Bringing Your Family Together Around Philanthropy

Setting up a family philanthropy requires careful planning and effort. Creating a family philanthropic vehicle, such as a donor-advised fund, or getting parents and siblings involved in charitable activities can serve a purpose that goes beyond giving away money. Family philanthropy can also help instill core values in families and build stronger ties among members. It also provides an opportunity to build a legacy and a strong family identity for now and generations to come. It can help individual members appreciate one another in new and better ways, and enable them to discover outlets and interests that will improve their lives.

Successful - and rewarding - family philanthropy, however, requires planning and process. If your family foundation is a success, it will probably be largely due to the effort that you put into preparing for and conducting effective family philanthropy meetings.

The National Center For Family Philanthropy (NCFP) offers several useful tips for conducting effective family meetings, whether just getting started in giving or for overseeing the operation of a family philanthropic effort. Here are a few key things for you to consider:

The Meeting Before The Meeting
If you are holding your first family meeting, it's a good idea to hold an initial planning session to decide on appropriate ground rules. These should include an opportunity for each person to speak and get a promise from everyone that they'll listen and respect the views of others. You should also set out rules governing confidentiality about what is discussed and the basis on which the foundation will make its decisions.

Preview The Agenda
Before the actual family meeting, distribute the agenda to all participants to make certain that what they wish to discuss will be included. Make sure that each person will have a chance to participate and lead a point of discussion. Provide appropriate background information on areas to be discussed. If some people cannot attend, have a conversation with them so that their ideas can be represented at the meeting.

Act As A Team
Most family meetings run into trouble if they become a medium to air frustrations or disagreements between family members. This results in fragmentation of effort. Identifying charitable issues that are of interest to all, and focusing on how to deal with them, can help bring individuals together in positive ways. That is one of the real potential benefits of family philanthropy. If necessary, contact the NCFP to arrange for a neutral facilitator to help lead your meetings until a beneficial consensus is built.

Prompt Follow-Up
Designate a family member as the person to take meeting minutes, and then to promptly distribute the minutes to all members. Make specific assignments in order to carry out the actions that were agreed upon, and to prepare for the next meeting.

Have Fun
Serving together should be enjoyable. This is your chance to help those closest to you get in touch with their values and engage in meaningful activities that will add richness and quality to their lives. Be sure to allow time for humor, reflection, and perspective; schedule enjoyable activities at an attractive location. Make everyone eager to come back for the next meeting.

Caroline Heine

Posted at 1:00 AM, Nov 06, 2008 in Intergenerational | Philanthropic Strategy | Permalink | Comment