Practical Tips for Setting Charitable Goals

We all have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources. That’s why prioritization is important—whether it’s prioritizing your errands on a Saturday afternoon or your annual charitable gifts.

Helping generous people set priorities for their charitable giving is one of the most important services that my colleagues and I provide at The Minneapolis Foundation. There is no such thing as a bad donation, but with clarity and intention, you have the opportunity to make gifts that have greater meaning and value to you and your family or loved ones.

When I meet with an individual or family for the first time, one of the first things I do is work with them to assess what they’ve been doing through their philanthropy. What organizations have they been supporting and why? Are there certain communities or issues that have been thematic throughout their giving? Once I have a better idea of where they have been, I help them identify opportunities and establish goals and long-term priorities for the future.

By taking the time to think strategically about your giving, you can ensure that your charitable goals are aligned with your values. The result? Giving that does good and feels good.

Need help getting started? Here are five practical tips to help you set goals for your giving:

  1. Look at the big picture. Many people give to charity for a simple reason: Someone has asked them to make a donation. Flip that equation by stepping back to think about the causes you’re most passionate about. If you had the power to fix one community or global problem, what would it be? What type of legacy would you like to leave behind? (In other words, how do you want to be remembered by friends and loved ones?) Oddly enough, this mental exercise often makes people realize that their charitable contributions don’t align with their aspirations as closely as they’d like.
  2. Set a budget. Making a budget is a great way to bring greater focus to your charitable giving. Not only does it help you decide how much to set aside, it can help you clarify which causes are most important to you. (Tip: Many people like to dedicate a certain portion of their budget for incidental “asks” from friends, such as the neighbor’s child raising money for his band trip or the co-worker training for a three-day cancer walk.)
  3. Learn about the options. Establishing a Donor Advised Fund or other charitable fund can help many individuals, families, and businesses make their giving go further—not only by reducing their tax liability and making it easy for them to gift a variety of assets, but also by giving them time and space to create a thoughtful, strategic plan for their giving. Learn more about the benefits of the various charitable funds that are available here.
  4. Don’t wait until December. It’s all too easy to leave charitable giving until the end of the year. But planning your philanthropy earlier in the year can help you give with greater passion and purpose—and head off the last-minute scramble to write checks and settle business at year’s end. (Tip: A Donor Advised Fund is a great vehicle for keeping your giving organized and efficient, all year round.)
  5. Team up for success. Charitable giving can be complex. A community foundation such as The Minneapolis Foundation is staffed with Philanthropic Advisors who will be your partner in making it simple for you to:
    • Set up a Donor Advised Fund or execute much more complex philanthropic transactions
    • Manage charitable goals throughout the year
    • Make giving decisions that are informed and strategic
    • Be more mindful of how your legacy is brought to life through your philanthropy

Team up with a Philanthropic Advisor today. Contact me at 612-672-3824 or at

TMF | Practice Tips