Challenges of Multi-Generational Philanthropy

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The wealth generating generation wanted to involve their family in their giving before they passed, and utilize it as a vehicle to help pass on their values.  Despite the intent, the family encountered a number of challenges around control, access, and communication that led to a near standstill in active giving and communication around philanthropy.


The four generations involved spanned many decades and there was dissonance particularly between generation one and generation three who felt the giving should be directed in very different priorities.  The family had created focus areas, but hadn’t involved their family in the process and hadn’t communicated their thought process or intentions with the focus areas.


The family was brought together for a Board Retreat to discuss the structure and focus of the family giving.  Each family member also provided feedback prior to the Retreat so a constructive agenda could be put forth to guide the conversations.  The retreat provided an opportunity for each family member to discuss priorities and explain them, an aspect previously missed.


The family is continuing to navigate challenges that arise through increased and formalized communication at annual Board Retreats, and regular quarterly meetings.  Members of generation three were each provided discretionary funds so that they could give in the areas that mattered to them, but they were required to first pitch on behalf of the nonprofits to the entire family to maintain the element of ongoing communication within the family and co-understanding of values.  Plans are in process for creating a junior board for the youngest members of the fourth generation.