Ladies and gents, put your checkbooks away. Or, for the Millennial crowd, your Venmo.
It might sound unusual — people like me are used to prompting legacy-building donations. Indeed, cold cash is one of the best sculpting tools for monuments. But I encourage being highly deliberate about the types, amounts, and frequencies of support you give.
Whether you’re in a family office or a Fortune 100, creating a meaningful legacy is less about the impression we intend to make and more about the way our names leave others’ lips long after we’ve left the room. We’re not the ones who sing our own ballads, others sing them about us. So please do give. But don’t just give money… give time, focus, and relationship.
Why should we think about 2022…. and on? Since North America just commemorated Juneteenth 2021, we can frame the efficacy of our gifts within the next year’s time. It’s true that futurism has nothing to do with circling dates on calendars, but using time as a container helps us understand the cross-section of effort and efficacy. Here are a few situating examples:
If we note that large companies “pledged” somewhere in the $300M range in 2020, we might be a little awe-struck… until we recall that pledges are not disbursals, which can take years to get into the hands of communities. At today’s writing, roughly Q3 of 2021, much of that money is languishing. Further, when we take numbers into consideration, a few hundred Mill seems cute next to the over $16 Billion cost of racism just since 2000. And if we dig a little deeper, this calculation doesn’t account for the physiological and mental health costs of racial microaggressions, lack of access to preventable healthcare, or structural design flaws like food deserts and proximity to highways.
Sometimes people get mad when I follow up critiques with “give anyways — generously and graciously!” Why do I suggest such a thing after kvetching about the relative insignificance of the number? Again, it’s because “giving” isn’t just about cash… it’s about relationships, too.
If money is a bit like a melody, it sits atop a beat made of time. Like any good metronome, time helps us set the tempo of the ballad we’re writing.
No, you won’t create a full brown legacy between now and Juneteenth 2022. But you can begin a deep and meaningful connection with a few communities or social enterprises. Because all worthwhile legacies require investment, even though there are many ways to invest, time is an irreplaceable one. Creating legacy requires building a monument from the ground up. A monument erected today is not guaranteed to stand tall years from now and the sands of time don’t always behave as we hope they will.
Here’s a cheat sheet:
>> Consider the relationship you’d like to have with history. This is your barometer for the relationships you’ll set up rather than for how much money you’ll give.
>> Consider the relationship you’d like to have with the present. This is your barometer for how you’ll start charitable relationships. If you lead with money, you’ll have an intense yet non-relational impact, whereas if you lead with time and curiosity, you’ll have a highly relational impact.
>> Consider the quality of the relationship you’re building into the future. No one can tell you how much to give or what combination of money, time, events, conversations, and focus to give. But solid strategic planning will help you build in a way that’s authentic to you.
When you look back from Juneteenth 2022, do you want to be just another check-writer… or do you want to be on the leading edge of a new social equity paradigm?
If you’re genuine, you won’t even need to worry about looking good in public because it will be clear that the legacy you’re building is about adding value rather than virtue signaling. Money is energy; it’s attention and preciousness in the form of numbers. So are you ready to write a ballad? Then get out your metronome and challenge yourself to give meaningfully.