Talking to family about charitable giving

From choosing the right causes to navigating different perspectives, your family’s approach to charitable giving can be a team effort that requires collaboration. To help you navigate these conversations, we’ve rounded up several strategies you can use to talk about charity with your loved ones.

Start a Conversation

Giving back is done best when there are clear and strong motivating factors behind your actions. As a family, you’ll likely have different interests and sources of inspiration when it comes to charity, and facilitating an open and honest discussion can help you get on the same page as you move forward.

To help you along the way, here are 10 conversation starters for talking about charity with your family members:

  • How are you currently giving back or serving your community?
  • What causes are nearest and dearest to you?
  • What resources (time, money, expertise, etc.) do you have to share?
  • Your [family member] and I are volunteering at [organization] this weekend. Would you like to join us?
  • Who do you think needs your help most?
  • How can you motivate others, like friends and colleagues, to get involved in this cause?
  • If you had to give away $100,000 today, who would you give it to and why?
  • How can you make time in your schedule to do more without risking burnout?
  • When you think about the world your children and grandchildren will inherit, what would you want to change about it?
  • What legacy would you like to remain after you’re gone?

How to Involve Younger Children in the Discussion

Choose a few charities you care about and allow your children to help narrow them down – or even decide which ones they’d like to support. Ask them what causes they care about and encourage them to research those topics. Bring empathy to the forefront of the conversation – why is giving necessary in the first place? Make charitable giving a regular topic of conversation in the household. Your kids don’t have to take part in every discussion, but they’ll pick up on it through regular exposure.

Establish Your Family Mission Statement

Your Family Mission Statement is a key part of structuring your charitable giving. It’s a summary of your goals that acts as a roadmap along your family’s journey. It doesn’t have to be lengthy; rather, your mission statement should only be one to three sentences long.

  • To create your family’s unique statement, begin by exploring your answers to these two questions:
  • Why do you want to give?
  • How would you define “success” when it comes to giving?

This mission statement can help you concentrate your giving efforts on the causes that matter most to you and assess the progress you’ve made toward your charitable goals over time.

Determine Your Giving Vehicle

Once you’ve narrowed down the “why,” it’s time to explore the “how.” There are several ways you can financially support your charities of choice, including:

  • Cash
  • Stocks and other securities
  • Charitable trusts
  • Donor-advised funds
  • Pooled income funds
  • Private foundations
  • Real estate
  • Other financial assets, such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies

A financial advisor can help you determine the best means of giving for you and your family.

Do Your Research

You know what causes matter most to your family, but how can you find a charity that reflects your mission? Luckily, there are many tools you can use to narrow down your options. Different online databases allow families to filter organizations by cause, location, or even by a specific name. You can also explore charity rating sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar to verify that different charities are registered 501(c)(3)s and explore insights into how charities carry out their missions.

Navigate Disagreements with Empathy

All families disagree from time to time, even when they have the best of intentions. That’s okay, though, because these tough discussions can allow you to dive deeper into your distinct values and motivations when it comes to giving. When conflicts do arise, remember to keep your Family Mission Statement in mind to help you find unity over your shared goals.

Keep the Conversation Going

While the holidays are a great time to talk about what matters most to each family, charitable giving shouldn’t be an annual event – it’s an ongoing opportunity to do good together.

One way to keep the conversation going? Plan family meetings that involve your children in the giving process, or build time into your holiday traditions to focus on giving back. These meetings can give you a chance to discuss updates and talk about any changes your family wants to make moving forward. Most importantly, it gives every family member a chance to be involved in the process.

Need help? Don’t hesitate to include a financial professional as a guide and mediator as you seek to establish giving practices for generations to come.

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