Subtraction Through Addition: The Art of Minimalist Giving

Minimalism is the concept of stripping away things. A Minimalist approach in my mind means “bare-bones.” I certainly wouldn’t mind lobbing off a few aspects of my days so I can focus on the things that I care most about.

Interestingly, a podcast I heard the other day challenged that view. Yes, achieving a minimalist style requires cutting the fat. However, we don’t toss things overboard simply for the sake of it. Minimalism is about getting to what is essential.

Building a minimalist office building still requires heavy earth-moving equipment and a not insignificant number of construction workers. But a contractor can get by without a PR team to get people excited about the construction and can skip the flashy signs that line the property fence. The design doesn’t need a fancy entry way or ostentatious marble to be functional or even beautiful.

Essentialism with a DAF

How can we construct a more essentialist approach to our charitable giving? What would we consider the bare minimum for making a contribution? Well, money for one (or time, if the gift takes the form of volunteering, but we’ll focus on the financial path to giving here). You need a cause to support and probably some base understanding of the organization. You need to know where to send the check and want to make sure it’s received.

Above all, you need a will, interest, and desire to give.

I’d like to propose that a donor-advised fund offers subtraction by addition. By adding a donor-advised fund as your charitable giving tool, you actually strip away all the aspects of giving that distract from that main essence – that desire to give.

How is this? With a donor-advised fund, you can make one gift into your account, and then have resources sitting in your designated fund ready at a moment’s notice. That means you’ve stripped away one of the necessary components for charitable giving, the need pull together money for a gift – it’s already been done.

Your donor-advised fund provider, particularly if it is a mission-driven fund that aligns with your principles, can help with your understanding of the charities as well. The fund provider can be a trusted source for information, helping you avoid a search for trustworthy feedback elsewhere. More burden stripped away.

The other components of giving, such as actually processing and sending off the gift, being sure it is received and cashed, keeping track of charitable receipts and correspondence, are all off-loaded to the donor-advised fund provider.

The Essence of Charity

With all of those elements removed, what’s left? You’re left with the core component of giving in the first place – the desire to contribute to a worthy cause. Knowing your donor-advised fund account stands ready for grant-making means you get to spend your time identifying organizations you care for and thinking through how you can make a positive impact with your giving.

You are left with the fun part of charity.  The essence of philanthropy.

Sometimes adding a tool is the best way to streamline everything else. Let a donor-advised fund do that for your charitable giving.

To learn how you can open a donor-advised fund that will simplify your giving and safeguard your liberty-minded donor intent, download a DonorsTrust prospectus today.


  • Peter Lipsett

    Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

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