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Why not explore philanthropy with the whole family this year?

During holiday gatherings, consider making philanthropy and your family’s legacy a special focus.

’Tis the season to celebrate. And for many families, coming together at the end of the year is also an opportunity to cheer family milestones and discuss topics of shared interest, such as reviewing assets and investments, as well as identifying future goals.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, many families notably focus their meetings on philanthropic intentions.

Giving-oriented discussions can help a family find ways to enhance their legacy and demonstrate shared values. These conversations can also foster communication across generations, and help children and grandchildren prepare for carrying on important family traditions.

Here are three ways to focus on giving back in your family meeting. 

Explore charitable interests and values

Family meetings are an opportunity for members to share their interests and values.

In this setting, family members can discuss such topics as individual and shared passions; guiding beliefs and motivations; and the time and ability they have to engage in giving.

Use exploratory questions to help draw family members into the conversation. For example:

  • What motivates you to give?
  • What values influence your philanthropic decision making?
  • Are there issues, populations or geographies you are eager to explore further?
  • What do you want to accomplish with your giving?
  • How do you want to partner with family members on giving?
  • How much personal time are you able to commit to philanthropy?

Some families find it helpful to send out a questionnaire or survey before they meet to help participants prepare.

Coming out of these discussions, family members should have a better sense of shared themes and interests; ways the family might give together; and those willing to participate. 

One family’s approach: Set the stage for collaboration

Following a large business transaction, a married couple established a family foundation to support their longstanding interests in medical research and education.

As a next step, they scheduled a family meeting to explore how their three adult children might become actively involved in creating the family’s legacy. To prepare for this conversation, the couple sent each of their children a questionnaire asking them to describe their passions and interests, and the role they might play in the new foundation.

Over the course of the family meeting, it became clear that only one child wanted to take an active part in the foundation’s work. The other two preferred to focus their philanthropy on climate change and the environment.

Comfortable knowing that one child would lead the foundation, the family agreed to create a small pool of money to support the philanthropic efforts of the other two siblings.

Educate each other

Family meetings can be a forum for learning from each other as well as from specialists in a given field.

Consider inviting industry experts or nonprofit leaders to your meeting to help family members learn more about particular issues. Similarly, inviting other funders or outside advisors to talk about philanthropic trends, practices and considerations can help your family focus its giving efforts.

Seeing a nonprofit in action can also be a meaningful experience for a family; for example, by going together to visit an organization or volunteering at one of its events.

One family’s approach: Tap a granddaughter’s expertise   

In planning an upcoming gathering, grandparents asked a granddaughter to share her experience working at a local children’s hospital. Her talk brought to life the key issues and trends she witnessed day-to-day—and the important roles donors and volunteers play in improving the lives of the children served.

After her presentation, family members were eager to learn more about the hospital and its mission, so they arranged for a site visit. This firsthand experience, which included touring the facility and meeting with key hospital staff, helped family members see how their active involvement could make an important difference.

Align intentions and efforts

Family meetings can pave the way for the creation of a framework for collaborative giving.

Once families have explored their interests and motivations, they can use family meetings to:

  • Identify organizations to collectively support
  • Select ways to give together
  • Define individual roles and responsibilities
  • Create a deliberative process for how funding opportunities will be proposed, reviewed and selected
  • Decide on specific donations

One family’s approach: Replace individual giving with collective support

For years, family members had given separately to various charities. Now they wanted to use their family meeting to decide on a joint gift.

After discussing their collective interests and the legacy they wanted to create, the family decided to give to land conservation efforts in the state in which their great-grandparents built their business.

Each family member had an opportunity to propose an organization to donate to during the meeting. A group vote decided on one organization the family would support.  

Finding alignment and clarifying expectations help set the stage for successful family giving practices.

We can help

Effective family meetings can help achieve many critical goals, including deepening individual members’ engagement in collective philanthropic efforts. Your J.P. Morgan team can assist you in using your family meetings for giving conversations.

For more information, please speak with your J.P. Morgan team.



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