Build a legacy of giving by inspiring the next generation of philanthropists

Here are six ways to help young adults get their giving legs under them.

A grandpa and grandson having a conversation about charitable giving to represent inspiring the next generation of philanthropists.

Young adulthood spans some of life’s biggest milestones—from first jobs to first homes—and getting more involved in making a difference can be one of those meaningful new adventures. Exponent Philanthropy's guide, “Engaging the Next Generation: How to inspire a philanthropic legacy for your donor-advised fund,” shares how you can help the young adults in your family become enthusiastic and knowledgeable as they become engaged in philanthropy. And whether you are engaging them directly in becoming an active part of an existing family giving tradition, hoping to create a new one, or helping them to find their own path, these six tips can assist you.

Tip 1: Share your philanthropy story

Spend time talking about your family’s philanthropy: how it started, what you’ve learned and how you think about lasting impact on others’ lives thanks to the family’s grantmaking using your donor-advised fund. Some families even encourage younger members to create videos or oral histories of donors or other family members.

“Families that are the most successful at creating a giving tradition share their stories and make philanthropy a part of their family identity,” says May Mark, a philanthropic strategist with the Fidelity Charitable Private Donor Group. Mark works with many families who use their donor-advised funds similarly to a family foundation—to support a shared family giving program.

Tip 2: Be a hands-on guide

Invite the young adults in your family to attend your next meeting at a nonprofit organization or to join you for a site visit, particularly if you think it is a cause they’ll care about personally.

Afterward, ask them about their impressions, what they learned or what most surprised them about the event. Take the next step and have them suggest a new charity, review its strengths and weaknesses and visit the organization with them.

Looking within and beyond your local community can also be particularly engaging and a jumpstart to philanthropic passion. “These learning opportunities can be life changing because these young adults are exposed to new experiences and ways of thinking," says Mark. “You can’t replace that experience—it can create a deep desire to share.”

Tip 3: Create meaningful roles

Teach the young adults in your life how to make philanthropic decisions, offer them a choice of roles in the family’s philanthropic endeavors and give them appropriate levels of responsibility and decision-making authority. Let them create their own paths.

"Support the next generation in exploring the different roles of philanthropy," says Mark. “The more options you can give them, the better.” These roles could include, as examples, nominating grants for consideration for funding, performing the due-diligence on a proposed grant, attending charitable or learning events as the family’s representative, or making decisions about all grants to a particular area.

Tip 4: Talk—and listen

Becoming a philanthropist might prompt young adult family members to think about their beliefs on important political and social issues. Be prepared to listen, answer questions, debate issues and reconsider some of your core ideas. Each new generation brings something new to the table, and these discussions are valuable learning opportunities for everyone involved.

Tip 5: Share your philanthropic knowledge

You’ve learned how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individual charities, read a nonprofit’s financial statements and more. Share this knowledge so the next generation of philanthropists can direct their giving to the most effective organizations. Resources such as this checklist for questions to ask a nonprofit before making a grant may help to support these conversations.

Tip 6: Get them in the game

Some donors establish and fund individual donor-advised funds for the use of young adult children and grandchildren as a place for them to learn about giving. "That way they can pick what they are motivated by and start to exercise their philanthropic muscles," Mark says.

While Mark advises against parents or grandparents reviewing these grants and approving them, she does suggest creating time for discussion and reflection together on that giving. "What went well? What didn't? What did you learn? What's next?"

Discover the full suite of resources available through Fidelity Charitable to help families create a legacy of giving.

Last updated December 2022

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