Benefits of donating

Meaning and purpose worth more than money

September 19, 2014

A funny thing happened to me last week.  Several colleagues and I were invited to a lunch to get pitched on donating money to a worthy cause.  You know, the "free" lunch, that may end up costing you a month's pay.

Many of us had known each other since we were in our 20's, and had gone through endless business and personal challenges and triumphs together over the last three-plus decades.  When you are in your 20's and working too hard, you also tend to play hard.  You know, "The Wolf of Wall Street" sort of shenanigans.  (Ha, I could only dream...)  Nevertheless, many of my memories of these people are of us being "kids", or young adults, with overwhelming family, business and financial pressures as we grew, and not much time for anything else.

So the interesting thing was to realize we had grown up.  The tone of the conversation, while still laced with in-jokes and references that only we would get, quickly turned more serious, focused on social causes and how it's now time for us to give back to the community in a really meaningful way. 

A compelling case was made to support this cause, with articulate presentations made by our colleagues who were the proponents.  But in spite of their obvious passion and great reasons for supporting this cause, they were equally adamant that it’s our time to give to some many causes, and not necessarily theirs.  Thanks to our community and the opportunities it offered, we had all done well, and it was our time to give back, not just in the regular ways we do each year by making donations to charities who ask, but also by getting together, reaching deep, and combining resources to really make a difference. 

In fairness to this group and to Manitobans in general, this is already an ingrained feeling, which shows itself in so many ways and so many causes.  We are almost always the most generous province each year, according to CRA and Stats Canada.  So, clearly I am preaching to the converted and too many of you who are living proof of what I'm talking about, with your gifts of volunteer hours, cash and by asking others to join in being generous to the community.

So, perhaps I am late to the party, in really internalizing this feeling, but what was really profound to me about this get together was that it was a group that would have likely kept any such feelings and intentions to themselves 10 or 15 years ago, but suddenly we were openly and enthusiastically on the same page.  As a group, we had become the elders, and seemed to all acknowledge that fact.  (Credit to the organizers - you know who you are.)

This was the "one" punch for me in a two-punch combination that day.  The next was a profoundly moving email from a reader responding to my piece on happiness, and making a convincing point that meaning and purpose in your life are essential ingredients to achieving happiness.  His personal journey of purpose had meant looking after his terminally ill wife for 14 years.  For him, that single minded purpose had provided a measure of happiness, even in the midst of such a heartbreaking situation.  In seeking a new purpose, I felt he illustrated beautifully the journey we are all on. 

With the Museum for Human Rights opening this weekend, we have one of the greatest examples ever of the impossible things that can be achieved through the power of people (and one person) being so dedicated to a profound purpose.  Finding your purpose and acting on it will help make you a happier person. 

And, since my newspaper contract requires it, let me tell you of the great tax benefits available to you by donating money or appreciated shares.  Every $1,000 donated to a registered charity will generally save you $450 of federal and provincial tax. (The credit on the first $200 donated each year attracts a smaller credit, so combine all of the family donations onto one tax return.)

If you have publicly traded shares that you can donate, it's even better.  The capital gain on these shares, which would otherwise be half taxable on a sale, is tax free if you donate the shares in-kind directly into the investment account of the charity.

So, you can feel good AND reduce your taxes.  By the way, sincere congratulations to Gail Asper and the whole team at the CMHR. It's been a long amazing journey.

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.

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David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIMis a financial planner and advisor with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a Vice President with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.