The Secret to True Love: Giving as a Couple

Hearts, chocolate, roses—love and sweet things are in the air today. The sweetest notion? Couples really do love … giving together.

“Giving is a source of agreement among couples.” —2017 Fidelity Charitable survey

A 2017 Fidelity Charitable report found that more than 80 percent of its donors make giving decisions as a couple, including which charities to support or how much and of which assets to give.

Even better, only 11 percent said they disagree on those decisions. Among that group, half said they had less “debate” over charitable giving than in other areas of their financial decision-making.


How are so many couples finding common ground when it comes to charitable giving?

Perhaps a new mantra is afoot: The couple that gives together, stays together. For them, the tie that binds may not be in the act of philanthropic planning or in the actual giving of the charitable gift. What enables them to find mutual agreement runs much deeper than that: a common purpose.

It’s a shared set of values and beliefs that each held separately—how they see the world, their hopes for future generations—and now live out in their relationship. “Their motivations to give are ultimately woven into the fabric of their relationship,” the report writes.

That explains why half of the couples surveyed say they give to an organization because it’s important to them. What’s more, 44 percent said giving is part of their values or family values, and 42 percent give out of a sense of gratitude for what they have in their life.


The stats give us the framework, but here’s how one couple lives out their giving story:

Linda and Mark, married for 19 years, have woven charitable giving into most every part of their lives. It’s emblematic of their essence as a family. Both also grew up in households where, Linda says, “charitable giving was an important expression of gratitude.”

Today, the parents of two adult children and one in high school say their giving, heavily oriented on youth, is an affirmation of family priorities and where they believe an investment will add the most community value. “We believe in investing in our future,” Linda says.

What’s at the core of why they give? You guessed it. “We married,” Linda says, “because we wanted to build something together that we could never have built alone, a family, a home, a life filled with adventure.”

“Our charitable giving is one more opportunity for us to build something together.”


As newlyweds: In lieu of wedding gifts, ask guests to bring items from a list of supplies for a charity you both love, like an after-school program, women’s shelter or nature preserve. Or offer guests an option to make a donation directly to a favorite charity you support as a couple.

With kids: Take small steps to teach charitable giving. Walk dogs once a week as a family for the local humane society or put extra change into a family giving jar. When the jar is full, trade the change for dollars and donate the money to a cause you all believe in. (See the “family” theme here? Don’t let Mom and Dad rule the day. Kids should have input in the decision-making process to help build a true love for charitable giving and get them excited about the mission.)

For one another: Establish an educational scholarship in both of your names that not only supports your area of interest/expertise, individually or as a couple, but also provides greater opportunities for future generations. Think beyond your higher-ed alma mater and consider your local high school, community college or Rotary Club, for example. “You don’t have to be rich,” says one couple who started an endowed scholarship to a local community college, with $500.


  • Realize it’s never too late. The point is to start giving something and develop the awareness and eventual habit to give as a couple. Every gift—no matter how much—impacts someone’s life or an organization. Yours could be the very dollar that makes that difference.
  • Come up with a mission statement. Thinking through and articulating your charitable giving, whether individually, as a couple or as a family, enables everyone to focus the dollars for the greatest impact. A clearly conceived mission impassions and empowers everyone who contributes to the cause, emboldening your “mission” even more to create a better community. Start creating your mission statement here with this easy-to-follow worksheet.
  • Create an annual giving budget. Couples are wise to set a yearly budget for their charitable giving, so there are no surprises or disappointments between those who put the money in. Budgets can be based on either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of combined annual income. Based on those preset figures, you can make a one-time annual gift or break out donations into smaller monthly payments, if that’s easier on your overall household budget.

Try this: If you seek room for individual giving within your plan, think in terms of buckets of giving, or breaking out your donations into percentages of “mine, yours and ours.” 

  • Follow the 80/20 rule. Set aside about 20 percent of your annual giving budget to support charities and causes that are important to family and friends, or to give to unexpected needs that require a quick influx of donations. However, stick to using the bulk of your preset charitable dollars to support the groups that are important to you as a couple.


As a nonprofit, our job is to ensure that, at any stage, a couple’s gift is recognized and used appropriately.

Plan couples-only appreciation events, like a Valentine’s Day-themed “Taste of the Town” dinner with raffles for donated trip getaways, spa packages and the like. In search of something simpler? Send a Valentine’s Day “we love you” to thank them for their support.

How, as a nonprofit, have you seen couples give in especially successful or creative ways that make the most of their combined giving? We’d like to hear what you think is the greatest key to success in giving as a couple or in a partnership.

2 thoughts on “The Secret to True Love: Giving as a Couple

  1. Industry stats indicate women give 60%-65% of all donations. Are you suggesting they make the donation after discussion w their husband?

    1. Mike, not necessarily.

      Industry stats obviously include married, single, divorced and widowed women, so we need to take that into account.

      Also, this is a great example of why looking at charitable giving by sector is so important.

      The 60%-65% female figure may be accurate, but it is misleading. The human services, medical research and health care sectors receive the highest proportion of the total individual monetary charitable giving. All three are significantly more likely to receive donations from women than men. Conversely, education, secondary education, arts and culture and public society benefits sectors skew heavily male but make up a smaller proportion of the total amount of individual monetary charitable giving.

      We also know from our research that no matter the sector, personal experience is the number one way that donors prefer to learn about nonprofits and that personal experience also has the most influence on the decision on whether or not to give, followed by family and friends.

      Hope that helps

Leave a Reply