The Savvy Philanthropist
My name is Kirk, and I'm a full-time charitable giving advisor. My particular specialty is navigating the US legal and financial system to maximize the impact of philanthropic giving, so I spend my days working with people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world around them. To be honest, it’s not a bad way to spend a day at the office.
My first job out of college was one of the luckiest breaks I’ve ever had (though I definitely didn’t appreciate it at the time). I was offered the chance to work at a really big charitable foundation in Atlanta for a year. My job was literally to shadow the foundation’s officers to learn as much as I could about how they did their work. It was a super cool opportunity, and as a bit of a dim twenty-two year-old, I certainly didn’t take as much advantage of the opportunity there as I should have. However, there was one particular lesson that really stuck with me from that year. Like a lot of people, I used to have the idea that philanthropy was just rich people giving money away however they felt like. Piece of cake, right? Well, I learned different that year. Through countless money with people and organizations seeking funding, I was constantly struck by how diligently those officers worked to be good stewards of the endowment and to be contributing members of their communities. I was really struck by how hard those officers worked to do philanthropy well.
And then I promptly left for graduate school and sort of forgot about philanthropy for a while. So fast-forward through graduate school, law school, and starting a family, and in 2011, I was offered the chance to leave private legal practice and to take a position as a planned giving officer at a large mid-western university. Considering that opportunity got me thinking about philanthropy again for the first time in quite a while.
I thought about two things. First, I remembered how much I had admired the work that those foundation officers had done years before. But then I also thought about the financial assistance I had received through many years of college. I had received some sort of scholarships at every stage of my education, and I realized (a little sheepishly) that I had never even thought about the people who had donated money to help me through college without me ever even knowing about it. I had never said thank-you to anyone. It had just never occurred to me. And as I thought about that, I realized that I had been more of a taker than a giver for a while, and that now it was time to maybe turn that around. And so I got back into philanthropy full-time.
That was more than ten years ago, and I love what I do. My hope with this platform is continue to spread the word to charitably-minded people that careful planning can dramatically expand the impact of their philanthropy.