Recently, I worked with a men's church group that was struggling with a question of how to distribute the money that they work so hard to raise during the year. They invited me to help facilitate a conversation that could help them untangle the issues.
I asked each committee member to write down 3-4 of the core values that they hold as members of this church group. As diverse as the committee was and as varied as the perspectives held by each person, they all coalesced around:
Providing Direct Service and Financial Assistance to Individuals in Need
These guys worked very hard through this meeting, and they came to the conclusion that these common values were a "litmus test" not only for their charitable giving, but also for the agenda of their activities during the year. Ideas were flying, and tension dissipated. It was a great night for the group, and I felt privileged to be a part of the discussion.
There are about 1.5 million not-for-profit organizations in the U.S.... hundreds and thousands of "good causes" to choose from. To start a philanthropic conversation between couples, within a family, or among members of a volunteer group, it is important to start with a discussion of shared values that you can reflect in your charitable actions.