It is a common desire for parents and grandparents to pass on a meaningful legacy of wisdom and values to their children and grandchildren, but this is a grand task to know how to do effectively or know where to even begin. And, as many families have encountered, there is often division in relationships to work through and reconcile.
At The Signatry, we work with families in this exact situation every day and over time have seen one great “equalizer” that brings everyone together: generosity. Generosity helps a family look outside of themselves and consider the needs of others. Family members of any age and stage in life can embrace the common goal of lending a helping hand. By bringing everyone to the table, giving as a family provides a great opportunity to share what is important to you and intentionally model how you live that out.
Unfortunately, this appears to be a far underutilized practice. The latest high-net-worth philanthropy study from Bank of America found that 78.8% of affluent donors do not involve other generations of the family in their giving. However, an average of 77% of their wealth will be passed on to their children and grandchildren. This means the heirs will inherit substantial wealth without engaging in the best way to inherit values.
Here are some simple ways you can begin engaging all of your family’s generations in giving and pass on values in the process:
1) Spontaneous Giving
The Blackbaud Institute’s study on generational giving found that younger generations prefer to give based on nudges, meeting needs as they come to their attention. Think of a particular group of people you would like to surprise with a random gift of kindness or give each family member a set amount (like $100) and let them decide how to use it. Come back together to share stories and experience joy in communal generosity.
2) Serve Together
The same study from Blackbaud concluded that younger generations believe that volunteering is their greatest way to make impact. Bank of America reported that donors who volunteered gave twice as much on average. Find a good service opportunity that enables you to practice the values you care about most, and see a change in how your family views generosity in other areas
3) Support a Project
Bank of America found that younger generations are much more focused on supporting issues than specific organizations. Help your family learn about an issue and make a tangible difference by supporting a specific initiative. Bond your family together by championing a cause that you can track impact on as your children grow up.
4) Consider a Family Donor Advised Fund
According to the Blackbaud study, all generations agree on having a responsibility to help others and to steward financial resources. Establishing a DAF as a family foundation is a great tool to practice generosity as family and maximize your impact. You can name the fund something important to your family, perhaps geared toward your specific cause, and even add a mission statement to the fund. Learn more about DAFs on our getting started page.