6 Tips for Effective Family Philanthropy

6 Tips for Effective Family Philanthropy


Many families choose to engage in philanthropy together as a way to grow closer while making a meaningful impact on the world. Family philanthropy generally offers a positive experience. In order to maximize its impact, family members should agree on causes that they all care about in order to make coherent grants. Not all family members will agree on the causes that they want to help, so compromise is often necessary. At the same time, families can maximize their giving and minimize discord by following several basic tips. Following are some of the most critical tips for efficient and effective family philanthropy.


  1. Create a family vision and mission statement.

While it’s not necessary for families to limit their giving to only those organizations that move them, focused giving often has a bigger impact and makes it easier for potential grantees to find a foundation and apply for funding. A great way for everyone to get on the same page about giving is to create a vision statement. The statement details the changes that a family wishes to see in the world. Next comes the mission statement, which provides the framework for instituting the changes voiced in the family’s vision statement. When these statements are comprehensive and clear, decisions about which organizations to fund and which to pass to another foundation will become easier. Furthermore, these statements make it more obvious when a potential partner should approach and when the goals are not congruent.



  1. Give everyone in the family a clear role in giving.

Sometimes, family members may feel excluded from giving if they do not have firsthand philanthropic experience. Assigning roles can provide these individuals with the experience they need to take the reins in the future. Even children can play a crucial role in the family’s process. While some families may create official roles, such as officer positions, others can assign informal titles, such as “note taker.” A quick discussion about each of these roles, and perhaps even a document outlining what is said, will ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of responsibility, whether that means going over proposals, identifying potential partners, or keeping track of finances.

  1. Schedule annual family check-ins about philanthropy.

Family giving involves a lot of upfront planning, and individuals may not foresee the challenges that they face. Scheduling regular check-ins, such as every year or even every six months, provides a formal opportunity for individuals to bring their issues and concerns to the table. Self-reflection is very important in effective philanthropy. How have the grants that have been made brought the family closer to its vision? What strategies can be implemented to speed up progress? The check-in is also an ideal time to revisit personal responsibilities and make any necessary shifts.

  1. Adopt a flexible mindset for problem-solving.

Sometimes, families can become stuck in one mode of accomplishing a goal. This kind of limited mindset can hinder a family’s progress toward its giving goals. One of the main benefits of making everyone an equal player in giving is that it provides an opportunity to hear the different ideas that people bring to the table. When families entertain all of these ideas equally, they can develop innovative approaches to problems that philanthropists have been working on for decades. Giving a grant to an existing organization is not always the best way to accomplish a goal. When family members have sufficient drive, energy, and time, they can think about launching their own projects provided that they have forged a sufficient number of partnerships to get the idea off the ground.



  1. Show respect for family members who have other priorities.

Involving all the members of a family in giving does not mean forcing them to contribute to philanthropic planning. Sometimes people have other responsibilities that they must prioritize, and families should respect their situation. However, in this case, it is important not to adopt an “all or nothing” mentality. If someone has an opinion about a particular decision, then the family should hear it. When family members want to become more involved, space should be made for them. Communication is key. People should be able to speak openly about their intentions and responsibilities.

  1. Seek out on-the-ground experience when possible.

One of the most challenging aspects of philanthropy is that change may not immediately be immediately apparent. While change can take a long time, this does not mean donations will not have an impact. One of the best ways for families to see exactly what impact their decisions have had is by obtaining some on-the-ground experience with the organizations that they support. Spending some time getting to know an organization and seeing its operations can bring families closer together and give them a better sense of what direction they wish to take in the future. Often, the hurdles that an organization faces will not become obvious until people spend time speaking with its leaders, which can pave the way for new philanthropic avenues.


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