Although February is the shortest month, it is mighty. We have Valentine’s Day, a bright red reminder to celebrate those whom we love. President’s Day is not far behind, honoring the legacies of honesty and character exemplified by presidents such as Lincoln and Washington. Black History month, during which we celebrate the accomplishments of black leaders throughout history, is also this month. The Olympics, now on the world stage, remind us of the Greek roots of both the Olympics and philanthropy. The first ancient Olympic games can be traced to 776 BCE at Olympia, on the northwestern corner of the Peloponnese in Greece. Although decidedly more modern it its etymology (ca. 1600 AD), the word “philanthropy” derives from the Greek philanthropia, translated roughly as kindliness, humanity, benevolence, and love to mankind. In short, February stands for giving and striving to be the best version of ourselves.
What Inspires You?
Just like the Olympic skier who defies the odds to win gold, so too can a donor drive her giving in this unlikely month. Sometimes it’s your heart that gets the workout when contemplating how to live up to the lofty ideals of “love to man (or woman) kind.” We’ve written before about the connection between head and heart in your giving. Have you paused to consider who inspires you? What are the causes about which you feel strongly? Where is your emotional connection to a particular issue? Many times charitable giving stems from a donor’s desire to give back, to honor the memory of a loved one, or to express gratitude or appreciation for someone special in your life. Some gifts are made to support the expression of love or beauty in the world, to protect a special place or to ensure that others can experience art or dance or music. Sometimes it’s to right a wrong. Many donors also give of their time to causes that inspire them, and deploy their values when making decisions about where to invest their money or where to shop for clothes or food or other daily necessities. Not all giving is tied to charitable causes; many of us hold out our hands to help friends, neighbors and family members out of love and to help them in times of need. We do not need to confine these thoughts to a single month, of course, and most don’t. But there is no reason why we can’t turn thoughts into action early in the year, in February, with the inspiration of the various holidays and events that occur this month.
Why February? Five Reasons to Consider
Whether you are making a gift to charity or to an individual, here are five reasons to consider February giving.
- Giving early in the year ensures that the gift will be made. If some reason you are unable to make your gift later in the year, or if the rush at the end of the year gets the better of you, an early start will make certain that your gifts to individuals or to charity have been made.
- Gifts made now can grow in the hands of the recipient. So, for example, a gift made in January or February can appreciate in value or can extend the impact of your gift.
- In the realm of charitable gifts, gifts made early in the year can be leveraged to attract additional gifts throughout the year.
- Gifts made early in the year allow for more gracious and meaningful communication between the donor and the recipient. There is more time to express gratitude for the gift and show the impact of it than there is for a gift are made in a flurry at the end of the year.
- Giving now eliminates risk of errors in delivery (of stocks or care packages) that can cause a gift to be late.
Make February the New December
Whether you are inspired by the historic legacies of Lincoln, Washington, and Frederic Douglass, or the feats of strength by Chloe Kim and Shaun White, give February its due and think about your giving now. If all else fails, turn to love and let that be your guide. With its generosity of spirit and good will to all, why not let February be your new December?
About the Authors
Nancy Gardiner is a Partner and Director of Family and Office Services at Hemenway & Barnes LLP. She works with families on legal, tax and investment aspects of governance, succession and all facets of family office creation, operation and management. Read Nancy’s full biography here.
Gioia Perugini is Associate Director, Family Office and Philanthropy Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services. Read Gioia’s full biography here.
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