Putting Meaning into Action – Crafting a Personal Values Statement

Have you ever wondered what giving back to the community could look like for you and your family? Or how you could participate in philanthropic endeavors in a meaningful and impactful way? Melissa Joy, CFP®, hosted a webinar with guest speaker Shelley Strickland, PhD, the Vice President for Development and Donor Services at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, in order to answer those questions.

Strickland began the webinar by unpacking the history and significance behind the term philanthropy in the United States. “Philanthropy,” she explained, “has a Greek root meaning love of human kind. It is voluntary actions for the public good.” This term is inherently loaded with the sorted history of the founders of American philanthropy, Rockefeller and Carnegie, as well as with European roots that tie philanthropy to charity. Rockefeller and Carnegie started a trend that was unique to American giving, which positioned philanthropy as a partner to charity. For example, in addition to providing food in a soup kitchen, Rockefeller and Carnegie felt it was important to figure out why the soup kitchen is needed in the first place and then give to causes that help fix the initial problem. 

Shelley explained that it's OK if people are confused by what philanthropy means in general or more specifically, what it means to you and your family. She explained multiple reasons why people give, including:  

  • Giving back to the community of which you are a part of
  • Giving to show devotion
  • Giving as an investment and or tax break
  • Giving for the social aspects that surround giving
  • And paying it forward as a debt for having good fortune
"Less than 10% of giving is done out of altruism and that's not a bad thing." She assured webinar listeners that whatever your reasons for giving, it's best to take the time to sort through those motivations to give your giving a better strategic plan.

Philanthropy is inherently tied to our values and our values give us motive to start that giving process, so it is imperative for those who want to give, to create a Values Statement that guides your giving with intention to create the most meaningful impact. Too often philanthropic giving is reactive—someone asked you to donate to this charity, so you do—versus strategic. That's why having a plan can give your giving meaning and help you know when to say "no."

So how do you start sorting out your own values and making a strategic giving plan? Easy! Here’s a link to the handout that will take you step-by-step through what you should be thinking about when crafting you and your family's philanthropic values statement. While completing the handout, make sure to ask yourself, "What is the meaning behind that thought? Why is that important to me?" As you go through the questions, you'll start to identify themes in your values and causes that will help narrow the focus of your giving. If you’re unsure of how to properly answer the handout’s questions, take a look at this example of how someone who is passionate about arts education might fill out their own values statement.

Regardless of the size of your gift, it is helpful to identify what values lead your actions, what causes you're passionate about, and what stories define you. Write this for yourself and share with your family. Not only will crafting a values statement guide your philanthropic giving with intention, but it will clarify your actions and give meaning to them so your impact can be even greater.

Center for Financial Planning would like to thank Shelley Strickland, PhD, for taking the time to speak at the webinar for our attendees. This was the first of three webinars we’re offering regarding philanthropy. In this session, Shelly talked about the "why" of giving. Still ahead, she’ll discuss the "how" and the "to whom," so stay tuned!


Raymond James is not affiliated with Shelley Strickland, PhD or the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.