This is the message in the excellent book Philanthropy, Heirs & Values published in 2005 by Roy Williams and Vic Preisser. The authors surveyed 3,250 families and 91 family foundations and discovered that families found that philanthropy was generally an unrecognized, yet valuable, tool for preparing heirs in areas such as finance, accountability, mission and the importance of values. Philanthropy also built skills in communicating well, listening carefully, defining goals clearly and sharing expectations for accountability. These tools and lessons helped to develop heirs for success in their workplace, social settings and community settings.
Many affluent people worry about the impact of wealth on their children and recognize that affluence has the power for good or for evil. Philanthropy can help the next generation to see money as a tool for good.
We know that many of children’s values are formed based on what they see modeled by their parents. By involving children in family philanthropy, they are exposed to a number of observable and understandable interactions between the family and the outside world. They can actually witness the positive impact that their family is having in their community.
For example, in a family I will refer to as the Daniels, Tom and Katherine started a construction company in 1957. In the 1980's they began making significant gifts to their church and the local hospital. In the 1990's they established a foundation. Tom and Katherine encouraged their three children to be involved in the foundation and one of the children helped with the administration. From quite early on, each year they would designate a certain amount of money from the foundation to each child who would have the authority to designate how the funds were to be distributed. That child would research the project and share the rationale for its support and after the distribution would monitor how the funds had made a difference and report back on this. The children now have children of their own and have used this model with their children and in some cases have gone out and volunteered with organizations they are supporting.
By working on philanthropy together, wealth may be an enabler of opportunities for heirs as opposed to being a burden. Family members can develop mutual respect and trust as well as build family coherence and strength. They can look out at the world and embrace it together.
As a philanthropy advisor, I enjoy working with families to create and facilitate a safe and productive environment for them to share their values, interests and goals. Together we develop and implement a plan to make their giving meaningful, satisfying and effective.