Nurturing Generosity: Teaching Philanthropic Values Across Generations

By: Sheldon Fox
4 Minute Read

One of the most personal statements we can make about our values and priorities is through charitable giving. Philanthropy not only makes a statement about who we are and what we value—literally, putting our money where our mouth is—but it also lays the foundation for the legacy we leave behind in this world.

Just as we focus on passing along our beliefs, culture, and traditions to our children and grandchildren, we should consider a similar approach to transferring philanthropic values across generations. There are several effective ways to teach philanthropic values and a culture of giving that I encourage clients to consider within their own families.

Embrace Open Discussions

Laying the foundation for philanthropy and charitable giving doesn’t necessarily start with a dollars and cents conversation. A more appropriate entry point for younger generations may be to simply discuss the values and topics that are important to you. This could include family discussions about your religious or cultural identity and the organizations that help support it, or discussing causes you care about such as education or world events. Whatever motivates you, discuss it openly and often to help seed a strong understanding and affinity in others. As these conversations take root, it may become easier to introduce discussions of charitable giving in support of these important ideas.

Role Model Giving and Engagement

The most impactful way to teach philanthropy is by modeling it. Parents and grandparents who actively engage in charitable activities demonstrate the importance of giving back. Whether it’s volunteering at local organizations, contributing to community projects, or supporting global initiatives, leading by example is a tangible illustration of the positive impact of philanthropy. Role modeling can also include how you give or engage with an organization. You might consider discussing your service on a nonprofit board or engaging your children in philanthropic discussions with your financial advisor or a gift officer at an organization you support. This doesn’t have to include the financial details of a gift, but could focus instead on areas in which the organization needs donor investment or stewardship conversations that showcase the impact of your past giving.

Focus on Education

Philanthropic education is part of the bigger picture of financial education. Just as you want your children to understand how to manage their finances effectively, you can help them build an awareness of how philanthropy fits into your family’s larger financial picture and how you choose where to invest your charitable dollars. Philanthropic education can include exploring the needs of communities, the role of nonprofit organizations, and various ways to contribute. If your family has a donor-advised fund (DAF) or family foundation, the younger generation will need to build an understanding of what those giving vehicles are and how they operate. This can not only enhance their future giving, but also prepare them to continue on a family account or giving legacy down the road.

A Personal Example

In my family’s case, my wife and I funded a donor-advised fund when our sons were in high school. As the four advisors to the fund, we would meet annually for dinner, review proposals and agree on our grant priorities. This was a great way for my wife and I to share our values and thought processes in giving, and to introduce our boys to the organizations we cared about. Within a year or two after they graduated college, my wife and I stepped down as advisors and left all the grantmaking in their hands. Today, the boys and their spouses make decisions and grant the money where it is meaningful to them. It’s gratifying that we were able to provide the seed funding to allow them to begin to chart their own philanthropic course. We look forward to seeing how they make a difference in our communities—and to the day in the not-too-distant future when they add our grandchildren as advisors to the fund.

If you’re interested in discussing how you can nurture philanthropic values across generations, I welcome you to reach out to me or a Curi RMB Capital advisor today.


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Sheldon Fox

Sheldon Fox is a Senior Wealth Manager with Curi RMB Capital, based in Raleigh, NC.

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