The Informed Investor

Talking to Family About Charitable Giving

January 31, 2023

From choosing the right causes to navigating different perspectives, your family’s charitable giving is 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 family.

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 all have different interests and sources of inspiration when it comes to charity and facilitating an open and honest discussion will help you all get on the same page as you move forward.

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

  1. How are you currently giving back or serving your community?
  2. What causes are nearest and dearest to you?
  3. What resources (time, money, expertise, ) do you have to share?
  4. Who needs your help most?
  5. How can you motivate others, like friends and colleagues, to get involved in this cause?
  6. If you had to give away $100,000 today, who would you give it to and why?
  7. How can you make time in your schedule to do more without risking burnout?
  8. When you think about the world your children and grandchildren will inherit, what would you want to change?
  9. 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 be a part of every discussion, but they’ll pick up on it through regular exposure.

Establish Your Family Mission Statement

Your Family Mission Statement, or FMS, is the backbone of 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 FMS should be about 1-3 sentences long.

To create your family’s unique statement, begin by exploring your answers to these two questions:

  1. Why do you want to give?
  2. 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
  • Assets, such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Donor-Advised Funds
  • Pooled Income Funds
  • Private Foundations
  • Real Estate
  • Stocks

A financial advisor can help you determine the best course of action 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 databases allow families to filter organizations by cause, location, or even specific name. You can also explore charity rating sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar to verify 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 intentions. That’s okay 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 FMS in mind and 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 serve together. One way to keep the conversation going? Plan family meetings that involve your children in the giving process, or build a little time into your family gatherings  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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