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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.
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:
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.
Likewise, those who grew up in families that had strong giving traditions spend more time volunteering today.
Those whose families had strong giving traditions also report that their families are closer knit today.
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.
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.
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.
With more discussion about giving occurring within families today, more disagreement on philanthropic activities and approaches is not a surprise.
But the good news is that conflict isn’t always a bad thing, especially if families have established strong giving traditions.
Why? These conflicting opinions frequently offer families the opportunity to address conflict in a positive manner by finding ways to compromise.
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:
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:
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:
Learn more about starting your own giving traditions with our tips: “5 Ways to Put the Giving in Thanksgiving.”