Across generations, values evolve to reflect new voices joining the family over the course of time.
In exploring the dynamic evolution of values across different generations of a family, one might draw upon the metaphor of a river to capture the idea that these beliefs are constantly in flux, subject to the twists and turns of larger forces. From the steady flow of long-held traditions to the unpredictable currents of new ideas and perspectives, each generation adds its own unique contribution to the family’s collective legacy.
Ensuring that this collective legacy is accurately reflected through effective philanthropy is a hefty responsibility for advisors to families with wealth, and guiding clients through these conversations is one of the most impactful roles an advisor could have.
Values-driven giving is the core of effective philanthropy. Financial and philanthropic advisors can guide donors to ensure their giving reflects those values. How can advisors best discuss these important themes with clients regarding their interests and hopes for future generations?
The first step when discussing philanthropy with a client shouldn’t even mention money. Rather, advisors should work with family clients to determine their values, where they differ within the family, and how to embrace change and growth within the value set.
Questions to consider that will aid in laying the foundation for this conversation include:
- What causes has your family historically supported (e.g., education, health, art, etc.)?
- Why have generations of your family supported those causes or organizations? Is it related to the family’s background or family members’ professions or religious beliefs, or something else?
- Have the family’s values evolved since it began accumulating wealth? If so, how? If not, why might that be?
The insights taken from this exploration will help identify the opportunities for future giving to build upon an existing legacy. For some families, the rise to wealth from a less secure financial position in previous generations manifests in initiatives fighting hunger or poverty. For others, the impact of a difficult disease may inspire a focus on supporting medical research or public health initiatives. In other cases, religious traditions steer philanthropic efforts to support others in similar spiritual communities.
When the roots of a family’s charitable giving strategies are defined, it’s easier to navigate the alignment and divergence with the next generation.