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Family Philanthropy

How to engage adult children in family philanthropy

From adult children to sibling groups and cousins, it’s never too early—or too late—to engage your family in giving. “Multi-generational engagement is not about handing the baton,” explains philanthropic advisor Colleen Mitchell of VENTURE3Philanthropy. The key is considering your children’s stages in life, strengths and interests. Then family philanthropy becomes a true bonding experience, rather than one loaded with expectations.

3 approaches to support your family’s giving

Mitchell suggests three methods that families can use alone or in combination:

1. Individual Funds, Individual Giving

Family members are each given their own individual funds to focus on the charitable causes that matter most to them. Each person may talk through his or her choices with other family members or invite them to go on site visits, she explains, but the idea is simple: parents continue their legacy of giving by supporting the charitable passions of each family member, with no strings attached.

2. Family Fund, Family Giving

Under this model, the family’s charitable monies are consolidated in a single fund. Further, the family commits to using those funds to support charities that have shared significance among individuals in the family. For example, the family may donate to a common alma mater or to organizations tackling a health issue that’s affected family members.

3. Family Fund, Individual Giving

Here the funds are consolidated but the family allows members to support individual causes that are important to them. One mechanism for accomplishing this is to encourage each family member to recommend a few charities for other family members to review and consider ahead of a family meeting. Then, at the meeting, each family member can present their favorite organizations, take a vote and make decisions about what charities to support.

Making giving decisions as a family

Giving together as a family can be both complex and rewarding. The below tips for organizing family conversations about philanthropy provide information to guide you through these discussions:

Hold family meetings about giving

Organize a regular family meeting in conjunction with an already planned and well-attended event, such as Thanksgiving weekend or a big birthday party. Make this family meeting an integral part of your traditions. Make sure family members have enough time in advance of the meeting to determine the charitable causes they’d like to discuss.

Multi-generation family having conversation

Create clear rules for the meeting

Al Mueller, founder and president of Excellence in Giving, suggests three guidelines for running a family meeting well:

  • One family member should be the champion or advocate for each request. This involves presenting an idea and accepting feedback.
  • Always have more requests than money. Help your children learn how to allocate as a group by encouraging more requests than you’ll be able to support at one time.
  • Focus on communication and mutual respect. Encourage all family members to speak up and share their reactions. Prepare for a cyclical flow of presentation, discussion and resolutions. Encourage alignment and compromise, Mueller suggests. “If you support my idea this time, I’ll support yours next time.”

Assess your impact

Make time to regularly review the effect of your family giving strategy. Devoting a small amount of time at family events, holidays or through quarterly phone calls will allow you to enjoy the results of your giving together.

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