The family philanthropic planning process

The family philanthropic planning process

Like many family business owners, you may have been involved in philanthropic activities during your career. Now, as members of the next generation grow older and are drawn into the business, you may wish to encourage them to be philanthropic too. And, says Spear's Magazine, a wealth management and high-end lifestyle magazine, getting your children involved in philanthropy is excellent preparation for a life with wealth.


Partner, Global Head of Family Business

KPMG in France


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As steward of the family business then, it’s your job to introduce them to the power of philanthropy and help guide the continuation of the family’s charitable activities. Here’s how you can facilitate the planning process.

Provide a venue for sharing family history

Does your next generation – be it children, god children, nieces or nephews, or grandchildren – have a sense of your family’s history? Uncovering the family’s heritage is an important step in feeling a part of it – get together and talk about where your family came from and what it has achieved.

But don’t just give a history lecture; foster meaningful dialogue between generations – ask them how they think the family heritage impacts on them, how they see themselves building on that heritage, and how they think philanthropic activities fit into the picture.

Discuss motivations behind family philanthropy

While older generations defined philanthropy as earning money in one sphere and then donating it to another, says Spear's, younger generations are embracing the notion of social enterprise.

A social enterprise is a business which exists to satisfy social or environmental needs, rather than merely generating profit for shareholders. Younger generations are interested in integrating business and charity – managing a business which embraces social and environmental responsibilities, or a charity which generates profit.

Again, here’s where dialogue between generations comes in handy. In these discussions, chat about the motivation behind family philanthropy:

  • Internal motivators – these are the driving forces which come from within a person and motivate their behaviour. For example, we might get involved in philanthropy because it makes us feel good or it speaks to our religious or spiritual beliefs.
  • External motivators – these are driving forces which come from outside a person and motivate their behaviour. For example, we might be philanthropic because it wins us tax breaks or is good public relations for the family business.

Talk about the goals of charitable investments

It’s no good simply giving money away – for the family’s philanthropic efforts to be successful, there need to specific goals. More than that, though, to facilitate cohesion between family members, prevent squabbling, and solidify charitable actions, everyone needs to be on the same page with regards to what the family hopes to achieve with its charitable investments.

Have an honest chat about why family members are involved in philanthropy. Is it to:

  • Get tax benefits?
  • Further a cause in which they believe?
  • Help less fortunate people?
  • Create a legacy for individuals or the family?

Decide how you will work together

Knowing the motivations behind your charitable actions and the goals you wish to achieve will drive action. All that remains is to decide how members of the current and next generation are going to work together to fulfil the charitable aims – that is, who will do what, when, and how.

Importantly, the younger members of the family need to feel invited to participate – they need to feel, not that they’re doing it because they’ve been instructed to, but that they’re a very real part of activities. Do:

  • Listen to, take seriously, and put into action the ideas they have to contribute
  • Guide them in pouring their energy and passion into the right channels
  • Encourage them to make their own charitable investments and/or manage their own charitable organisations or department within your charity.
  • Instill in them a sense of stewardship over the family legacy.

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