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The giving conversation: Involving the next generation in philanthropy header image, text and icons of people sitting around a table


December 31, 2018

Anecdotally, we know that our donors have a strong desire to include their children and grandchildren in their philanthropy, in the hope that they inspire future generations. But to be effective, it may be just as important to "walk the walk" rather than just "talk the talk."

A 2016 study of 8,000 families tracked for more than a decade by the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy showed that:

"Parents' decision to give to charitable organizations positively influences their children's decision to give to charitable organizations."

Going from thought to action requires some advance planning on the part of the parent or grandparent. When considering the best way to engage and involve younger family members, individuals must consider age-appropriate expectations and opportunities for involvement that will foster a lifelong commitment to giving.

Roy Williams and Vic Pressier, both established experts in wealth and family philanthropy, created research-based guidelines for preparing heirs for their transition into wealth and financial responsibility.1 Based on their work, below are several ways to involve younger generations in your charitable endeavors:

 Ages        Key traits      How to encourage giving    
5-10 Start to experience the outside world and what "limit" and "choice" mean.   
  • Introduce choice through a "charitable allowance," which allows children to decide how much money is spent where. It's important to talk through why they chose the charity to support. Start small! 
  • Provide children with the opportunity to share an interest of yours and to research giving opportunities together for a grant recommendation from your philanthropic account.  
11-15 Understand "cause and effect" and realize they can control whether they are happy or not.
  • Encourage children to get involved with charities personally through volunteerism.
  • According to the Lilly study, "Parents' decision to volunteer with charitable organizations positively influences their children's decisions to volunteer and give to charitable organizations."
  • Provide children with a dollar amount to donate from your account, or offer to match their own personal contribution to the organization. Have children prepare a proposal for a grant recommendation to charities that match their values and causes.
16-20 Appreciate privacy and independence as family members become less influential.
  • Keep teenagers connected by helping them stay in contact with their favorite charities. Let them know it's okay to change the charities they support, but they should do so with careful consideration of the impact.
  • Encourage young adults to review and understand your philanthropic plan and how you are using your account to achieve your giving goals. Discuss the use of short- and long-term investments and charitable planning.

Encouraging giving at a young age sets the groundwork for a lifetime of charity and community connectedness that cannot be learned in school. Regardless of your child's age, it's never too late to start discussing philanthropy and start building your legacy of giving. You may find that involving family members in an ongoing charitable conversation helps keep you grounded to your own charitable mission.Create your family's philanthropic plan Strategic giving resource center




1Roy 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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