Sharing the love of giving as a couple … sometimes easier said than done.

“We would like to do our giving together.” I hear couples say this often. But in order to accomplish this, they have to be aligned. And couples don’t always have the same experiences with giving, or even the same objectives.

By John Putnam

These differences can vary wildly and make each person feel isolated, misunderstood, or – even worse – like they’re not being heard at all. We each know this is not what God had in mind when he said that the two would become one (Genesis 2:24). Every couple should experience the joy of giving and experience the added blessings of giving together.

Differing experiences

Let’s start with an example by taking a peek into the giving journey of a husband and wife who realized quickly that they had very different giving experiences and that they would have to work through this history before they could move forward giving together.

James and Samantha* had a large holding of stock, and due to some recent business news, the stock had experienced a huge positive increase. If they sold it, though, they would have a large capital gains tax bill to pay. Knowing the family to be quite generous, their financial advisor wisely recommended they consider opening a Giving Fund at NCF and making a stock gift to their fund. He invited me to help in the planning.

They made the stock gift and were very excited about granting the proceeds of the sale to their favorite charities. By the time they sat down to make decisions, though, James had been approached by their church about an exciting six-figure gift for the remaining budget of a much-needed building expansion on their church campus. However, Samantha had never made a personal gift of more than a few hundred dollars.

James was excited about a six-figure gift, but Samantha had never given more than a few hundred dollars at a time.

They asked their financial adviser and me to help them work through a history that was keeping them from getting on the same page with their giving goals. For me, this was a fun one.

This is a wonderfully generous couple. James had always handled making their larger gifts, so he was thinking big. Samantha had always made smaller gifts, but was quietly excited about the opportunity to give a big gift.

He was thinking big, but it turns out she was secretly excited about the big gift too.

We started off by talking about some basics of biblical generosity. I wanted to help them explore and find the peace and confidence in their giving. It didn’t take long for Samantha to realize the opportunity God had given by putting in their hands an amount sufficient to provide what the church needed. They both felt peace about it and actually recognized God guiding them to give it. The rest, as they say, is history. Their church now has a beautiful new facility that has expanded their ministry outreach, and the couple was thrilled to have been able to be a part!

Giving objectives

James and Samantha had some differences in their history, but it didn’t take long for them to get on the same page. Sometimes, however, husbands and wives have different giving objectives. This can be a little more difficult.

I was at a meeting recently and bumped into a woman named Molly.* We struck up a conversation. When she learned what I did with NCF, she shared that she and her husband were on very different pages when it came to giving. She wanted to give now; he wanted to wait until later.

Even though Molly’s husband had a plan for why he wanted to wait to give, Molly was living with a heart that ached for all of the people she knew needed help right now.

I could see in her face how disabled and frustrated she was feeling. Though God intends for the generous to experience joy in giving (1 Chronicles 29:9, 17; Proverbs 11:25; 2 Corinthians 9:7), this generous woman was feeling none of what God had promised the generous, because of a lack of unity in the couple’s giving goals.

This is a common situation with couples, and a lot of the challenges with differences in giving objectives can be determined by digging into three different areas. Most differences couples have can be rooted out with these three questions:

Where do you want to give?
Just as couples need to find agreement in all areas of their financial planning, they also need agreement about where they want to give. Usually I find each spouse has a general idea of their personal giving objectives, they just haven’t taken the time to talk about it yet. Sometimes couples find out they’re more aligned than they thought they were.

When do you want to give?
Some people like to give weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, and some have even longer-term charitable giving objectives. It’s easy to see how these can create conflict. Like every other part of giving, as long as you have prayerfully entered into your objectives, you know they’re supported by God’s truth, and you feel confident in God’s direction, any timing can be fruitful. But if this doesn’t get discussed, couples may find themselves in disagreement.

How much do you want to give?
Yes, I am going to use the dreaded ‘B-word”–just like spending, saving, and investing, couples need a budget for their giving. A budget in any financial situation creates involves preparation and reflection, and creates direction but also gives God room to move. A budget in giving also shows that giving is a practical and meaningful part of your financial plans. But a budget for a couple only works well when the couple creates it together.

Molly and her husband’s differing objectives seem really clear to me. She wants to give now. He wants to give later. They each have their reasons, but their disagreement is keeping them from taking any steps at all. If this remains unaddressed, their joy in giving will continue to fade. I’m hoping to meet with them together in the future. And when I do, I want to listen and learn more about the underlying reasons behind their giving objectives and talk about the importance of balancing short-term and longer-term giving goals. I’m sure that, through planning and prayer, we can find a solution that brings them both peace.

She wants to give now. He wants to give later. They each have their reasons, but their disagreement is keeping them from taking any steps at all.

I love it when couples tell me, “We would like to do our giving together,” because I know that desire creates opportunities for God to expand and bless their marriage and their giving. James and Samantha had come from different giving experiences. Molly and her husband had reached different giving objectives. One story was resolved, the other is still in process.

We are all on a giving journey, carrying with us our respective differences that can enhance or detract from our giving. The great news is that couples really can find unity by exploring their experiences and the reasons underlying their objectives. When they do, they will find fresh, new blessings through giving together.

*Names have been changed


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