The Williams Family Making a Difference Plan
Statement of Purpose
My life so far has been rich and fulfilling, and I feel extremely fortunate that I have great kids, a loving wife, and great health. I am one of the few people who can honestly say that I have enjoyed my career and that I had the added bonus of being very well paid for doing a job that I liked. From my personal and professional experiences, my family, and my travel, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge, insight, and self-awareness, all of which have helped me continue to grow as a person.
As I move forward into the next phase of my life, I know that it is now time to really define how I want to make my mark on the world by giving something back. I want to be thoughtful about which causes I will support financially, where I will devote my time, and how I will make the greatest impact, but I also want to ensure that I still have plenty of time to be with my family, work on projects as they arise, and enjoy my other interests. I want my philanthropy and volunteerism to matter to me and to those whom I choose to serve. At the same time, I want to inspire all the members of my family to join me in making a positive impact in the world, now and into the future.
I was taught by my father to leave the world a better place than the one I came into. This is one of the most enduring and inspirational lessons I have learned in my life. I have also learned that this responsibility doesn’t just happen. It requires thought, commitment and action. I have reached the point in my life where I want to take on the challenge of defining and working toward this goal. I hope my family will join me on this exciting journey.
This document will explain my motivations, interests and priorities behind the creation of my “Making a Difference Plan” and the foundation for instilling a collective commitment toward achieving a goal of leaving this world a better place. As part of my estate plan, each of you kids will eventually receive a predetermined sum of money. You will also receive another large bequest when both your mother and I are gone. While I want this inheritance money to make your lives easier or fuller, I don’t want it to change who you are or the way in which you live your lives. I want you to still find your own paths, pursue education and careers that matter to you, and not be changed by this source of expendable income. I want the money to serve as a gift, but it is not the most important gift that I want to be remembered for.
The gift of my legacy – the passing down of my values and life lessons and the continuation of my actions to make the world a better place – is how I hope to be remembered. To help put my legacy into motion, I have created my “Making a Difference Plan.” It establishes a unique family system of giving of our time, talents and resources to worthy causes that are near and dear to our hearts.
The gift of my legacy is threefold. The first part is in the form of this document called a Philanthropic Will: it describes our making a difference intentions and goals. It can be referred to as a reminder to you of who I am, what I stand for, what I hoped to impart to you, and my wishes for the future of our family. You know me well, but there will be times when having a reminder like this Philanthropic Will should be a welcome read. And, since I may not know future generations of our family, this document will be a way to introduce me to those who will come after me and who I hope will also be inspired to find their path to making the world better than the way they found it.
The second gift I am giving you is in the form of a Generational Generosity Fund: an annual pool of income from a philanthropic fund I have created from which we will all help to make financial distributions to needy causes that are important to us. This fund currently has money in it and will receive a sizable allocation from my estate to increase its corpus and annual allocable dollars when I am gone.
The third gift is in the form of a Legacy Action Plan: it defines how we will come together as a family to collectively give of our time and talents. This last gift provides us with the opportunity to make a personal connection with the needy causes we support while seeing the results of our charitable giving. It also helps us to lead by example as we teach the younger members of our family how to be generous with their lives. But more than that, I hope it will give us a meaningful way to take a break from our busy lives and enjoy quality time together as a family doing something worthwhile, meaningful, and memorable. It will create new memories for us and will be a joint project that we can all be proud of.
When I am gone, I hope the activities you do as a family will continue to bring you and your families together so that you can share this important experience of family generosity throughout the generations. Life is very complicated, and I want to ensure that despite the obstacles, you all will remain connected in a very real and important way. This fund and our joint activities are at the center of that goal.
My motivations and Influences
Although I never consciously tried to emulate my parents, I know that I gained a great deal from just seeing how they lived their lives. My dad was simply a very good man who remained innately caring and humble. Regardless of his own financial situation, he always provided a tenth of his income to the church (a tithe), as well as continued to volunteer his time and talents until the very end. Though he certainly felt obligated to live a certain way because of his religious beliefs, his actions always seemed thought-out and genuine, never rote or calculated. What he gave to others was his deep sense of care and selflessness.
I am very proud of my mother’s ability to overcome the adversity of her life. Despite the very difficult circumstances of being orphaned as a young girl, she never acted bitter about her life. Her difficult childhood made her resolve to create a family life she had never known, and my siblings and I were the beneficiaries of a very stable home-life because of her choices. She too found many ways to give of herself and help others, even when she struggled to keep the family fed and clothed in difficult times.
In addition to my parents, the one person who provided me with a role model for how to live a good life while making a difference in the lives of others is my friend and financial planner. He is someone whom I enjoy being with and learning from. And he is the best example of someone who has found the right balance between making money and enjoying life, and recognizing the responsibility that comes with his privileged life. As a result, he lives a generous life and has made a difference in local communities and the greater world.
I was also shaped by a very poignant moment in my life when I was 50. On a work related trip to India, I was confronted with the reality that many people in developing countries live with substandard living conditions and sorely inadequate healthcare to address the many needs of life under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It made me realize that the United States, while desperately in need of a healthcare overhaul, does have a lot of people and institutions trying to address those issues. But in places like India, the basic living conditions for so many are horrible, making their problems seem much worse. And they are without hope as they lack the resources and people to make the situation better.
Another motivation that drives my desire for us to be committed as a family to philanthropy (which I define as giving of our time, talents and resources) is to keep us connected through the generations. I know that each of you is so talented and unique and both individually and collectively you have so much to offer by doing good work in the world. I also know that equally as important as what you will give to the world, you will also benefit from being generous: new skills, new experiences, new ways to view the world, new ways to bond as a family, new life lessons, and a feeling of knowing you are really making a difference – all of which are priceless life benefits.
Enjoying life and sharing your gifts is very important to me personally, and it is my hope that you will each have exciting, memorable, and maybe even life-changing experiences that come with having the time, talents and resources to share. However, I continue to stress that with your inheritance comes increased responsibilities to each other, your community and the world. I know by your current character and upbringing that you will take this responsibility seriously.
Life Lessons and How I Wish to be Remembered
I hope to be remembered as someone who likes to laugh and have fun, while caring deeply about people and the world.
Laughter and enjoying life are highly cherished values of mine. The world just isn’t nearly as serious as people think. Even death should not be taken so seriously – it is a part of life. I think we need to squeeze all the laughter and love and passion out of life that we can, making living our lives much more worthwhile.
I hope that by the time I am done, I will have struck a really good balance between laughing, loving, working, making and enjoying money, and doing good things in the world. “Balance” is a somewhat trite word, but an amazing concept and life aspiration just the same. I hope you each search for and find the right balance in your lives and remember that sometimes the search is just as important as what you find at the end.
I believe it is important to be an individual – to find your unique strengths and make them work for you. I think that you all know that about me. I love to make people laugh. I am a very creative person and really enjoy when I can engage in creative projects or even attack a problem in a creative way. I am a good listener and quickly establish very good relationships with people. Co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and family know that I can be trusted because what you see is what you get. There isn’t a hidden agenda with me. I am willing to open myself up to people mostly because I think the rewards of developing real connections with people are worth it. I really care about the welfare of the people I know as well as the many people whom I don’t know. I am a very optimistic person and comfortable in my own skin making it almost impossible to insult me or bring me down. And having a good sense of self and a healthy sense of humor have served me well.
I hope you each learn to appreciate and share your unique talents and character with each other and the world. It is the uniqueness in each person that makes life so interesting and so amazing. When you lead with your personal strengths and interests (not those defined by others), you will gain a greater sense of happiness, a strong sense of self respect, and many ways to celebrate the value you bring to the world.
In terms of my professional accomplishments, the one that I value the most is that I was considered to be a very good and approachable boss who cared deeply for my many employees. I treated them all like they were my family, and in return we developed meaningful, deep and caring relationships with one another. I feel good knowing that all of my employees felt valued and appreciated because of the way they were treated. And hearing that I was the best boss they ever had was the ultimate achievement of my career. I hope you will always remember to treat people in your personal and professional lives with care and respect.
I was very fortunate to find your mother, the love of my life, and to create a beautiful life raising each of you, our children. I quickly came to appreciate that having loved ones in my life to share all of life’s beauty as well as life’s challenges is very important. I know I am a better person for have shared my life, goals and responsibilities in partnership with your mother. While life lived in partnership is wonderful, it requires a deep commitment, lots of patience, and mutual respect for each other. Spending time searching for a soul mate should be one of the top priorities in your life, but recognize that love comes in a variety of forms. Loving, supportive relationships should all be valued, not just those that result in marriage.
I have tried to live my life guided by the value that most encapsulates who I am – to leave the world better than I found it. I am trying set a good example and to make a difference for my children, for future generations of my family, and for the world. I hope in my honor and eventually in my memory, you will do the same.
The Future of our Family’s Generational Generosity
I see the next phase of my life as a continuous effort to try to strike a balance between living a good life, enjoying life with my family, engaging in meaningful work, and supporting and helping organizations that I feel passionately about. I want to make sure that I do not miss this opportunity to share with you my wishes and my love in a meaningful and lasting way. Therefore, I would like us to develop a system in which we allocate our time, talents and resources based upon input and understanding of the interests and causes that each of us care deeply about. I would like you to begin thinking about causes that matter to you. I hope that by participating in the allocation of charitable dollars from this Generational Generosity Fund and by working together to support a common cause or charity each year, generosity will become an important activity in your lives, and in time, to your families, as well.
Below I have listed the types of organizations that I currently feel strongly about. Someday, when I am no longer around to make allocation decisions, you can keep these in mind, but ultimately, you will be able to allocate based on your personal and collective interests. For now, I will determine 50% of the allocable dollars and the three of you will work together on the other 50% of the allocation. I feel strongly that by supporting worthy causes that you are passionate about, you will be honoring me and living out the values I tried to instill in you. My greatest wish is that this fund will not only benefit the organizations we support financially, but that it will become a most meaningful activity as we share the collective time, talents and resources of our lives and family.
Part One: Management of the Generational Generosity Fund
I have chosen you, my three children, to be the Donor Advisors who will help to run the Generational Generosity Fund (GGFund) when I am unable to do so. They will insure that the annual allocation (4-6% of the annual interest) will be distributed according to the prescribed wishes that are eventually determined. My children will have an equal say in how this fund will be managed and distributed once I am gone. I think the most meaningful way for the allocations to be made, and the way that will best honor my wish that you all work together on this project, is once I am gone, each of you provide ideas for allocations and you decide together how to spend the money. Other options are: a.) take turns when each one of you will make decisions on the whole amount in a given year; b.) split the fund into thirds (or smaller units if grandchildren are eventually brought into the project by no later than age 10), then make allocations in any way you decide to do it. I know that however you manage the fund, it will be done with the best of intentions and your involvement will create a special opportunity for you to work together on this very meaningful project throughout the generations.
Currently, I would like my portion of the distributable dollars from the GGFund to go to the following organizations.
1. American Refugee Committee: 30%
2. Doctors without Borders: 30%
3. Habitat for Humanity: 20%
4. Yet to be determined additional organizations that are important to you and those where you want to devote time and money, will be added to the list with an initial distribution of: 20%.
The GGFund will be managed by: Milbury & Johnson, 2323 West Moreland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. Your mother and I, along with each of you, my children, are the designated donor advisors: Phillip L. and Katherine M. Williams, Steven L. Williams, Donald J. Williams, and Sarah M. Williams
Each year, all donor advisors will receive a financial statement indicating how much interest on the principal is available for distribution. Together, we will decide the percentage of monies to be distributed. I suggest between 4-6 % of the total be allocated, though the fund may yield more interest in some years than in others. When your mother and I are gone, we encourage you to get your families together and determine which causes are important to each of you individually and jointly. Decisions should then be made and communicated to the Fund Manager. At some point in the future, each of you will have to name successor donor advisors, thereby passing the torch to the future members of our family. Feel free to add to the fund in the future if you wish.
Carter Callahan at Callahan, Price and Associates in Minneapolis has been my financial planner and advisor in helping me establish this fund. Feel free to contact him if you have any questions or need financial assistance.
Part Two: Meaningful Engagement in Select Organizations
In addition to jointly sharing this fund (our financial resources) with selected organizations, I believe it is important to work together as a family and to become personally engaged in one or more of these organizations by sharing our time and talents. My hope is that by rolling up our sleeves and getting involved with organizations that are near and dear to our hearts, we not only make a difference for those served by the organization(s), we also make a difference in how we help shape our family’s values, behavior, appreciation and generosity.
Each year we will meet as a family and decide on the volunteering activities and organizations we would like to support collectively as well as those you may wish to support individually in your local areas. I will take the lead to initiate and plan these activities as long as I am able.
As you know, my family taught me to be handy with my hands and tools. As a result, we were always fortunate to live in a nice home – a stable place to raise our family – even when early on it meant buying older homes and fixing them up to fit our growing family needs. Therefore, I would like us to begin our important work of family volunteerism by serving Habitat for Humanity, an organization focused on building homes for families. Every year, there is a project to build these homes in cities around the country, including the Twin Cities. I will take initial responsibility for planning a family get together around the dates and invite each of you to participate annually in the volunteering process. If you are unable to travel to the Twin Cities at that time, then we will video our work and use other family visits to share the experiences and engage in planning for the next year’s activities.
When you eventually have children, my goal is to get them involved as early as possible (no later than by age 10) in our volunteer activities because I believe the best way to instill generosity and compassion is by modeling our behavior and teaching these important skills firsthand as we work side by side in making a difference. If there are children/grandchildren too young to participate in the building process or the chosen activity for that particular year, then we help define other activities to put their age-appropriate creative talents to work. Some examples might include: drawing a welcome sign for the new homeowners, shopping for special gifts for the kid’s bedrooms, making sandwiches and lemonade to serve to the building team, etc.
You have probably already guessed, my motivation for creating the annual volunteering project is twofold: 1) to create meaningful ways to share and pass down valuable life lessons by setting a good example and contributing our unique talents, no matter our age or capabilities; and 2) to create an opportunity to bring our multi-generational family together in a meaningful way while making a difference in the lives of others.
It is my heartfelt desire that you will each remain committed to this concept of generational generosity (giving of your time, talents and resources) throughout your lives and then by passing this gift to your heirs when the time comes. I hope you will find the generational generosity part of your inheritance as valuable as the personal inheritance you will one day receive. And I hope that both individually and collectively, you will continue to make a difference in your communities and the world.
I have had the privilege and good fortune of living both a good life and a life that is good. I have every confidence that you and your families will do the same.
With much love, laughter, and hope for the continuation of our family’s beautiful legacy,
Dad and Grandpa