The most rewarding family philanthropy reflects the shared values and interests of all family members.
Millennials and Gen Zers may have different ideas about how to give but tend to have similar views on why they give. This is due, in large part, to the formative lessons learned from their parents and grandparents. In a recent survey administered by 21/64, almost 90% of those surveyed said their giving was influenced by their parents, and 63% said their grandparents had inspired them to give.1 The survey further indicates that by taking the time to articulate and model your values and interests with your family, you can potentially help influence and shape the next generation of donors. If you are just beginning to have these conversations, it is important to also give younger family members an opportunity to share their interests with you.
To assist you in initiating this dialogue, we have provided five sets of questions that can help you have meaningful conversations and spark your family’s exchange of ideas and perspectives:
Reflect on these foundational questions before engaging your family members:
- Why do you want to include the next generation in your philanthropy?
- Who will participate in the family’s philanthropy?
- Have you determined how much time you and your family are willing to commit to charitable giving?
- Have you settled on using one or more charitable giving vehicles, such as a donor advised fund or private foundation, to facilitate your giving?
Sharing values with your family can empower them, build trust, encourage accountability and establish expectations. Communicating your giving philosophy with your family can make it easier for them to understand your motivations and create and continue a family philanthropy legacy. Before having these conversations, ask yourself the following:
- What motivates you to give?
- What values have your family and other role models passed on to you?
- What are some of your favorite family traditions?
- What past experiences have shaped your beliefs or thinking?
- What are some of your family’s most important shared values?
In order to plan for your family’s philanthropy in a way that takes all perspectives into account, it is important to understand how your family currently discusses topics that are important. You want to create a comfortable and open space for dialogue. Whether these conversations happen in an informal setting or in a formal family meeting, you may want to discuss your philanthropic endeavors in the same manner. Ask the following:
- What are your current norms or ways of communicating?
- Where do meaningful family conversations take place?
- Does your family currently make any decisions together about family wealth and/or charitable matters?
Once you have shared your values, it is important to listen to and create space for family members who will participate in your family philanthropy. If family members feel as if they are not being heard or that their perspectives are not important, they are less likely to engage. Consider asking:
- What issues, causes or organizations excite other family members?
- How much and in what ways do you think other family members would like to be involved in philanthropy?
- How much do you know about the causes that interest other family members?
- Are there common areas of interest to the whole family?
Take some time to reflect on the information and ideas shared by younger family members and look for opportunities to deepen their understanding of the issues that matter most to them. Next, take steps to include them in your current philanthropic activities. You might consider:
- How much do your children or grandchildren know about your current philanthropic activities?
- What have you shared about how you would like them to be involved in the family’s philanthropic plans?
- Are you willing to spend the time necessary to prepare your family members for philanthropic stewardship?
Once you have been able to share your interests and values with your family and have gained a better understanding of how they would like to be involved, you can continue to explore opportunities for family engagement. Keep in mind that effective engagement of the next generation is not a one-time event. You will be more successful when family members are exposed to a series of informal conversations and activities that build over time.
- Sharna Goldseeker and Michael Moody, “Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving,” 2017, pg. 178. 21/64 is an independent, nonprofit practice considered an authority on engaging the next generation in philanthropy.