Jason Franklin
One of philanthropy's most intriguing and impactful new leaders

The “50/30/20” Rule
Jason’s Quick Rule of Thumb for Fulfilled Giving

October 17th, 2012

"Anonymity Part 2" will be coming next week, but after an interview with Money Magazine I felt compelled to share a suggestion I often offer about how to be more fulfilled BY your giving when you don't want to spend a lot of time ON your giving.



At Bolder Giving, we work to inspire people of all backgrounds to think about how to “Give More. Risk More. Inspire More.” You can get inspired reading the stories of over 100 Bold Givers in our story library, reflect on your own giving approaches using the Bolder Giving Workbook, or find peers to support you in your giving through our list of Giving Communities.

But what if you don’t want to spend that much time thinking about your giving? Your life is busy but you want to give and want to know that you’re doing it well. You might be giving five hundred or a thousand dollars a year, or even five, ten or twenty thousand - but giving is not a central part of your life nor the dollars big enough to justify significant time away from everything else you’re doing. You give to support friends or when you’re moved, to groups in your community or connected to your family, and occasionally to causes or organizations that inspire you. You’re connected to many groups and giving small and mid-sized gifts regularly but not deeply connected as a donor to most of the groups you support.

If any of the description above resonates with your own giving experience, then I suggest you take charge of your giving with the “50/30/20” rule.


First, figure roughly what you want to give in the next year. This is a big question, I know! Three common approaches:

  1. Pick the same amount you gave last year (maybe adjust up for inflation?)
  2. Ask you accountant or financial advisor for a calculation of what you can afford to give alongside your other financial goals
  3. Pick a percent of your income or your assets – most common suggestions are 5-10% of income or 1% of assets – as a place to start

There are a lot of other questions about picking how much to give, but that’s the subject for another blog post! Last suggestion (in this post - grin) on picking an amount – imagine what it would be like to give a bit more than what you first think of!


Second, divide that number in three pots and start giving!

20% - Heartstrings & Friendships - Reserve a full twenty percent for impulse giving. Set aside money now so you can say yes when a friend asks for your support in the upcoming charity walk or when you’re moved by an inspiring program to give. Giving yourself permission in advance to say yes allows you to experience the joy of giving in the moment without fretting about your budget. Free yourself to fully enjoy this type of giving by planning for it in advance.

30% - Community & Obligations - Next, set aside thirty percent of your giving for your ongoing charitable activities – gifts to your church/synagogue/temple, to the arts organization you love, your alma mater, your kid’s school, the workplace giving drive, etc. We all have a set of institutions we support regularly – build them into your plans in advance. And be proactive – reach out to them early and say, “I’m renewing my gift this year for X amount.” They’ll appreciate your proactive support and you’ll be able to politely decline later asks in the year and be free of the pressure of those solicitations and social pressures by saying honestly, "I already gave."

50% - Passions & Priorities - Finally, I encourage you to focus half of your giving on just one priority or passion in your life (or at the most 2-3). When you set aside the two previous categories in advance, you’ll have the chance to make one bigger gift that you can really get excited about. Give a bigger gift than normal and experience a deeper connection to a cause or organization you care about. Focus your attention and your resources and you’ll get more out of the giving experience. And when you spend time figuring out where to give your one (or few) big gifts, you’ll feel that the time was worth it unlike when you fretted over every gift.

If you try out the 50/30/20 rule with your own giving, I’d love to hear about your experience doing so! You can comment below or email me at [hidden email].


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