Leveled Up Philanthropy: Novus Doesn’t Mean Novice - America's Future Foundation

July 20, 2020

Leadership

Leveled Up Philanthropy: Novus Doesn’t Mean Novice

By: Lydia Pitea

My parents started me off as a little giver tossing coins into the collection plate at church. As an adult with my own paycheck now, it’s up to me to figure out what kind of philanthropist I ultimately want to be. 

Thankfully, I’m not going into this blind. I’ve found immense support in the form of a giving tool and a community of like-minded givers: Novus Society

Novus Society is helping me take ownership of my philanthropic journey and build upon the already solid foundation my parents gave me. 

Building the Giving Habit
I grew up watching my parents give regularly to my church through their weekly tithe. For Christians, the tithe is a way to give back some of what God has blessed us with. The tithe is automatic, unquestioned; it’s a true habit. 

I’m extremely grateful for being able to build this giving habit as a child, but I realize not everyone grew up with the same opportunity. With Novus Society, we teach you how to incorporate regular gifts into your financial plans and make it easy to automate contributions so that it truly becomes second nature. Members also get a donor-advised fund, a charitable tool that helps you make gifts easily.

The way we set up Novus necessitates givers build up, save, and commit a habit of giving to be eligible to begin making grants from their donor-advised account. To open the fund, you need $1,000, but in order to begin using the fund, your account must accrue to $5,000. It seems like a daunting number, but when you automate contributions and let them work for you in the background, it’s painless. 

Growing Your Impact
I was taught the importance of saving for emergencies growing up. I’m not sure my parents even realized it, but they were also teaching me to live within means that also would allow me to be ready for charitable emergencies.

My mom always carried around cash at Christmas because she wanted to give to those little red kettles. Whenever our church (which was a scrappy, elbow grease, blue collar type of church) needed art supplies for Sunday School, new curtains, flowers for the beds near the entrance, etc., my family was ready to pitch in. It wasn’t that we were rich; it was that my parents were savers by nature and knew they wanted to be able to always say yes to worthy causes when they arose. 

As a young giver, young even for Novus standards, I don’t have an excess of money to throw at every cause I remotely like. While I don’t recommend that strategy even for those that do, I certainly can’t afford that in my position. With limited capacity, I need to be more creative and strategic, but I also don’t want to be so bound by my goals that I can’t give to urgent, but worthy needs when I come across them. 

To that end, Novus helps me build on my established habit for giving to turn it into a strategy for longer-term giving goals. The strategies for contributing regularly to charity or a nonprofit are the same for building up charitable capital that you won’t use right away, but that will be there when you need it. By increasing your monthly, or weekly (automated) contribution into your account, you can maintain your regularly planned gifts and still be building up a pot of dollars ready to be deployed when a unique or pressing giving opportunity crosses your path. 

I haven’t had this happen for me just yet, but with the way 2020 is going, I am ready nonetheless. For a firsthand account, one of our Novus Clients, Daniel, shares how he did just that in this client feature

Forming Guiding Principles
Having a strategy for giving means nothing if you don’t have a solid foundation of principles to guide you. In Novus Society, we assist our members in two main ways in this area: 

1.By teaching them how to discern their core causes and principles within the much wider world of liberty and

2. By showing them how to best pursue those principles with their philanthropy and evaluate the nonprofits they choose to partner with.

When I first began giving, I didn’t realize how large a world philanthropy was or how many different organizations were out there tackling the same issues. As much as we’d like, we can’t support them all so we need to narrow it down. For my family, it trended towards Christian civic organizations and missionary groups. 

I remember my parents debating over continuing support for certain organizations when leadership changed or when the organization made a move they didn’t agree with. However, it wasn’t until college that I saw how important it is to have principles to guide your gifts and to do the research before you make a gift. A campus ministry I was a part of used their funds in ways I didn’t think all donors would agree with or that all were even aware of. 

It didn’t sit well with me. 

That’s really the heart of why Novus Society (and DonorsTrust) exists: donor intent. We are deeply principled. When you join us, you know exactly what you’re getting from day one: what groups we will support and what ideas we believe in. There’s no mystery. 

We want to help you and other young philanthropists support the ideas we collectively espouse, the ideas of liberty. Part of that is by honing in on the ones that are your core causes, the ones you really want to dedicate your giving to. Zeroing in on your principles and narrowing them down allows the giver to delve more deeply into that cause and increase impact. This is especially true while we’re young and our means are more restricted. As I mentioned in section one, baked into our setup as a donor-advised fund is that you have time to be able to ponder these questions before you need to begin or are even able to begin giving. 

With Novus you can trust the organizations we’ve vetted, but we don’t want you to have to rely on us; we’ll teach you skills so you can do it for yourself. That’s also why we bring in more established donors to mentor and share advice. They have knowledge about what traits to look for in a successful organization, what questions to ask, what statistics matter most, and they even have great stories about their own blunders with philanthropy. 

Once you have your principles and charitable goals ironed out, you are ready to hit the ground running, both with regular giving and one-off gifts. The strategy for evaluating groups or projects remains the same. Just because you have a gut desire and the means to give to a new cry for support, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Even with these types of gifts, we want to make sure they fit into our big picture charitable goals and stay true to the type of philanthropist we want to be. 

I want to be a philanthropist known for her dedication to life and her Lord. Novus Society is coming alongside me and the other members who make up the society with the tools and strategies to set us up for long-term success. So what type of philanthropist will you be? Novus is ready to help.