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Family philanthropy

Family Giving Traditions

Philanthropy can be a powerful way for families to pass along their shared beliefs and values. It can also provide unique opportunities for families to spend time together, collaborate, and learn more about one another. Integrating philanthropic conversations and activities into family life is an excellent way to encourage healthy attitudes about helping others while instilling a sense of financial responsibility among younger generations. And giving together can be a bonding experience for family members of all generations.

This study was designed to discover how philanthropic activities that survey respondents experienced in their families growing up influence their giving today and to learn which people and practices had the greatest influence on giving habits. Respondents were also asked what they are doing with their families today to encourage charitable activity.

Key insights

Strong giving traditions matter

Many families engage in philanthropic activities together. Whether they attend church or a charitable event, volunteer together, or talk about what charities to donate to, our research shows that the more respondents engage in charitable activities with their families, the more likely they are to report that they are happy and that their families are close.

The study asked respondents if they had engaged in any of the below activities with their families growing up and if they engage in any of the activities with their family today. The activities included:

  • Visiting charitable organizations together (house of worship, university, charity events, etc.)
  • Talking as a family about the importance of doing their part
  • Talking about finances in general
  • Using charitable giving as a way of understanding how fortunate their family is
  • Using charitable giving as a way of sharing family beliefs and values
  • Engaging in some type of charitable activity to honor a family member
  • Volunteering time together
  • Discussing ways the family or family members are helping with a particular cause or issue
  • Talking about what charities to donate to
  • Providing an amount of money—a “giving allowance”—that can be used for charitable giving
  • Talking about how much money to donate to specific charities

The study showed that those who grew up in families with strong giving traditions—defined as families that engaged in six or more of the above giving activities—are likely to give more to charity today.

  • 45% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions donate $5000 or more annually today vs. 36% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
Those who grew up with giving traditions give more

Likewise, those who grew up in families that had strong giving traditions spend more time volunteering today.

  • 89% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions volunteer some time each month vs. 73% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
  • On average those who grew up with strong giving traditions volunteer nearly 8 hours per month vs. 6 hours for those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions

Those whose families had strong giving traditions also report that their families are closer knit today.

  • 81% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions describe their core family as very close vs. 71% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
  • 33% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions describe their extended family as very close vs. 16% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
Those who grew up with giving traditions have closer families

Giving traditions are associated with greater happiness

Many studies have shown that giving brings us joy. This study also shows that people who grew up in families with strong giving traditions are more likely to consider themselves to be happy today.

  • 48% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions consider themselves a very happy person today vs. 33% who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
Those who grew up with giving traditions are happier

Parents, your kids are inspired by you

Our research shows that among respondents who grew up with strong giving traditions, parents were their biggest influence. Grandparents who engaged in giving traditions with their grandchildren were also influential.

  • 38% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions say their parent(s) inspired them the most in their charitable giving vs. 14% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions
  • 6% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions say a grandparent inspired them vs. 2% of those who did not grow up with strong giving traditions

Families are talking more about giving

Our research shows that families are talking more about giving now.

Only about two-fifths of all respondents characterized their family’s giving style growing up as “consultative” (one person received input from the family but made the final decision) or “democratic” (decisions are made together as a family).

However, today nearly three-fourths report that their own families take a “consultative” or “democratic” approach to philanthropic decisions.

  • 39% said their family’s giving style growing up was consultative or democratic
  • Today 72% of respondents say their family’s giving style is consultative or democratic
Families are more likely to talk about giving today

With more discussion about giving occurring within families today, more disagreement on philanthropic activities and approaches is not a surprise.

  • 22% of all respondents report conflicting opinions about philanthropy within their families today

But the good news is that conflict isn’t always a bad thing, especially if families have established strong giving traditions.

  • 54% report that disagreements have no impact on their family
  • 16% report that disagreements actually have a positive impact on their family and 25% of those who grew up with strong giving traditions say it has a positive impact on their family

Why? These conflicting opinions frequently offer families the opportunity to address conflict in a positive manner by finding ways to compromise.

  • 60% report that their families compromise when faced with a disagreement about giving

How to start your own giving traditions

Do something together

Our research shows that respondents who engaged in charitable activities with their families growing up—whether going to church, volunteering together, or attending a charitable event—are more likely to give more today or volunteer their time at a charitable organization. Those who engaged in charitable activities with their families growing up are:

  • 27% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 22% more likely to volunteer

Provide kids with a giving allowance

Providing children with a giving allowance teaches them to prioritize giving and also allows them to plan ahead for philanthropy. In our study, those who grew up receiving a giving allowance give more to charities and volunteer more as adults. Those who received a giving allowance growing up are:

  • 39% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 15% more likely to volunteer

Talk about giving with your family

Talk about where and how much to give. Discuss why you give and the difference you can make. Talk about your family’s values and the importance of doing your part. Think together about what difference your family is making and discuss finances in general. Our study shows that those who engaged in a variety of conversations about philanthropy with their families growing up give more to charity and volunteer more today. Those who talked about a variety of giving topics with their families growing up are:

  • 22% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 18% more likely to volunteer

Learn more about starting your own giving traditions with our tips: “5 Ways to Put the Giving in Thanksgiving.”

Thank You! You are on your way to making more of a difference.

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