Growing a Generous Family

By Bill High 3 years ago. Family LegacyFamily GivingFamily Values

If you are reading this, you are already in process with thinking about how to create a generous legacy.

I use that term intentionally—generous legacy. In our Western culture, we’ve tended to focus on pre-transition planning. This is the work of estate planners, financial planners and life insurance planners. There, the focus is on the financial assets and how to transfer them.

In contrast, a generous legacy is focused on post-transition—how to transfer legacy to children and subsequent generations. In legacy planning, the focus is on the children and the kinds of assets that can be transferred to them.

It is well-documented that for most families around the world that there is a 70% failure rate in transferring “wealth.” In other words, only 30% of families succeed to the 2nd generation. Why?

There are two fundamental keys in transferring wealth. The first is establishing and passing on a clearly defined family mission with clearly articulated values. The second is passing on true wealth to children and preparing them to receive it. In their groundbreaking study, Roy Williams and Vic Preisser broke it down as follows:

Successful Families

  • Entire family reaches consensus on family vision, mission values statement, including strategy and roles to maintain the mission.

Unsuccessful Families

  • Parents only work on traditional asset/estate plan with advisors with focus on assets, governance, control, and tax.
  • Heirs discovered their responsibilities at the time of estate transfer with widely varying role experiences (spouses not involved).

Why Family Giving Matters

As part of a successful transfer between generations, a key link to success is family giving. Why is family giving so essential?

  1. Family giving provides a common ground for all because most families admittedly don’t have all the answers for where to give, how to give, and how to get results.
  2. Because of this common ground, there is a shared conversation that allows families to learn together.
  3. In the process of the shared conversation, there is an opportunity: (a) to increase communication, (b) talk about values, (c) work through disagreements, (d) build trust, and (e) grow in accountability.

Ultimately, family giving is the platform for helping a family become a “team” around a shared set of values and mission. All will own it, and all can communicate it to subsequent generations.

A word to the wise: often this kind of family communication around a set of values, vision and mission must be facilitated. Rodney Zeeb of the Heritage Institute notes that families may have dominant personalities that tend to squelch the involvement of the entire family. A facilitator helps the entire family participate in the process.

In working with families over the years now, we have seen the power of working with families and the idea of transformational generosity. It is a necessary and intentional conversation. It is why I started professionally consulting with families “to make generosity generational.”

Impact Your Family

My hope that you’ll grow in your own personal journey of generosity. At the same time, I hope that you’ll grow in your desire to impact your family, and leave a legacy far beyond yourself.

I think scripture is clear: God intended families to last for generations. We have our work cut out for us to think generationally again, to think about impacting the children and grandchildren we will never see.

However, when we think generationally, we operate in God’s design. Who knows what God might do through one family? May it be yours!

This blog originally was posted on Bill High is the CEO and Founder of The Signatry.

Bill High
Bill High Bill High is the founder of The Signatry and a national award-winning author & speaker on legacy, family, and philanthropy.

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