This blog is written weekly by Dock David Treece, a registered investment advisor with Treece Investment Advisory Corp. It is meant to share insight of investment professionals, including Dock David and his father, Dock, and brother, Ben, with the public at large. The hope is that the knowledge shared will help individuals to better navigate the investment world.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Joys of [Careful] Giving

“Giving back to the community” means different things to different people. To some it means giving extensively of themselves, their time, and their skills for a vast number of causes. To others it might simply mean cutting a yearly check to Green Peace.

Philanthropy is not something to which all of us feel obliged. Some of us have trouble finding a cause whole-heartedly support; others simply lack the resources, be it time or money. We could all, most assuredly, do more. But then again, we could all just as easily do much, much less.

It’s no simple task to balance our obligations to our community with those to our family. We all work hard to provide a better life to those closest to us, at the same time trying to leave our community in better shape than as we found it.

We all have reasons to give. Many have organizations or causes of personal significance, or that have had particular impact on their lives. Others have the desire to build a longstanding legacy with the hopes of being remembered by the community they love.

When it comes to giving back, not everything can be monetary. Those who have particular skills have a responsibility to put those skills to work for the benefit of their community, not always for personal gain.

For some, especially those with heavy business obligations, time constraints, et cetera; money is a much more preferable way of giving back. Such gifts are certainly worth no less than gifts of time or skills, and they certainly come with their own benefits, namely tax deductions. However, they come with their own drawbacks as well.

Even those who lack the capability to give of themselves, preferring instead to share the spoils of their own labor – money – have an obligation to serve as a steward for those gifts, to follow that gift through to ensure that the gifts they grant or used in accordance with their wishes.

Now, friends, therein lies the rub.

For years stories have come out about different charities that donors have found not to be using gifted funds appropriately. Some have developed extremely high overhead costs, while others have been documented paying administrators ludicrous salaries.

In other instances the misgivings are much more subtle.

Most local organizations rely on the local community for support, both moral and, more importantly, financial. However, for years, in this region particularly, those same organizations that rely on the local community have failed to return the favor by using local businesses for goods and services.

Many think of themselves as major institutions and feel privileged as such, often using big-city firms out of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles for services like accounting and asset management, and even construction work. They seem to have lost their own sense of obligation as organizations built by the local community for the benefit of the local community.

Now we have an array of local causes that are begging for funding but getting nothing, not that it should be any surprise. For years the local community supported these causes from the Museum to the Zoo, not to mention COSI.

Yet when the time came for these same causes to procure services, do you think they utilized those same local patrons that were footing the bill? Absolutely not. Instead these organizations have looked outside the region for the services they require, with absolutely no understanding that with every dollar that they pay to an outside vendor, that’s one less dollar that they will ever see back in a donation from a local supporter.

If there’s anything that can be said about the Northwest Ohio region, it’s that money follows the same trends as people: Once they leave, they don’t come back.

So, fortunately, it seems we all have something to learn when it comes to philanthropy. We in the general public need to give more freely of ourselves, including our time and our skills rather than just our wallets.

Likewise local charities, foundations, unions, et al need to understand that this giving is a two-way street. If they expect to be supported by the local community, they need to return the favor when they require goods or services by using local talent.

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