Personal Finance

81 percent of couples make donations together. How to do it right.

Smart giving

First comes love and then comes giving. Among attached people, 81 percent make giving decisions as a couple, according to a new survey by Fidelity Charitable.

"This is really about partnership," Elaine Martyn, vice president of the private donor group at Fidelity Charitable, which runs the largest donor-advised fund by assets. "Couples should have a conversation about how they give. We recommend they designate one person to be the family champion when it comes to making donations."

Fidelity found most attached people are usually on the same page with charitable giving because 60 percent of the 694 married and partnered couples who were surveyed said they agreed on how they make donation decisions.

The survey did discover some differences between men and women. More men said they share equally with their partners in decisions about which charities to support and how much to give to each, while more women said they make most of these decisions alone.

"Giving is one of the cornerstones of our marriage," said Michelle Buelow, who with her husband, Todd, support the Charlotte Rescue Mission and Feeding America. The Buelows of Charlotte, North Carolina, began to support these charities after Michelle lost her brother, Matt Tunno, to substance abuse.

Todd and Michelle Buelow with their daughters Riley (left) and Ella.
Todd and Michelle Buelow

Here are some of their tips for successful giving as a couple:

Make a budget. They recommend couples set guidelines on their giving so there is no confusion about where the donations will go. It helps to leave a little room in the budget to donate to causes of friends and family, such as your buddy's marathon fundraiser, Todd Buelow said.

Vet your charity. "Volunteer where you donate," Michelle Buelow said. For example, they were committed to raising money for the renovation of the dormitories of the Charlotte Rescue Mission after their daughter, Riley, pointed out how run down the facilities were. Todd Buelow recommends Charity Navigator, which rates more than 8,300 nonprofit organizations, to dig into the financial details of the charities where you want to give.

Use your connections. Giving to charitable causes is about more than money. "Through our connections, we were able to grow donations to the organizations we care about," said Todd Buelow. "Put your time to where your money is and give to causes you are passionate about."

For couples making large donations, the potential of tax reform may be something to keep an eye on. During the campaign, President Donald Trump proposed a tax plan that caps itemized deductions, including charitable contributions, at $100,000 for single filers and $200,000 for married couples filing jointly.

"Tax reform will not change our charitable giving," Todd Buelow said.