Total charitable impact


Involving younger generations in giving

September 04, 2013


Our donors often express interest in involving their children and grandchildren in their philanthropy. We hear a desire to "instill a passion to help others" or develop "a habit of giving." Many of these individuals recognize that a donor-advised fund is a great way to include family and teach them about giving, and they hope to use the tool to establish long-term charitable legacies.


However, many donors struggle with getting started. Who exactly should they involve and how old should the individuals be? What should they say first? What factors do they need to be sensitive to? What are fair expectations of young family members?


Roy Williams and Vic Preisser, two established experts in the world of wealth, philanthropy, and family, researched into 3,250 families and published conclusions in "Philanthropy, Heirs & Values: How Successful Families Are Using Philanthropy to Prepare Their Heirs for Post-Transition Responsibilities."


They compiled real-world examples of the right conversations to have with younger individuals and offer insight into how to tailor your expectations to a child's respective age group. Below are just a few of their considerations. 

From Philanthropy, Heirs & Values*


Age range Qualities   Considerations
5-10 Start to experience the outside world and what "limits" and "choice" mean.   Introduce choice through a charitable allowance, which allows the child to decide how much money gets spent where and why.

11-15 Understand "cause-and-effect" and realize they can control if they are happy or not.   Remind the child that charities rely on our support, and it is important to be consistent in how we give. Encourage giving to organizations that match the child's values and causes the child cares about personally.

16-20 Appreciate privacy and independence, and family members becomes less influential.   Keep teenagers connected to the family by helping them stay in contact with their favorite charities. Let them know it's ok to change the charities they support, but they should do so with careful consideration of the effects.

21-30 Experience a shifting in standards, but not their values, which are the baseline for their future jobs and family decisions.   Involve adults in higher level discussions about charitable giving, and help them understand the operational and accountability factors that are involved with philanthropy.

Involving family in philanthropy will strengthen your current giving because it holds you accountable, keeps you thoughtful, and ensures you communicate effectively. It encourages family members to collaborate and, over time, keeps everyone motivated. Have that first conversation with a younger family member today, and start building your legacy of giving.


For more ways to improve and expand your philanthropy, read 5 best practices for philanthropists.


*Roy Williams and Vic Preisser. "Philanthropy, Heirs & Values: How Successful Families Are Using Philanthropy to Prepare Their Heirs for Post-Transition Responsibilities." Oregon: Robert D Reed Publishers, 2005. 

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