Engaging the rising generation is one of the most important aspects of successful family philanthropy. Why wait until younger family members are in their 20s, 30s, or even 40s to show them how your family gives? Involving children, teens, and young adults in age- appropriate ways can make stewardship a natural part of life, teach important skills, and foster intergenerational bonds.

These best practices for next-gen philanthropy can help you build a stronger base to support your family’s giving legacy far into the future.

Educate the Youngest Generation

Even before they can correctly pronounce “phil-an-thro-py,” children can participate in your family’s endeavors. It starts with education.

Let’s say your family gives to the zoo. During a family meeting, an adult might spend some time with the youngest generation talking to them about how much it costs to feed and care for their favorite animals and explaining how your family helps meet those needs.

Another option is to ask children what problems they’ve observed in their community. Let them brainstorm ways to help, then talk about how your family could contribute to a solution.

Encouraging your children to notice others’ needs and assess how to meet them will make philanthropy second nature.

Respect Personal Passions

To keep children, adolescents, and young adults engaged, carve out space for them to pursue their own philanthropic passions.

Your family giving enterprise will be more likely to succeed if the next generation enjoys participating and feels they are individually making a difference — not just following a previous generation’s mandate.

Let’s say your family supports a local children’s hospital. Your teenager is more likely to be interested if they learn about the different types of patients the hospital serves, finds a way to identify with them, and comes up with their own ideas for how to help. If your son is an artist, maybe he can lead a painting workshop. If your daughter is interested in medicine, talk about how she can explore that interest while working with your family to further the hospital’s mission.

Establish Flexible Structures

One of the best ways to encourage next-gen participation in family philanthropy is through a flexible giving structure. Whether your family has a charitable trust, donor-advised fund, or private foundation, allocating funds to different causes and allowing family members to direct contributions can help everyone find a personally meaningful way to contribute.

For example, a family might collectively decide how to allocate the majority of that year’s total giving but also carve out a certain percentage to be directed by individual family members — without having to ask permission or seek approval.

Encourage Positive Communication

Even if families have total freedom to direct a portion of their family’s giving, they can remain accountable for their choices and learn about each other’s interests. For example, if a family lets their eldest daughter decide where a portion of its giving goes, she could be encouraged to make a presentation to the family on why she chose to support that cause, how the family might contribute its time, talent and treasure, and anticipated outcomes.

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