More Than Money
Issue #12
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Creative Giving

Table of Contents

“Seeking Adventure”

Five years ago my wife and I started a small family foundation. We use it, in part, to help our three children, ages 9, 13 and 15, grow into giving. The fund gives $1500 twice a year: $500 we decide upon together as a family, and the remainder ($200 per person) we each give at our own discretion (although we communicate with the family about what we chose and why).

Last week we met to decide where to give the joint $500. We started off as usual, going around in a circle, each naming groups we're drawn to support: an AIDS project, a nature trail group... then I told the family about some more inventive ways to give. I described how every Valentine's day an anonymous person in our city pays for hundreds of red paper hearts to be posted all over town, and there's a woman who goes into playgrounds and discretely drops change for delighted children to find. Well, my kids faces lit up. Their minds began whirring...

Together we cooked up this plot: to give our $500 through anonymous "treasure hunts" which we'll plant in various places around town. Each hunt will consist of four or five clues, ending in a cash find of $50. A note will encourage the finder to give at least half the money away to the person or organization of their choice. My kids even fantasize about anonymously telling the local papers about the hunts, imagining the reports might inspire others to make treasure hunts of their own.

I've always been a "serious' philanthropist who carefully tries to maximize the strategic value of my grants. We had a stimulating family talk about the pros and cons of giving in this random and personal way versus to established groups. This project is a big stretch for me in letting go--but my kids' sense of joy and adventure is contagious. And that's the spirit I want our giving to have, no matter how we do it.

- anonymous author

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