As we move into a new decade, we are reminded of the longevity of structured giving. You might have started your philanthropy last year, 10 years or even 20 years ago. Regardless of when you started, we know that your giving will likely live longer than you and it will see many more decades come and go.
This raises an important question – should you involve your family’s next generation (e.g. children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews)? If so, when is the best time to do it and how do you go about it?
While Equity Trustees can act on your behalf in perpetuity, involving the next generation of your family is a great way to see your giving strategy become a reality and achieve long-term goals. It can start with a conversation, in which you share your journey into giving, the societal changes you’d like to make and your vision for the future.
At the same time, this conversation may raise some common challenges that we can help you navigate:
CHALLENGE ONE: I DON’T HAVE THE TIME
You’re already busy – not just with your philanthropy but with all aspects of your personal and/or professional life. Compared to operating by yourself, involving your family will take more time: you may need to be more consultative, share ideas and have more discussions. Don’t let that deter you though: adding this new dimension to your relationships with members of your family, and awakening in them a similar passion for philanthropy, will certainly be worth the investment.
You may find that your children or other members of the next generation feel similarly about being too busy – maybe they’re just reaching the peak of their career or raising a young family. If this is the case, simply bring them in to the degree that they feel comfortable with (if at all). Baby steps at the beginning can evolve into deeper engagement as time goes on. You can always bring up the conversation again at a later date, when circumstances may be more favourable – or those involved have developed a taste for philanthropy.
CHALLENGE TWO: WHO HAS THE OWNERSHIP?
‘It’s my parents’ money and they have the final say’ – or conversely, ‘These funds are mine, I have the final say’ – may be comments that surface when you first discuss giving as a family. While there is no right or wrong way for your family to forge their path, a shared approach to philanthropy can be a wonderfully galvanising experience.
In the end, it all comes back to strategy. Agreeing on the cause areas that the family will focus on can help to resolve the ownership conversations. Failing that, separating a percentage of annual income for each family member to have ownership of can be a valuable fall-back position – although this approach can encourage behaviours that are more like the players of a football team, prioritising their own objectives over the common goal of winning as a team.
CHALLENGE THREE: WE ALL HAVE VERY DIFFERENT VALUES AND BELIEFS.
This is one of the most common challenges that arises with intergenerational philanthropy – and it’s one of the most difficult to resolve. In this case, establishing a giving strategy helps ensure not only that everyone is involved but also enjoys their philanthropy. Exceptional communication skills are required to navigate these strategic giving conversations, where deep listening, understanding, respect and compromise is shown by both parties.
These conversations will involve examining what your family values are, your individual areas of interest and what commonalities exist between them, and identifying a potential common mission that, together as a family, you can all pull towards. Your Relationship Manager at Equity Trustees will be able to assist you in initiating and facilitating this discussion.
Of course, every family’s situation and journey is different and may involve a different set of challenges. These may include geographical dispersion of the family across multiple states or countries; blended families where perceptions of favouritism can arise; or members of the next generation either feeling overwhelmed by the sense of responsibility or, conversely, being disinterested in getting involved. Another factor may be that your next generation.
In our experience, the benefits of bringing your family (whatever its makeup) together and building a giving strategy that encompasses the whole family’s interests is a meaningful and powerful way to continue the journey you have started. As with any journey, challenges may arise but they are worth navigating – and successfully getting past them often strengthens and deepens everyone’s commitment to the cause.
Whether or not it all sounds a bit hard, your Relationship Manager is always ready to help you. Get in touch and with just a few hours of your time, you can have a much clearer picture of the future of your philanthropy.