommendations to their parents. This provided an opportunity for the family to talk about the importance of helping others and to learn about the issues each child cared deeply about.

Demonstrating it’s never too early to start creating your philanthropic legacy, the children, aged 9, 11 and 15, were given $50 each to donate. The parents plan to incrementally increase the dollar amount over time and offer bonus funds as the children participate in volunteer activities.  

Learn how to help your family become involved in philanthropy

We can help

Make time for philanthropy, seek partners and approach your legacy building holistically by tapping into your human, intellectual, social and financial capital to make the change you want to see in the world.  

J.P. Morgan Private Bank is committed to helping you enhance your philanthropic goals. Your J.P. Morgan team can offer advice and guidance to help you achieve the impact you envision. 

1 Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors, Collective Giving Research Group and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.  https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/bitstream/handle/1805/17743/giving-circle-membership18.pdf

2 https://philanthropytogether.org/directory/.

3 Giving USA: The 2022 Annual Report on Giving.

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