Giving is a family affair.
There is no doubt that individual philanthropy has many benefits, those benefits multiply when generous giving becomes a family event. When families come together to strategize about where to give, how to give, and who to give to, not only are the recipients of that generosity impacted, but future generations are learning and applying philanthropy.
In the same way budgeting and saving are real-life principles that need to be taught and handed down, so giving is a practical concept that families can learn together, and continue to pass down, so that everyone can benefit from the joy of generosity.
Although philanthropy is individualized in many aspects, there are some broadly applicable lessons. Here are six that have risen to the top:
Address Two Questions
Families starting their philanthropic journey together have two important questions to answer. The first question a family should ask is, “What difference do we want to make in in our community or beyond?” Answering this question helps us look externally, and see the needs outside of ourselves. The second question to answer is, “What difference do we want to make for ourselves?” This inquiry focuses on the internal, and allows us to discuss how generosity changes not only the community outside, but the nature of the family from the inside. Answering both of these questions helps families become more effective in working together and crafting an equally valued mission statement that directs their giving to achieve certain kinds of impact.
Craft Your Mission Statement
As a family, develop a mission statement to use as a guide, narrowing your focus on giving to a few carefully selected causes. Learn to say “no” to charities or causes that fall outside of that carefully developed mission statement and avoid the “peanut butter” approach to giving that spreads your resources too thinly over a broad area.
Go Small and Local
Although large “household name” nonprofits often do great work, many times they are well-funded and deeply endowed. Since small grass roots organizations often struggle for resources, gifts to them can make a huge difference. Additionally, giving locally enables family members to become more engaged, with better opportunities to ask and listen to what is needed by the recipients. There are also chances to volunteer, serve on boards and get to know the leaders of the nonprofits working closest to the problems.
Embrace the Risks
Giving is risky, but the risks come with great reward. Risk has the potential to drive innovation. Government institutions that work toward communal change are increasingly limited by political gridlock and financial limitations. But private investment – motivated by benevolence – often bypasses such roadblocks. Private philanthropic capital is much less accountable and thus able to try new ideas that might succeed.
Solutions to society’s most challenging problems will require innovation, which involves risk. Dedicated to a purely social return on investment, philanthropic capital may well be the most effective and final stronghold for true risk-taking. Guided by your mission, families should be willing to take those “half-court” shots with giving.
Rather than taking a “we’re here to solve your problems” approach, consider philanthropy as a partnership – a collaboration between you and the needs of the nonprofit. Organizations seeking support usually have great insights into strategies and solutions. A partnership approach – where both parties work as equals to achieve their missions – diminishes power dynamics and enhances outcomes.
Make Giving Fun!
When the kids are getting older (and maybe having children of their own) it’s harder for many families to find the time and focus to work together on joint projects. Philanthropy provides an opportunity to come together to share values, solve problems, learn, have fun and enjoy this next phase of the family’s life.
Christian Foundation of America can help you incorporate your family into your giving strategy. Talk to us about building your legacy and maximizing your generosity. Visit us at www.cfa.charity. Or give us a call at (805) 523- 9087
By Corey Grant, Communication Specialist at Christian Foundation of America