November 20, 2023

Family Philanthropy: Goals and Reflections During Giving Season

Author Trina Middleton, Director of Premier Donor Services

As planning for holiday family gatherings is set into motion, it can be a good reminder for philanthropists to turn inward and reflect on their own season of giving. Taking time to reevaluate one’s philanthropic strategy is important for all philanthropists, but it can be especially so for those engaging in family philanthropy or considering involving family or friends in your philanthropy.

The more people involved in your philanthropic mission, the more important it is to communicate amongst yourselves clearly and frequently. The upcoming holiday season provides an opportune time to speak with your philanthropic collaborators—be that family, friends or peers—and reaffirm that all involved are unified in your philanthropic values and goals as you look to the future. Starting with the right questions can help keep your thoughts and feelings focused during these important conversations.

Here are a few questions anyone involved in family philanthropy can ask themselves and each other as you all reflect on the past, present and future of your family giving:

1. “Does our philanthropic strategy reflect our current values?”
It’s entirely possible that since you began your philanthropic journey, your values and beliefs may have changed. Perhaps your feelings about a cause or organization have changed over time, and you would like to either reaffirm your support or consider lending your support to a new cause that you are passionate about. It can be useful to revisit your grant recommendation history and evaluate it under the lens of the values you hold today.

2. “Does our current philanthropic giving strategy reflect our current philanthropic goals?”
With increasingly popular trends like impact investing becoming the norm, it’s worthwhile to reevaluate how the assets you’ve contributed to your DAF are being managed to further your philanthropic goals. It may also be worthwhile to consider whether the frequency of your giving is aligned with your goals, and if the size of your charitable gifts is balanced with current rates of inflation.

3. “How can my family and I engage with our philanthropic mission more profoundly?”
Philanthropy does not have to stop at the grant-recommending level. You can give your time, unique resources and network of connections to the causes you and your family care about the most. Volunteering as a family is an excellent way to engage with the next generation. It costs nothing and can open their eyes to the tangible impact of philanthropy before they are brought into the grant-recommending conversation. Considering philanthropy from different angles can renew you and your family’s relationship to philanthropy and can deepen bonds between yourselves and the nonprofits you care about.

4. “When I consider my philanthropic legacy, what do I envision?”
Your philanthropy is deeply meaningful to you, and having a legacy plan in place can ensure that your philanthropic mission and goals are fulfilled by your inheritors. As you gather with family and friends during the upcoming holiday season, set aside time to speak to them about your wishes regarding your philanthropic legacy as these open discussions can provide greater clarity for all involved.

Making a point to habitually reevaluate your giving strategy, along with maintaining a clear and open dialogue about values and goals among participating individuals, is key to a successful and fulfilling charitable collaboration. This Giving Season, set aside time with those who matter most to discuss what matters to you all—your philanthropy.