Top ten tips for philanthropic families

The generosity of wealthy families has a long history, from the Rockefellers and Carnegies of the US to Sweden's Wallenbergs and Asia's Kadoories. But with so many worthy causes vying for support, deciding how best to represent the family's values through its philanthropy can prove very challenging. Right are 10 tips for families that are considering, or in the process of, embarking upon a philanthropic journey together.

01 Define your mission
Explore the essence of what your family's philanthropy is about and put it on paper. Collaboratively defining what the family is seeking to achieve will help you structure, communicate and carry out your work effectively, avoid misunderstandings, and create a sense of shared ownership amongst those who are actively engaged. It is also equally important to revisit the family's mission when a new generation comes to the table, helping younger members of the family to effectively engage with and contribute to its philanthropy.

02 Know your motivations
It's important to understand what the driving forces behind your giving are. Good questions to ask include: to what extent do you view philanthropy as a means of uniting your family around a shared activity? Are you better suited to creating change individually or collectively? Do the family have shared philanthropic interests? Having a clear and honest understanding of where your motivations lie will help shape how your giving can be most effective.

03 Mind the gap
Family philanthropy involves stakeholders who can span several generations. Good family philanthropy takes into account the opinions of all involved and promotes intergenerational discussion. Listening to each other and learning to respect and navigate familial differences in opinion is one of the cornerstones of successful family giving. Put another way, in order for a family to know where it's going it must first know where it is coming from.

04 Make it relevant
Taking an active role in family philanthropy requires
real commitment. Young people in particular are increasingly time-poor; therefore it is essential that older generations create structures within their family-giving model that can engage the incoming ones.

05 Consider a junior board
Creating a junior board or next-generation committee (with smaller financial resources) within the family's philanthropic model can be an effective way of engaging younger generations in the family's philanthropic mission – providing newcomers with firsthand, practical grant-making experience before they move up into the broader governance process.

06 Discretionary funding
Setting aside additional funding outside the "collective pot" for individual members to explore their own particular philanthropic interests can be a useful way to accommodate personal growth within the umbrella of the family model, which in turn can strengthen the core work that the family carries out together.

07 Discuss your values
Much of what philanthropy does is driven by deeply held values and beliefs. These can sometimes become hazy or unclear as time progresses and the wheels of your philanthropic vehicle begin to create their own momentum. Consider incorporating processes that set aside time for your family to convene and share its experiences. Scheduled family retreats can be a useful way for the family to reconnect, assess how far it has come, where it wants to go, and helps to instil a sense of pride and legacy in all involved.

08 Don't force it
Building anything of real and lasting worth takes time. Have patience and embrace the inevitable changes and mistakes that will happen along the way; they're all part of the learning experience and will strengthen your philanthropic mission in the long-term. Equally, don't force younger members of the family into doing work they do not want to do. If the right opportunities are made available to them then those who wish to take up the mantle will do so naturally, in their own time. Remember – philanthropy and optimism go hand in hand.

09 Seek advice
Embarking on a philanthropic journey of any kind can appear daunting at first, but you are not alone. There exists a wide range of sources that you can identify and draw from. These range from informal discussions with peer networks, to working with philanthropic advisors or taking part in donor education programmes such as the Institute for Philanthropy's Next Generation Programme (NGP).

10 Stick with it
This is what families do. Allow time for collaborative decision-making; anticipate problems and work through conflict. Remind yourself and others why you're doing this together. Family engagement can be deeply rewarding, but for any success in your philanthropy, commitment and perseverance are key.

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