Ten Steps to Great Philanthropy in Your Estate Plan

  1. Understanding your basics- you can’t give until you know you are taken care of yourself. Take inventory – what is donation imageyour net worth? Income, debts, cash flow? Emergency reserve? If you become disabled what happens? If someone you are entwined with becomes disabled or dies how does that impact you? Are you protected financially in the way you should be? Are those who depend on you protected in the way they should be if you become disabled or die?
  2. Assemble the right team of advisors to help you in the process.
  3. Own the responsibility to educate yourself- read books, take online classes, join groups.
  4. Correct any weaknesses that turned up in the review above- put in adequate insurance (long term care insurance, disability, life insurance), make any adjustments to investment portfolio, retirement projections that are highlighted because of review.
  5. Put any legal documents in place to make your financial plan congruent- health care proxy, durable power of attorney, will and trust.
  6. Review your plan and determine what your philanthropic spending should be – this year and for the future.
  7. Spend some time and write a one page philanthropy mission statement (by yourself or with spouse/family) on philanthropic goals –what do you believe in? What do you want to achieve? What organizations are congruent with that? Evaluate your statement –is it consistent with what you have been doing in the past? Is it bold enough for the future? Do you know organizations that are in line with your mission? Are you involved with them? Do you wish to contribute to one cause/organization or many?
  8. Educate yourself on the choices- read books, attend workshops given by community foundations, take online classes.
  9. Give this year’s donation and commit to a more integrated plan.
  10. Annually review where you have been and where you are going by repeating steps 1-7. If there is a life change – divorce, disability, illness, unexpected expense, business failure, lottery winning, significant increase in salary, no more tuition payments take that into account and make appropriate adjustments.

Do I have a giving plan? How did I create it? How do I assure myself that I make a difference?

Yes, my core financial contribution is geared towards education because I believe that it is the most important root cause of change and empowerment. It began when my aunt who was my best friend died of cancer and I was thinking of how to remember her so we started a scholarship fund in her name at the law school she and I went to- it is for women who are working and attending law school (which is what she did). Each year I add to it annually and my goal is to build it up to real significance by the time I die- and if by chance I die before my time I have a life insurance policy made payable to it to insure its continued success.

Thoughts on anonymous gifting, being prepared to inherit from parents and spouses, passing values about philanthropy to the next generation.

Some people chose to make gifts anonymously – this can be to be private, so their names as donors are not revealed, so they are not deluged with requests. If privacy is important then that should be made clear and understood at the beginning – it is easy to start off anonymous and become more public and much more difficult to start off public and become anonymous.

Women need to directly enter the conversation with their parents, spouses and children about financial/estate planning and philanthropy.

It is hard to think about that vital conversation and women have to remember that they are pros at taking care of everyone else. They need to remember what the flight attendant says every time you get on the plane- if the barometric pressure in the cabin changes and the oxygen mask falls from the sky and you are traveling with a small child put it over your own face first- it is only when you protect yourself that you will have the strength to protect that child.

Anyone taking the time to read this is the most responsible person in their family and they are going to get that call if something happens to anyone else in the family – they must have protected themselves first so that they can instinctively do what needs to be done to protect the others.

If it is difficult to begin a conversation about these topics with your parents or spouse then begin by asking questions that will prompt thought and discussions- have you thought about what would happen if? Hand them articles, newspaper columns, and ask questions.

Life is a movie not a snapshot and as we travel through the phases of life there are certain things that we should be paying more attention to than others- single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried all have different challenges and focal points.

Find and hire the right advisors to help you with those phases. Understand that it is a process- understand what your money beliefs and habits are and why they exist, develop a series of questions to evaluate them and then think about a strategic plan to address them.

Passing values of financial literacy and education and how it is and will become a value in your family is important – especially if it took you years and major events to get to that place yourself. Once you are educated, empowered and act it is essential you build what you have learned into your family discussions and values. This can be informal dinner conversations, discussions of the nuts and bolts of economics- how are you going to pay for your expenses while you are at college? What stocks would you invest in if you had money today? Why? What are the influences at work? Site visits to financial institutions. A trip to the bank, opening and monitoring bank accounts at an early age, on site visits to charities selected by family members, development of family mission statement, a discussion the week before Thanksgiving about what philanthropy means and how time treasure and talent will be used. A family book club. There are many creative ways to introduce these topics and values into the fabric of everyday life and develop “family rituals” that will become incorporated for generations to come.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit, http://www.patriciaannino.com.


  1. Hi Patricia,

    I really like your Ten Steps to Great Philanthropy. Would you mind if I reprint it in our Annual Report, citing your website as a resource for further information?

    Is your office is based in Canada or the States? Red Deer Hospice is a registered Charity in Alberta, Canada.

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