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Giving the Gift of Generosity

Giving a gift for the express purpose of having the recipient give it away may seem pointless. But when that gift is generosity, all parties — not just the ultimate recipient — benefit.

Charitable giving and other forms of generosity are strongly linked to a sense of well-being and security. In their book The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson found that “the more generous Americans are, the more happiness, health, and purpose in life they enjoy.”

So how does one give the gift of generosity? When charitable giving is channeled through a donor-advised fund, it can be passed along to future generations. Donor-advised funds allow donors to name others — often children or grandchildren — as fund advisors, who can assist with the fund’s charitable mission while the donor is alive and can continue to pursue its goals after the donor’s passing.

Because generosity has such profound, positive effects for the giver, it’s a practice that’s best learned early and used often, but it’s never too late to start pursuing charitable giving either individually or as a family.

The late Joe and Joyce Martin were a local couple that made charitable giving a family priority. The Martins were successful trucking- and logging-business owners and ranchers, and were very active in several industry-related and community organizations. Joe’s dedication to community was honored in 1988 when he was named Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

The Martins were passionate about many causes and established both a donor-advised fund and a scholarship fund with Sonora Area Foundation to support local organizations and students. The Joe Martin Family Fund benefits charitable purposes in Tuolumne County, and has been used to support a variety of causes from the building of Adventist Health Sonora’s new cancer center to the restoration of Railtown’s historic Sierra Engine No. 3. The Joe Martin Family Scholarship Fund benefits Sonora High School students who pursue studies in agricultural business, agricultural mechanics or natural resources.

The couple’s children, Stacey Dodge, Guy Martin and Jodie Rodriguez, credit their parents with modeling generosity throughout their lives.

“We observed that mom and dad were community-oriented and involved in giving to the community,” says Stacey. “We were brought up watching that. It was always something that was instilled in us—to give to the community that gives so much to us.”

Guy agrees: “Our parents were always giving and helping people out.”

Jodie says that she was “proud” of her parents’ generosity and notes that her dad was “pretty excited” about opening the charitable funds.

After the Martins passed away — Joe in 2013, Joyce in 2018 — Stacey, Guy and Jodie were able to continue their parents’ philanthropic mission because their parents named the three as fund

advisors. Sonora Area Foundation supports them by recommending community needs that are in line with that mission.

“Myself and my sisters appreciate the fact that Sonora Area Foundation is giving us the opportunity to help identify specific needs in the community,” says Guy.

Jodie adds that she, too, finds it helpful to have the Foundation’s “recommendations as to where the money could be spent” to support her parents’ charitable goals.

“We’re blessed by the opportunity to have the funds available to help the community in various ways,” says Stacey. “Hopefully we can follow in [our parents’] footsteps.”

Generosity increases happiness and health in the giver while meeting the needs of others. Opening a donor-advised fund and naming loved ones as advisors allows one to give the extraordinary gift of a sense of well-being while benefiting the community.

Generosity: The gift that gives more the more it’s regifted. For more information on Sonora Area Foundation donor-advised funds, visit, read the previous blog, “Sonora Area Foundation Donor-Advised Funds,” or call (209) 533-2596.