One of the most important tasks facing any family steward is ensuring that the next generation of family leaders understands the central importance of philanthropy as it relates to the family organization’s most deeply held values. It’s easy, when dealing with the day-to-day business of overseeing a family trust or other entity, to forget that younger members—and especially children—must be carefully introduced to philanthropic values. Further, those values need to be nurtured in order to thrive in the hearts and minds of those who will one day be the decision-makers.
This is a significant issue in dollar terms, also. By some recent estimates, some $30 trillion in wealth will be inherited during the next 30 years, with $4.1 trillion of that taking place in the US during the next ten years alone. This only emphasizes the importance of impressing upon the next generations the value of philanthropy and stewardship.
Teaching and modeling philanthropic values can scarcely begin early enough. If young children learn the importance of sharing, even while still toddlers, such behaviors can form the basis for managing significant wealth for the benefit of others in later years. According to global philanthropic organization WorldVision, there are specific ways to impart to children the qualities of generosity and empathy for others, central aspects of the philanthropic mindset.
- Perhaps most important is modeling generous behavior. When children see their parents and other significant adults giving to others, they associate this behavior with “the right way” to act in society.
- Next, it’s important to talk about giving to others and also to note and comment on generous behavior by other people.
- Let children participate in acts of giving by selecting, wrapping, and even using their allowances to pay for gifts and donations.
- Food drives and other organized relief efforts at school or religious organizations can provide effective teaching opportunities.
- Notice and praise acts of generosity and empathy. If a toddler sees a younger sibling or friend crying and offers a favorite stuffed toy as comfort, offer lavish encouragement in order to reinforce the behavior.
For more ideas on age-appropriate ways to teach and model generosity, see websites like TheLifeYouCanSave.org, TheBalance.com, All4Kids.org, LearningToGive.org, and others.
Obviously, communication around philanthropic values shouldn’t stop in childhood. As children grow up and begin to assume more responsibility in other areas, some family stewards may even wish to arrange meetings with trusted financial advisors or consultants for discussions of estate planning, trusts, donor-advised funds (DAFs), and related matters. As children move into adulthood, careful and purposeful conversations about the importance of philanthropy to their parents and other older family stakeholders can provide context and foundations for a growing commitment to a philanthropic legacy on the part of the next generation of leaders. Make opportunities for older family members to “tell their stories” in order to pass on an understanding of how the family’s philanthropic priorities have developed and why they matter.
As a fiduciary, fee-only financial advisor, I specialize in working with family stewards who want to make philanthropy part of their family legacy. To learn more about the planning and advisory services I offer, please click here. I would deeply value the opportunity to help you make your philanthropic goals a lasting benefit to others.
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