When Daniel and Jennifer Martin opened their donor-advised fund, they were already familiar with charitable giving. For the past 20 years the couple has made regular donations to St. Mary’s Church in their hometown of Burlington, New Jersey. Daniel, a software engineer, and Jennifer, the primary caregiver for the family, knew the money was being put to good use by an organization that matched their values. But beyond that, they didn’t give giving much thought. “We just wrote the check,” Jennifer says.
Then, in the summer of 2019, the technology company where Daniel works went public. The couple felt called to do more with their sudden windfall. Their Thrivent financial advisor suggested Jennifer and Daniel investigate a donor-advised fund to streamline the logistics of donating money. What the couple couldn’t have predicted was how the fund would change their perspective about what it meant to be generous.
First there was a feeling-out period. The Martins used the fund to set up regular donations to St. Mary’s, but as Daniel says, “that was more of a paperwork thing.” The bigger life questions that accompanied the windfall lingered. “In the beginning we had it, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” Daniel says.
Jennifer describes those early days as “intense.” Then, in late 2019, their financial advisor challenged them to think more broadly about the idea of community. This prompted some soul searching about how Daniel and Jennifer might make a positive impact on the world beyond their backyard. Nevertheless, they still stared at the donor dashboard and the donor dashboard stared back.
“It was totally overwhelming,” Jennifer says, “There are so many organizations from which to choose.” Then came the pandemic. Jennifer and Daniel not only read the news, but they also felt its reverberations. Their COVID response involved their local church, and they branched out. They gave to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, the Minneapolis Foundation fund supporting Black-owned businesses, and an organization protecting voting rights in Florida. “We would see things happening in the world, and I felt strongly that we needed to contribute,” Jennifer says.
Today, Daniel and Jennifer continue to refine their giving. They scheduled a monthly donation to Trinity Counseling Service because they’ve learned the importance of charities receiving regular funding. Jennifer and Daniel also recently earmarked money for their teenage son, Kai, to give him the experience of making charitable giving choices. And they’ve started making larger donations, including one to the International Rescue Committee to help the growing global refugee crisis.
“It’s been a long and difficult process figuring out how to help people,” Jennifer says. “I feel like a lot of what we’re doing right now is about basic human dignity.”
The Martins exhibit how people’s hearts and minds, research and care come together to help create positive, lasting change. If you would like a personal review of your fund and how you can continue to support the causes and charities you care about most, please feel free to contact Thrivent Charitable at