The philanthropic legacy – Dealing with changing priorities

The philanthropic legacy – Dealing with changing ...

Philanthropy can be an intensely personal experience. Consider your own relationship with charitable giving – your philanthropic activities have, no doubt, been driven by causes close to your heart. Even if you did simply toe the line – carrying on directing and managing charities or a family foundation established by your forebears, chances are you gave things your own unique spin.

Partner, Global Head of Family Business

KPMG in France


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With the younger members of the family ready to step up to the plate, have you considered how the generational gap might impact on your family’s philanthropic legacy? As steward of this legacy, it’s your job to uphold it whilst remaining open to the ideas and experiences of new generations. No easy task!

Engage the next generation in the family’s philanthropic activities by…

Showing what you’re doing now

Introduce the younger members of the family to the work of the family’s charitable foundation. Provide background on the history of the charity – discuss who started it and why, and point to the charity’s achievements through the years and to what its current priorities are. Let them see the charity in action and experience its day-to-day work.

Asking what you should be doing in the future

Have meaningful discussions about current realities. Talk about:

  • How the world has changed
  • The social, cultural and political realities of the day, and if and how the family foundation is addressing these issues
  • Which of these issues strikes a personal chord with the younger generation
  • The future of the family foundation, as they see it – how relevant is its work in the current day and age and how could things change in the future?


Whilst the family foundation may indeed be flourishing and running smoothly, it’s true that everything can become stale over time. Considering fresh ideas can invigorate an established organisation and bring a renewed energy to the way in which it goes about its work.

Chair a brainstorming session with the next generation to garner their ideas about the charity’s:

  • Focus
  • Branding
  • Fundraising activities
  • Processes and procedures
  • Operations and logistics
  • Promotion and public relations.
Then, ask them to compile a list of the very best ideas and present these ideas to the foundation board for discussion about possible implementation.

Setting up a junior board

Get the members of the next generation to nominate and vote for candidates for a junior board. Rather than requiring them to merely copy the foundation board’s existing format, ask them whether they’d structure things differently.

Task the junior board with coming up with a proposal for a new focus or project for the charity. Get them to do a full presentation or pitch to the foundation board to secure funding and approval.

Establishing a charity within a charity

Give the next generation and junior board the opportunity to see their proposal and ideas come to life by establishing a separate department within your foundation to be managed by the junior board (with you as a guiding hand, of course). This is excellent experience for both running the full foundation and the family business one day.

While the junior board has the space to develop and implement their own ideas, make them fully accountable to the foundation board – with regular report-backs on budget management, fund-raising activities and how they’re rolling out the project and achieving their defined aims.

Encouraging an exchange of ideas

While young people are wonderfully innovative and imaginative, the flow of ideas isn’t necessarily a one-way street. Host regular sessions where the foundation board and junior board members get together and explore how they can help one another. There’s a vast reservoir of expertise and experience on your foundation board – make sure the young ones are able to tap into it.

Offering a mentorship programme, where each junior board member gets the chance to shadow a foundation board member, is a great way of encouraging inter-generational learning.

Building on the past

Whilst the young board may be happy running their own show, do make sure that the core activities of your family’s charity foundation aren’t neglected. Wherever possible, ensure that the next generation has an opportunity to play a role, or make a contribution, however small, in these core activities, too.

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