Transformation Through Virtous Philanthropy

Mission: To inspire generations to abundantly fulfill their wealth legacy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting REAL

Before you give a gift, take the "REAL" test.
If you are a strategic giver, you probably don’t wait until the end of the year to make your gifts. A true partnership with an organization means that you give year-round and you have a plan as to how much you give and why.

You are a voluntary philanthropist and you use the “REAL” test each time you make a donation of your time, talent or treasure.

R: Is my gift Relevant to my values?

E: Is my gift one that Engages the heart and well as the mind - does it connect to my passion?

A: Can I take Action and is there Accountability from the organization for the impact of my gift?

L: Can I Leverage my contribution of time, talent and treasure with others to make a greater impact in the community for the need identified? Does taking action help me live the life that will be my Legacy of values and valuables?

Next time you're thinking about making a gift, take the “REAL” test!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Warm Holiday Wishes!
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year filled with health and happiness!

The December e-newsletter hit inboxes yesterday. If you didn't receive it, visit to subscribe. Click here for a link!

Stay warm!

Margaret May

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Your Philanthropic Personality?

Our research shows that even though women are very individualistic in their approach to giving, they tend to exhibit identifiable behavioral traits as to how they give. This is a budding area of research, and although it has yet to find its way into the mainstream, it is worthy of note.

The giving styles relate to one of four flowers: rose, daisy, carnation, and lily. Some suggest that the theory is an outgrowth of the boomer flower power movement of the 1960s. No one style is dominant, and each serves in one way or another to complement the other three styles. All four styles are necessary for the full potential of virtuous philanthropy.

"Rose" women make up a significant number of leading-edge boomers born between 1943 and 1955. They are forthright about their idealism. The work they do represents their willingness to take risks and be demonstrative about their giving. They are among the most loyal supporters and persuasive leaders.

"Daisy" women are eclectic in their giving patterns. They have the ability, enthusiasm, and network to draw others into their giving arena. Many times they prefer to leverage their time and money and explore several aspects of a single funding issue.

"Carnation" women strive to support grassroots initiatives and are likely to volunteer and get to know an organization before giving moderate to large sums of money. They prefer to do their own research and are willing to be proactive in seeking out issues that may be under the radar or out of vogue with funders.

"Lily" women tend to be more empathic givers. They are talented observers and have a keen intuition in finding the solution to a problem or issue that has personally touched their lives or the lives of family members. Quite often they will encourage their family to unite to support a cause.

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Spirited Woman's Top 12 Holiday Book Picks

Thank you Spirited Woman for including "Women, Wealth & Giving" as one of your Top 12 Holiday Book Picks! Order soon to receive this book about women and philanthropy in time for the holidays - it makes a great gift! Visit for this and other gifts that inspire and empower.

Click here to see all 12 books that made the Spirited Woman list.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Characteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Conclusion

Dame Anita Roddick
The stories of our virtuous philanthropists share a common thread, a bond that weaves their lives together even though they may not know each other. The bond is echoed by the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop. When asked to comment on her decision to sell $150 million of the company's stock and give the proceeds to charity, she said, "They thought that eccentric of me. But you can't take it with you and you're a long time dead."

Dame Roddick died in 2007, at the age of 64, from a cerebral hemorrhage, after a long battle with hepatitis C from a blood transfusion, which had gone undiagnosed for several years. She fulfilled her promise to leave her estate to charities on the same moral grounds that she gave to her life as an active campaigner for environmental and social issues, including helping disadvantaged children in Europe and Asia through Children on Edge, an organization she founded in 1990. A truly virtuous philanthropist, the late Dame Roddick saw it as her responsibility to fulfill her legacy in the way she conducted business, clearly outlined in the company culture and mission and in her quest to promote ethical consumerism.

Here in the United States, that same ethical consumerism and social capital of community and philanthropy is exemplified in fashion designer Sigrid Olsen's confidence that she can pull it all together, and by philanthropist Tracy Gary, who, on inheriting $1 million at the age of 21, proceeded to give it all away. Gary wanted to see that money go places and accomplish things, and she has, with her organization, Inspired Legacies.

These and other women like them personify the qualities of many women boomers who are innovative, responsible and compassionate change agents. These are women who don't bury their gold in the ground. As Marilyn Wechter reminds us, "We need to create a community, and that's one of the things that philanthropy does. It creates a community of like-minded people who come together for a cause they champion, for something they believe in, because they envision the world a better place."

And with the work of our boomers, it will be.

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Charicteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Week 5

Living Their Passion 

Each day you find virtuous philanthropists advocating for their causes and inviting others to join them in the experience. There is enthusiasm and determination in their attitude and aptitude to find creative ways to inspire others to follow their lead. They are nurturing to others and disciplined in carrying out the mission of their philanthropic biography. Their positive energy is like a magnet, attracting others to give gratitude for blessings received and the quality of life they work to sustain. They bring vision and virtue to each decision, which is reflected in their actions for a more compassionate world.

When Florida Cultural Alliance president Sherron Long talks about philanthropy, she means living her entire life working for and supporting her passion for the transformative power of the arts and art education experiences on individual lives, communities, and schools. 

Her goal in high school was to study marine biology because she loved the ocean and wanted to sail the seas with Jaques Cousteau. But in 1967, she went on a humanities trip to New York City with her Duval County, Fla. senior class where they saw the musical Man of La Mancha. She remembers how moving the production was and watching her classmates at the end of the performance crying and be deeply touched by what they experienced in the theater.  She thought to herself, if something can move people that much, in that short period of time, that's what I want to major in.

Long went on to get an undergraduate degree in theater, went back to get her MFA in theater directing, and taught in high school and college. Eventually she went to work for the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, where she got involved with the political process and learned how important government partnerships were to sustain cultural organizaitons and artists.

She realized how critical advocacy was to the arts and worked to ensure that not only did the arts have a voice in state government, but that government understands its role to help sustain policies and funding for the continued development of diverse and quality arts, arts education, and cultural resources throughout the state. By creating stronger partnerships with both the public and private sectors to sustain and advance cultural resources, greater access to the arts and cultural experiences are possible not only for the children, but for everyone. Says Long: 

Those of us who work in the not-for-profit world certainly understand the importance and appreciate the philanthropic monetary gifts of others to help sustain the vital work our organizations do. Many of us would like to be in stronger financial positions to also turn around and make major monetary contributions to organizations and causes we believe are critical; however, many of us earn modest amounts and can only make modest monetary contributions to the causes we believe in. I can, however, give enthusiastically of my knowledge and time and devote my entire professional life in ways I know are going to help support a creative industry that enriches people's lives and connects them in meaningful ways through arts and cultural experiences. It is my way of giving back to the community.

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Charicteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Week 4

Belief in Their Dreams

Virtuous philanthropists have an unshakable faith in their ability and in the capacity of others to achieve and sustain the goals they want their philanthropy to achieve. Their vision is long term, and considers that what is started by one generation may need to be completed by another. They see their life story as an inspiration for others and a legacy of significance for family, friends, and the community. These women bring harmony and balance to their lives and to the lives of others, one person at a time.

Beverly Holmes, former senior vice president fr Retirement Services at MassMutual Financial Group, now chair of the Center for Women's Business Research and a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, not only believes in her dreams, she has seen them come true during her life.

At a very early age she made a conscious decision that philanthropy would be a part of her life. "I wanted to save women and children from all of the atrocities going on in the world that negatively affect their live, and I still believe I can make a difference," says Holmes.

Soon after graduating from college and finding that employment opportunities in the nonprofit sector were great but the pay was not, she turned instead to pursue a career in the financial service industry, since her undergraduate degree was in human resources with a special interest in finance.

That was 30 years ago. From then to now, as Holmes has been a successful leader adding billions in assets, and new revenue, and profits to her company, she always held very dear her focus and attention on the nonprofit and education sectors, especially areas that impact women and children. Says Holmes:

It was a conscious decision on my part that giving back was something that I would do the rest of my life, once I met my financial goals. From my perspective, I knew I had to be financially secure to spend the kind of time that I wanted to spend helping people nationally and internationally. I knew I could make my dream come true.

Holmes established a scholarship for young women at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Mass., specifically for women who have little in the way of money to obtain a college education.

"I was particular to emphasize the field of study would be in finance and at the same time have a human service element."

"For me to know," Holmes says, "that this scholarship will live on after I am gone gives me a wonderful feeling of joy. I am hopeful that it will have tremendous impact in the lives of women who get to complete their degree and that they too will go on to give back to their community and make a difference in the world."

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November E-News

Just a note to let you know the November edition of my e-newsletter is now available for your reading pleasure. In this edition, you'll find information pertaining to women and philanthropy. Visit the "News" page on my website for the latest updates and e-newsletter archive.

If you didn't receive the e-newsletter in your e-mail inbox, be sure to subscribe by clicking on the link "Join the mailing list," at the top right of my website,

Thank you!

Margaret May

Monday, November 8, 2010

Characteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Week 3

Consistent in Their Values

The investments that virtuous philanthropists make through their wealth, wisdom, and work reflect personal beliefs as well as values they feel strongly will create a more just and humane community. The entries in their checkbook registers reflect the issues they support. The money in their investment portfolios is allocated to the corporate and social institutions that practice responsible corporate citizenship in their conduct of business. Volunteer time is specific and focused on the causes that they have identified as important and that reinforce their shared family and community values and the giving of their other resources of money and talent.

Business owner and entrepreneur Jody Potts Bond gives us another example of how she puts the principles to work on a daily basis. Bond tells us that she has been blessed with a wonderful family. It is always a joy to visit her jewelry store, Just Gold in Stuart, Fla., where on many occasions a contented grandchild sits happily in a playpen while mother and grandmother attend to customers.

As a community activist, Bond believes in family values and in the economic vitality of a community fostered by a good education system. A former school board member and past president of the Soroptimist International of Stuart, she grew up in a loving family where "we always looked out for each other, worked hard, and encouraged each other to do our best at home and in school." For Bond, family, education, and community were and still are her most cherished values.

"I prefer that my money help families. I think more than anything about family issues, whether they are domestic problems or children's issues, that's where my first allegiance lies," she says. "These are values I hope my daughters and grandchildren will inherit from me as we work side by side in the business. I want them to take an active part in making the business decisions of where we volunteer our time or give financial support in the community."

When it comes to her philanthropy, Bond is very focused and direct and purposeful.

"If I think there's a real need out there, I research it; I go over it; and I decide what I want to do about it. Do I want to give it my time? Do I want to write them a check? Do I want to give them material goods? I have to determine if there's a real value, a real need. I primarily only give to local charities, because I want to make sure those dollars go to the individuals or the entity that needs it. And I am the first to recognize that when you do it, you feel good about yourself, you feel good that you can share with another person, that you can help someone that needs help."

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Characteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Week 2

Confident in Their Decisions 
Every day, virtuous philanthropists reinforce their commitment to the issues and concerns they support by not allowing adversity to drag them down. These perennial optimists lead others through uncharted territory in search of lasting solutions to systematic problems confronting the well being of their world. They remain restless until their goal is met and exceeded. They remain responsible for their actions and yet open to working with others, and are both leaders and followers for the same cause, knowing and respecting all diversity of thought and individualism.

Such an example of a confident, virtuous philanthropist is Margaret Smith, CEO of Dormus, one of the San Francisco Bay area’s largest independently owned kitchen and home accessories stores.

In 2000, she was honored by the Women’s Hall of Fame, which recognized her work as a past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and for her work in 1995-96 negotiating a $1 billion loan program for entrepreneurs with Wells Fargo Bank. Smith is the immediate past chair of the Center for Women’s Business Research.

As an entrepreneur, she herself has been generous with her time and talent and money for more than 30 years. Much of her volunteer leadership work is for the benefit of entrepreneurs worldwide.

“My volunteerism at the center is more cause-based. I really believe in the causes of women entrepreneurs and in the validation of the social, economic, and political impact they are making on the world and the world economy.”

One of the concerns Smith has championed for several years is how to build positive messages and focus on solutions built on what is right, not what is wrong, in our world.

“People still want to make a difference, they still want to volunteer, and they still want to adjust or address social issues. We’re just focusing on what is wrong rather than celebrating what is right and moving forward with it. Women entrepreneurship, that is right. There’s a whole culture of financially independent, thinking people who have inculcated special values into the workforce. It’s a $4 trillion business. That’s what’s right. So let’s encourage this right and move forward.”

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Characteristics of Virtuous Philanthropists, Week 1

In researching for "Women, Wealth & Giving" with my co-author, Niki Nicastro McCuistion, we have found that women, who knowingly choose the path to make a difference in their own unique style through their giving of time, talent and treasure, consistently identify five character traits that guide them on the way to their authentic social and personal legacy.

In the next five weeks, I'll explain these character traits right here in this blog.

Practicing Inconspicuous Consumption

Each day they tell others - by their actions, spoken or not - what their priorities are. Their lifestyles reflect the values they believe are important to support with their resources. Many have found that collaborating with others through inconspicuous consumption and working to meet community needs has brought profound harmony to their life and has elevated their wealth of self.

Abused and neglected children had virtually nowhere to go in Martin County, Fla. 20 years ago. But in 1985, LaVaughn Tilton-Drysdale, using the principles of collaboration and inconspicuous consumption with the help of a few caring people who know a few more caring people, changed all that.

The idea originally came to Tilton-Drysdale while she was watching a training video in order to work with parents suspected of child abuse and neglect. "Immediately my interest turned to the children," she said. "What happens to one of these children if their home is unsafe for living?"

She managed to rally the community to the idea, raising money and in-kind donations from builders and landowners. In 1989, Hibiscus House, a safe place to send children removed from their homes, opened its doors. Today it has expanded to a multimillion dollar 36-bed facility.

When asked about her leadership role, Tilton-Drysdale says, "I may have made the decision that something needed to be done, but I didn't do it alone, the community did it."

For more, read "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation" by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bridge

As Director of Planned Giving for the United Way of Martin County Foundation, I recently addressed more than 40 of our affiliated agencies during a meeting to kick off our annual campaign.

Instead of giving the history of the Foundation, I read a poem. I believe literature and poetry helps to tell stories, connecting the head and heart. I read the following poem, The Bridge, by Will Allen Dromgoole, because it helps explain who we are, what we do and our vision for the future.

Today, I share this poem with you. It helps to explain the importance of giving of ourselves, be it time, talent or treasure, to help build a brighter future for others.

The Bridge
Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a long, high way,
Came, at the evening cold and gray.
To a chasm vast and wide and steep,
With water rolling cold and deep.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fears for him,
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here,
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way,
You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head,
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
The chasm that was as naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be,
He, too, must cross in twilight dim,
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sharing some moments, faces and places

If you haven't already, please visit my photo gallery on Flickr. Lots of photos from recent speaking engagements and book signings.

Here is one of my favorites:
Author and Today Show money coach Jean Chatzky, (that's me in red) and author of “Raising Charitable Children,” Carol Weisman, at the Philadelphia Community Foundation Inaugural Women and Philanthropy Symposium hosted by Heather Gee, Foundation Officer.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Wealth Channel: Women and Charitable Giving

Here is a link to a recent interview I did for The Wealth Channel. In this clip, I talk about how women play a critical role in charitable giving.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Celebrating Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller
This year is the bicentennial celebration of Margaret Fuller’s birth, an extraordinary woman, (1810-1950) with a global vision of equality and human rights; a guiding light for a generation of women eager to make a difference and leave a legacy. Among her many accomplishments, she was the first woman journalist on Horace Greeley’s New York Daily Tribune and the first editor of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transcendentalist journal, The Dial.

In the side pocket of my purse I carry a rather tattered slip of paper on which several years ago, I wrote one of her sayings, “The especial genius of women, I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in nature.” Every so often, when a flash of impatience enters my mind as to the progress we as a generation of idealist women are making to create a more civil and just world through our pragmatic and progressive philanthropy, I unfold that tattered, well-worn piece of paper and re-energize my soul by reading her words and reflecting on her stoic and visionary character to press on to make a difference for the greater good. 

Making and difference and leaving a legacy are two of the 'Three Principles of Abundance' that I spoke about on my July 29th National Association of Baby Boomer Women Teleseminar. The third principle is being a philanthropist. In my work and research for my book “Women Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation,” I've learned that what each of us is doing in our daily lives in how we connect our passion and values to the issues we see as important to a more civil and just society in our community is “electric in movement.” 

We energize and facilitate quality education, green-wise living, food and shelter for the less fortunate through our purposeful commitment of time, talent and treasure, using our unique leadership and sharing our abundance with others. We use our gender and functional “intuitive” specific qualities to connect and communicate by sharing stories. It may be of how we got sunburn volunteering for a clean up day at the beach, reconnected to a neighbor while registering voters for primary elections, or took a few extra few minutes to listen to a friends lament over the dynamics of finding quality home care for her aging parents. 

We practice “spiritual tendencies” through all our philanthropic endeavors, reminded that the true meaning of philanthropy is the love of humankind. For it is not how much we have but how much we share that sustains and nurtures abundance into our lives. 

Considering the current economic, social, and political state of our nation, there is urgency for women to build more discerning philanthropic partnerships that creatively express our “especial genius.” One significant way to accomplish this is to be proactive in directing our values and valuables; intangible and tangible assets that are the tools to live the Three Principles of Abundance – Every woman is a philanthropist; Every woman makes a difference; Every woman has a legacy. As we live the words of Margaret Fuller, we become torchbearers for a Virtuous Philanthropy that has the power to transforms society and ourselves.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pragmatic Philanthropist

Have you ever noticed how much you get back by giving? It may be your time, your talent, your money or just your full attention when listening to another person talk.

Philanthropy really means the love of humankind, and so when we show our love through our deeds, we are being pragmatic about how we want others to receive us. And in doing so it brings joy back to us. De Tocqueville, called this "Self-interest rightly understood," in his 1835 book, Democracy in America. 

It is a unique American tradition to look out for our neighbor and thus hope they will look out for us when we are in need. There is nothing altruistic about the quid-pro-quot. It just makes good sense and also makes us feel good knowing we have resources to help someone else in the community

Imagine if everyone had "self-interest rightly understood!" We would have more harmony, justice and compassion in our everyday lives. Why not try it for yourself: Take five minutes and pay attention to the next person you meet and give of yourself and see what you receive. It may change your life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

About Margaret May

Margaret May, CFP®, CLU, ChFC, CDFA, empowers women to create their public and private wealth legacy unique to their passion and purpose to make a difference in the world.

She began her focus on women's financial issues in 1990 with the publication of her book, "Money$ense for Women." Today, her renowned workshop series, “The Life You Live is the Legacy You Leave,” transcends traditional estate planning and empowers women to resolve existing psychological or emotional barriers that inhibit meaningful individual and family philanthropic giving.

May retired as a Senior Financial Advisor and Managing Principal with American Express Financial Advisors after a successful 18 year career. Her career in finance began in the mid-70s when she was a Vice-President for Development and Fundraising for Boston University. She received her Bachelor and Masters Degrees from Boston University. She was an instructor in investment and money management at Florida Atlantic University's continuing education department and is Past President of the Treasure Coast Planned Giving Council. May is honored to serve as a member of the board of the National Committee on Planned Giving , and the Boston University National Alumni Board.

May is listed in "Who's Who in Finance in America" and is a recipient of the Brandeis Women of the Year award and the Executive Women of the Palm Beach's Leadership Award. She is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity.

May is an accomplished trainer, public speaker and thought leader. Her financial expertise, experience in estate planning, philanthropic giving and her ability to speak from the heart allows her to bring a unique and inspirational message to her clients and audiences.

Check out "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation," published by John Wiley & Sons, authored by Margaret May and Niki Nicastro McCuistion. To learn more, visit