Americans on average give away 2.4 percent of their household income per year. Christopher Ellinger ’78 thinks most Americans can do better. So Ellinger, who by his mid-30s had given away half of his large inheritance from his grandparents, last year started Bolder Giving in Extraordinary Times, an initiative that encourages people to part with more of their discretionary money and in turn gain the satisfaction of serving causes they deeply care about.
Based in Arlington, Mass., Bolder Giving, which Ellinger runs with his wife, Anne, helps people sort through values and practical questions such as: How much money do I need to feel secure? How much money do I need to give to make a real impact? How large an inheritance do I want to leave my children?
Ellinger’s clients find him through philanthropy conferences, referrals, or donor-education networks. By the time they meet him, they already know that they want to donate more of their money, and they seek his guidance through the decision-making process of how much they can give and how they can maximize the impact of their gift. Bolder Giving connects clients to financial planners, peer mentors, and philanthropy professionals, who research and recommend worthy charities.
The idea for Bolder Giving had been percolating for a long time, says Ellinger, who in 1992 co-wrote with his wife We Gave Away a Fortune
, about 40 people who gave away a significant chunk of their assets.
Ellinger (known as Christopher Mogil at Princeton) hopes that the generosity of individuals featured on his Web site (boldergiving.org), particularly people in the “50 percent league” who have given away 50 percent or more of their assets at one time or 50 percent of their income for at least three years, will inspire others to be more generous.
“Sometimes school fails to teach us some of the things that are most important,” he says, such as not only how to make money, but also “what to do with it, once we have it.”
Melissa Hale Woodman ’93 is a writer and producer living in New York City.
With his wife, Anne, Christopher Ellinger ’78 encourages people to give more of their money to charity. (Photo courtesy Christopher Ellinger ’78)