Share this page

Just what is “family philanthropy” anyway? Usually, it means bringing family members together around a specific philanthropic goal. But even if a common goal cannot be agreed upon, what may be most important is to inspire your children and grandchildren to commit time and financial resources to improving the world. Above all, family philanthropy is about coming together, understanding each other’s interests and ideas, and bridging the generations to benefit society. 

Set good examples

Before you can expect your children or grandchildren to share your vision of family giving, help them understand why you have chosen your philanthropic path. A good first step is to gather everyone together for a family meeting. Explain your values and beliefs and how they’ve translated into your philanthropic goals. Give examples of charities you have benefited and explain why you have chosen to do so. 

And don’t just talk to your children. Showing them the places that have benefited from your generosity and the impact you have made can be powerful. For example, a family that supports the local food bank organized a visit to the warehouse where they spent several hours sorting food that would be distributed to their community. It’s the kind of example that really brings what you’re doing to life. Can your charities help you arrange a way for you to showcase your good works to your family? A charitable field trip can also be a great bonding opportunity.

Have the family engaged together. Be open and listen. Take even disagreements as a potential bonding experience and listen to what everyone has to say.
Jacqueline Denton,
Associate Wealth Strategist
UBS Advanced Planning Group

Find opportunities in your differences

Every generation is shaped by different life experiences that inform what they’re passionate about. So not surprisingly, what your children want to support may not be what you’d choose. And that’s OK. Explore their interests. Find out if they have a charity in mind that they would like to support. Then try to understand why they care about it or what concerns them. You may be surprised to learn that they are already aware of charities that match their goals.

Younger children may need more guidance. For example, if they care about animals, suggest helping a local animal shelter. Keep an open mind, even if your children believe in a cause that you can’t relate to; the first step is to get them engaged. Over time, you may be able to draw together around a common vision. After you’ve discovered what your children and grandchildren care about, help them focus on how to help:

  • Assist them in researching charities that support their stated cause. 
  • Encourage them to volunteer and get a closer look at the organization. 
  • Suggest that adult children sit on the board of an organization that shares their goals
  • If no charitable organizations meet their philanthropic goals, consider working with your child to start your own charity. 

Still need help? Participate in a philanthropy workshop with an experienced moderator who will help draw out those passions and provide thoughtful options on how to engage in philanthropy.

Hand over control

You’ve helped your children formulate their charitable vision. You’ve gotten them engaged. Now comes the best part: giving them control over a portion of the money you’ve earmarked for charity. For young children, consider a summer project that requires them to do research and present a case to you for their selected charity. 

  • The goal is for them to persuade you to donate to the charity they have chosen. 
  • They should be able to explain the charity’s mission and describe why they think it’s a worthy cause.
  • They should also do sufficient research to be able to explain generally how the donation will be spent. 

Once your child has made their case, you can donate the allocated funds to the charity. That will give them a real sense of accomplishment—and give you the satisfaction of seeing your children develop their own philanthropic skills.

If your family wants to be very actively involved in philanthropy, you could consider creating a private foundation, appointing family members to assist with operations, make grants and run the organization. However, they can be complex to administer and costly to maintain, so these entities are not usually well-suited to families making relatively minor charitable donations.

Deepen financial literacy

Engaging with your children and grandchildren on values and the family’s philanthropic mission can serve as a platform for developing other skills, such as investing and operations management. Say you create a private foundation; you could give your child a seat on the board and have him or her be responsible for managing day-to-day operations. 

Or, if you’re looking for something simpler, you can have a biannual meeting with your children to explain how the foundation’s assets are invested. Introducing your children to your financial advisor can help educate them on investments and financial responsibility. By sharing the right amount—and the right kind—of information, they will see that the family can continue to comfortably engage in philanthropy while maintaining their current lifestyle.

Following these simple steps can go a long way toward involving your children and grandchildren in your family’s philanthropic activities. But even more important, you’ll give your children a way to feel more connected and gain a better understanding of each other’s values.

Read the white paper by Jacqueline Denton, Associate Wealth Strategist, UBS Advanced Planning Group: Engaging the next generation in the family’s philanthropy(PDF, 404 KB)a publication of the Advanced Planning Group.

Related articles

Get in touch

Together, we can help you pursue what’s important