What Does Oatmeal and Giving Have to Do With Each Other?

| May 12, 2015

Girl in cornfieldThe next time you’re in the cereal isle at your local grocery store I want you to think of Henry Parsons Crowell.  Mr. Crowell has been a source of inspiration to me.  While he faced many difficulties in his life his focus was on what truly matters.  He endured the early loss of his father, the early loss of his first wife, fought and overcame tuberculosis, and weathered business setbacks and successes.  His accomplishments include farming, horse breeding, forming a co-op of mills, and changing the way many in the world eat breakfast.  Henry Parsons Crowell was the founder of the Quaker Oats Company.

Crowell’s success came with its fair share of notoriety in his day.  Today many do not recognize his name.  His product is still standing the test of time.  Even more impressive is a work he and his second wife, Susan Coleman Crowell, started; The Henry Parsons Crowell and Susan Coleman Crowell Trust.

In 1927, he and his wife formed a trust that still exists and remains very active to this day.  The Crowells formed the trust to provide stewardship and funding to organizations that are fully aligned with their faith, and which now funds initiatives all over the world.

Whether you call it philanthropy, planned giving, or charitable giving, giving can be a wonderful thing to participate in and be inspiring to all involved.  Here are some ideas you may wish to consider regarding your giving:

Know your abilities.  You have unique abilities, resources, and sensitivities to specific needs.  What are your interests, values, and intent for any gifts given?  Long-term success for non-profit organizations and charitable work require partnerships that have strong passion.  Consider beginning with causes in which you are most passionate.  When financially supporting charitable work it is important to know what you can afford.  Giving less than you wish or more than you can will have adverse consequences for all involved.  Knowing what you can afford can help plan the way you give, whether it be the amount, timing, instrument, or frequency of gifts.  Whether simple or complex giving techniques are used it helps to have a plan.  Additionally, many organizations desire more than money.  They desire your partnership, involvement, advocacy, and increasing awareness of the organization’s mission as well.

Broaden your horizons.  There is no shortage of need and no lack of opportunity.  You might consider developing your giving much like you would diversify an investment portfolio.  Perhaps a focus is the poor, widows, orphans, homeless, and single parents in need.  Additionally you might consider organizations focused on faith, teaching and education.  There are also ripe opportunities to engage in areas for cultural impact such as art, music, entertainment, or sports.

Still further you may think about location.  I humbly suggest a two-part strategy; give where you are and give where you cannot go.  Giving where you are allows you to better know the impact your gifts are having.  You know the local needs in and around your community.  The more local you are the greater the partnership you can provide.  Second, you may consider giving where you cannot go.  There are needs all over this world.  Whereas you may be able to give and volunteer locally, you likely cannot volunteer in certain places you would like to.  Helping to fund their work allows you partner with them where you otherwise could not.

Wherever you give, it is important to do your homework.  Research the organizations and how well they are meeting the needs of those they serve.  Speak with those involved.  Review their annual reports and any audits or seals of approval from third party auditing services if available.

Deepen your roots.  Getting involved allows you further opportunity to deepen your roots in and outside of your community.  It may also help deepen your relationships.  At the Williams household our children are ages 7 and 3.  When appropriate, we like to engage them in giving and even hear their ideas.  The opportunity allows us as a family to be further rooted together.  The needs of others are considered, our world is further enlarged, and our family’s values are lived out.  Likewise giving and serving can be fun with friends.  While you may want to be private about financial amounts it is wonderful to hear what others are involved in and to jointly support or partake in when able.

We may not be a “Cereal Tycoon” like Crowell, but I have read that with the right heart and circumstances even two pennies can make all the difference.


This article is meant to be general in nature, should not be considered as financial advice related to your personal situation.  Please consult with your financial advisor prior to making financial related decisions.  Waddell & Reed, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC

Category: Finances

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Email | Website | Sean M. Williams is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) practitioner with Sojourn Wealth Advisory LLC in Timonium, Maryland. Sean serves families and business owners. You can connect with him at sojournwealth.com.