Through our work with ultra-high net worth families, we have learned one of the most common values parents want to pass on to their heirs is the importance of giving back. Many children of philanthropic families are raised in a consumerism culture, surrounded by affluence. Exposing them to the needs of the world can enhance their empathy for others and reduce judgment. From our experience, exposing children to philanthropic endeavors is an excellent way of demonstrating family values and attaching meaning to money. Philanthropy often brings family members together and helps them celebrate their family history and legacy.
Engaging in shared giving decisions, such as determining where shared charitable gifts will be directed, can enhance family members’ ability to work together and develop leadership skills and financial responsibility in other aspects of their lives. Above all else, giving back allows children to experience the intrinsic benefits of helping others and making a difference in the world.
It just feels good.
We believe the first step of engaging your next generation in philanthropy entails personal reflection around one’s own experiences with giving. Consider the role philanthropy has played in your life. Talk with your significant other about his or her experiences. What childhood memories do you have around giving? What was the most meaningful charitable gift you have given and what made it so meaningful? Maybe it wasn’t a monetary gift. Perhaps it was something you did for a charity or an event you planned.
Reflect on your values. What are the core values you (and your spouse) want to pass on to your children? Where did these values originate? How have they influenced your life? How do you live these values?
Once you have reflected on your personal values, explore your objective for involving and engaging your children in charitable giving. What do you see as beneficial?
There are a variety of ways to achieve your objective(s) to pass along your values and teach the importance of giving to your children. The following suggestions and examples come from our years of working with philanthropic families:
More than likely there will be situations when you completely disagree with your child’s giving decisions. This is normal! Often due to generational differences, varying values and attitudes developed during formative years will help drive individual giving interests. For example, children ages 12-31 have grown up surrounded by technology and globalization. The way they define their “community” may be very different than the way parents and grandparents define theirs. Having grown up surrounded by an emphasis on diversity and environmental sustainability has also likely made an impact on the causes they are inclined to support.
Source: Generational Differences in the Workplace. University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living, Anick Tolbize, 2008
There are other challenges you may face. Many adult children are starting careers and/or raising families and may not consider involvement in the family’s philanthropic efforts a priority. Rather than dictating, our recommendation is to have the family decide together the format for giving, the goals and where and when meetings should take place. The difficulty of geographic dispersion can be mitigated through use of technology such as FaceTime or Skype. Flexibility and patient consideration of busy schedules and individual life-stage challenges can drastically reduce the feeling of being pressured or required to do something, and will pay off in the long run.
If you encounter challenges, go back to your original objectives in trying to involve your children in your family philanthropy and try not to allow frustrations to take over. If one of your goals was to bring the family together through giving, then make certain you do not let it push you apart. If you want to raise aware, generous children who value helping others and giving back financially, then remember the actual causes they choose are not as important as the act of giving.
There are many benefits to involving children in family philanthropy. One of the most important is for them to realize the impact their own participation has on the world (no matter how small) and for them to be excited about making that difference. While there will likely be challenges over time, we encourage families to get started, have patience, be flexible and foremost, have some fun. As evidenced by your decision to read this white paper, you are conscious about wanting to pass down your value of charitable giving to your children, and in all likelihood you are doing so already.
Authored by GenSpring | SunTrust Private Wealth Management with contributions from Lauren Benenati, Director of Family Education and the GenSpring Philanthropy Team
There are numerous organizations and websites dedicated to helping individuals and foundations pursue their philanthropic goals. We have compiled the following list of resources to help guide your giving endeavors.
The following websites provide ways to search for non-profit organizations in a variety of categories. These search engines put a wealth of knowledge about the world of non-profits at your fingertips.
United States Organizations
The process of selecting which organization or individual to give to can be a daunting task. The following organizations provide a rating system that ranks charities based on a variety of factors. These resources can be very helpful when analyzing where to give.
This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.