The Importance of Giving
Charitable organizations are how so many of us can come together to affect change. When we do, it tends to make the world feel a bit smaller and tightens the bonds among us. Similarly, when families engage in giving together, it can have a lasting impact and build a stronger sense of belonging.
Creating a Family Plan for Giving
Many families find giving is a way of uniting members across generations. They’ve found that sharing decisions about how much to donate and to whom fosters better relationships and communication among family members. It can also help younger children appreciate how decisions around money are made and the depth of research needed to make wise choices when donating, spending or investing.
As families start contemplating a future transfer of wealth and the role giving will play in perpetuating their legacy, establishing a charitable giving plan should be discussed. However, it’s a discussion that should extend beyond meetings with advisors and become part of a larger, ongoing discussion that includes all family members.
Below are some tips you may find useful as your pursue such a conversation.
- Encourage open communication. Provide an opportunity for each family member, regardless of age or circumstances, to communicate their preferences for giving, including which causes, specific organizations, the amount of time or money they think would be appropriate.
- Look for common ground. When you find something everyone agrees on, it gives you a foundation to start building your family’s philanthropic mission statement. This will help with future giving. Having a mission statement may seem formal but being able to articulate areas your family wants to concentrate its efforts on–whether it’s a shared interest in the arts, medical research that impacts someone you all care about, or a social cause—establishes a shared sense of purpose. This can help define you as a family unit, enabling you to function as a team.
- Decide on the recipients. Once you have an overarching strategy, revisit each person’s list to make the group decision about which organizations or activities you want to support. While pooling resources toward one cause is an option that brings unity, dividing the amount being given—or part of it—ensures each family member was heard and feels their judgement is valued.
- Determine the best way to donate. When appropriate to estate plans, some families find giving through a family foundation to be to more effective in maximizing the impact of their dollars. Others may find utilizing a community organization most beneficial. The more formalized the vehicle chosen for ongoing family giving, the greater the opportunity for family members, especially children as they enter adulthood, to serve as board members or trustees—positions that can later help enhance their professional career and leadership skills.
- Pursue opportunities to follow up. As good as giving may feel, seeing the results of a donation closes the circle. It gives you and your family proof that what you did made the difference you sought to make. Seeing that difference—whether in person or through a report shared by an organization—helps build enthusiasm for the next act of family giving.
As much as giving as a family can help reinforce shared values, strengthen family bonds and enhance your children’s sense of self-worth and awareness of their place in the world at large, it has another benefit. It can also help you build a legacy that will be handed down to future generations.